Bahrain expects tourism boost from Saudi social reforms

BTEA Chief, Khaled bin Humood Al-Khalifa, said tourism accounts for more than 7 percent of Bahrain’s GDP. (AN Photo)
Updated 04 February 2018

Bahrain expects tourism boost from Saudi social reforms

MANAMA: Bahrain’s tourism authorities expect a rise in visitors from Saudi Arabia amid the social reforms underway in KSA, an official told Arab News.
Khaled bin Humood Al-Khalifa, CEO of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), said the social changes happening in Saudi Arabia are set to positively impact tourism to Bahrain. The raft of reforms underway in KSA includes allowing women to drive from June.
“Openness will facilitate traveling and commuting for women and families and will bring both cultures closer. It will be like moving from one city to another for women,” Al-Khalifa said.
“Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are one country … Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are our target (tourism base). We are trying to facilitate entry via the King Fahd Causeway.”
Al-Khalifa said the country is working toward boosting tourism’s contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP).
“Our main goal is to enhance the contribution of the tourism sector (to) national GDP. In 2015, tourism contributed to 3.5 percent of GDP. (As of the end of 2017), it’s 7.1 percent,” Al-Khalifa said.
“We doubled it and outgrew our initial goal, which was to reach 7 percent by the end of 2018, thanks to the solid infrastructure (in Bahrain) and the investors’ trust in the country.”
Al-Khalifa was speaking on the sidelines of the “Shop Bahrain” festival, which runs until Feb. 10 and includes promotions, entertainment events and raffle draws.
The month-long festival aims to attract more families, particularly those from Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom accounted for 7.5 million of Bahrain’s 8.7 million tourists during the first nine months of 2017. The average day spending of a Saudi visitor to Bahrain stands at 83 dinars ($220), mainly on shopping and entertainment. Bahrain is looking to increase the amount of spending and the number of people who stay the night rather than taking a day trip.
According to Al-Khalifa, 83 percent of visitors to Bahrain enter via the causeway from Saudi Arabia, with the airport handling just 17-18 percent of arrivals.
A second causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia is planned, while Bahrain has invested $1 billion in expanding its international airport to three times the capacity of the current one. “We are expecting to inaugurate the new airport in the year 2020,” Al-Khalifa said.
The BTEA has also set up six offices in countries where there are direct flights to Bahrain on national carrier Gulf Air, in addition to China where Bahrain is planning to start direct flights.
Al-Khalifa said Bahrain has also reduced the price of tourist visas to 5 dinars from 25 dinars, and says it is the first GCC country to give Russians and Chinese visitors visas upon arrival.


Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

Updated 23 August 2019

Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

  • The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks
  • Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter

WASHINGTON: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent no clear signal Friday that the Fed will further cut interest rates this year but said it would “act as appropriate” to sustain the expansion — phrasing that analysts see as suggesting rate cuts.
Powell said President Donald Trump’s trade wars have complicated the Fed’s ability to set interest rates and have contributed to a global economic slowdown.
Speaking to a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell didn’t give financial markets explicit guidance on whether or how many rate cuts might be coming the rest of the year. The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, and financial markets have baked in the likelihood of more rate cuts this year.
The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks. He pointed to increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown and suggested that uncertainty from Trump’s trade wars has contributed to it.
Reacting to the speech Friday, Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter:
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted. “It is incredible that they can ‘speak’without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the US will do great.”
Trump added:
“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?“
Powell’s speech comes against the backdrop of a vulnerable economy, with the financial world seeking clarity on whether last month’s rate decision likely marked the start of a period of easier credit.
The confusion only heightened in the days leading to the Jackson Hole conference, at which Powell gave the keynote address. Minutes of the Fed’s July meeting released Wednesday showed that although officials voted 8-2 to cut their benchmark rate by a quarter-point, there was a wider divergence of opinion on the committee than the two dissenting votes against the rate cut had indicated.
The minutes showed that two Fed officials favored a more aggressive half-point rate cut, while some others adopted the polar opposite view: They felt the Fed shouldn’t cut rates at all.
The minutes depicted the rate cut as a “mid-cycle adjustment,” the phrase Powell had used at his news conference after the rate cut. That wording upset traders who interpreted the remark as suggesting that the Fed might not be preparing for a series of rate cuts to support an economy that’s struggling with a global slowdown and escalating uncertainty from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
There was even a difference of opinion among the Fed members who favored a rate cut, the minutes showed, with some concerned most about subpar inflation and others worried more about the threats to economic growth.
Comments Thursday from Fed officials gathering in Jackson Hole reflected the committee’s sharp divisions, including some reluctance to cut rates at least until the economic picture changes.
“I think we should stay here for a while and see how things play out,” said Patrick Harker, the president of the Fed’s Philadelphia regional bank.
Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank and one of the dissenting votes in July, said, “While I see downside risk, I wasn’t ready to act on that relative to the performance of the economy.”
George said she saw some areas of strength, including very low unemployment and inflation now closer to the Fed’s target level. She said her decision on a possible future rate cut would depend on forthcoming data releases.
Robert Kaplan, president of the Fed’s Dallas branch indicated that he might be prepared to support further rate cuts.
If “we are seeing some weakness in manufacturing and global growth, then it may be good to take some action,” Kaplan said.
George was interviewed on Fox Business Network; Harker and Kaplan spoke on CNBC.
The CME Group, which tracks investor bets on central bank policy, is projecting the likelihood that the Fed will cut rates at least twice more before year’s end.
Adding to the pressures on the Fed, Trump has kept up his attacks on the central bank and on Powell personally, arguing that Fed officials have kept rates too high and should be cutting them aggressively.
Trump has argued that a full percentage-point rate reduction in coming months would be appropriate — a suggestion that most economists consider extravagantly excessive as well as an improper intrusion on the Fed’s political independence.
The president contends that lower rates in other countries have caused the dollar to rise in value and thereby hurt US export sales.
“Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “They put us at a disadvantage against our competition.”
Earlier in the week, he had told reporters, “If the Fed would do its job, you would see a burst of growth like you have never seen before.”
Powell has insisted that the White House criticism has had no effect on the Fed’s deliberations over interest rate policy.