Jeddah hotel occupancy falls amid rising supply

Rising capacity and dwindling demand saw Jeddah's hotel occupancy rate plunge in April. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 May 2018

Jeddah hotel occupancy falls amid rising supply

  • Occupancy rate slumps 13.5% year on year in April
  • Abu Dhabi occupancy rises 2.7% despite lack of significant events

LONDON: Hotel occupancy in Jeddah fell to its lowest level in 14 years in April, with weakening demand combining with a surge in new supply.

Occupancy slumped 13.5 percent year on year to 53.5 percent last month, according to hospitality research firm STR. Demand fell 4.8 percent year on year, while the supply of hotel rooms was up 10.1 percent.

The fall in demand had a knock-on effect on revenue per available room (RevPAR) for the city’s hotels, which fell 9.4% to SR439.90 for the month, its lowest reading since 2008. The fall came despite a 4.7 percent year-on-year increase in average daily rates to SR822.06.

“Heavy investments in the region, which led to a 15.8% increase in supply for 2017, are making it difficult for hoteliers to stabilize RevPAR,” STR said in a statement yesterday.

Fellow market research firm TOPHOTELPROJECTS predicts a total of 84 hotels — comprising 27,281 rooms — will open in Saudi Arabia in 2018, with the majority opening in Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Al-Khobar.

Hotels in Abu Dhabi meanwhile enjoyed higher occupancy levels last month, according to STR, despite a lack of major events in the emirate during the month to drive bookings.

Occupancy rose 2.7 percent to 80 percent in April, as demand rose 6.9 percent and supply increased 4.1 percent.

“The absolute occupancy level would be the highest for an April in the market since 2008,” the firm said.

But the ADR slipped 3.3% to 432.12 dirhams (SR,440.93), resulting in a 0.7 percent decline in revenue per RevPAR to 345.88 dirhams.

“ADR decreases have been common in the market with supply growth a factor in that trend,” STR said.

Abu Dhabi is targeting to attract 8.5 million tourists a year by 2021 and has been ramping up efforts to promote the emirate as a culture and heritage destination, especially with the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, the only regional presence of the famous French museum, in late 2016.

The emirate expects to welcome 5.5 million hotel guests this year, up from about 5 million in 2017.


London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

Updated 17 sec ago

London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

  • Moonshot CVE employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms

LONDON: Vidhya Ramalingam believes it’s always possible to change, even for people deeply involved in the murky online world of extremism.

Her company Moonshot CVE has the ambitious aim of trying to get anyone tempted by violence back on the straight and narrow.

Over the last four years, the London-based startup has grown quietly but not anonymously, if a recent partnership deal with Facebook is anything to go by.

US national Ramalingam and the firm’s co-founder Ross Frenett previously worked as researchers into extremism and believe radical groups are often one step ahead when it comes to technology.

“There was a lot of recognition that terrorists were using the internet in creative ways, that they were reaching young audiences, that they were able to innovate,” she told AFP in an interview.

“Yet those of us that were trying to counter them simply were moving too slowly and had too many constraints to actually replicate those methods for counter-terrorism purposes.”

That led to the idea of a technology startup able to keep up with and fight against all forms of violent extremism to nationalists and even “incels.” But greater visibility has forced the company to take more security measures because of the sensitive nature of its work — and the potential for violence from the people it tracks.

The address of Moonshot CVE’s London offices is kept secret and most of its staff have no visible online presence.

Just to get into its premises in a nondescript building in the British capital, visitors have to pass through heavy armor-plated doors and a security check.

“We take precautions,” said Ramalingam. “We work on high-risk issues and we try and put as much into the public domain as possible.”

The startup’s name refers to the act of launching a rocket to the moon — and gives an indication of its stellar ambition. The CVE stands for countering violent extremism.

It employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms.

One project is a collaboration with the Canadian government against the far-right. Another works with the UN on online extremist content in Asia.

The company has also had a partnership for several years with Google, using online advertising to target people looking up violent extremism on the net.

The Facebook contract involves Moonshot analizing how effective the social network could be to “deradicalize” users looking up extremist content.