Online payments in Saudi Arabia up 400%

More than 2.7 million Mada cards were used for online payments in March. (File)
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Updated 13 April 2020

Online payments in Saudi Arabia up 400%

  • There were 7.3 million online payments

RIYADH: Online payments in the Kingdom jumped by more than 400 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported — an indication of a significant shift toward online shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

The number of online payments reached 7.3 million, valued at SR1.79 billion ($475.81 million).

More than 2.7 million Mada cards were used for online payments in March — a 15 percent increase from February.

The number of payment transactions using point of sale (POS) machines increased in the first quarter by 67 percent year-on-year, reaching 543 million.

“The measures taken by the government — whether in health, economics or banking, especially encouraging electronic payments — have definitely helped in reducing the negative impact of coronavirus on the country and its people, including businesses,” economist and financial analyst Talat Hafiz told Arab News.

The trend of increased online shopping will continue even after the crisis ends, he said. More than 60 percent of Saudis are under 30 years old, “which means that society is more geared toward electronic dealings in general and electronic banking specifically,” he added.

Last month, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) instructed banks to enable customers to increase their purchase limits through POS reliable channels from SR100 to SR300.

SAMA also instructed that all money transfers be made in riyals between banks operating in the Kingdom via the Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE) system free of charge.

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

Updated 27 November 2020

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

  • Frustrated resort operators count the cost of holiday season restrictions

MEGEVE, France:  Megeve, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, was gearing up to welcome back skiers before Christmas after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased.

But France’s government — while allowing cinemas, museums and theaters to reopen from Dec. 15 — says its ski slopes must stay off limits until 2021, leaving those who make their living in the Alpine village frustrated and, in some cases, perplexed.

“When you’re outside, when you’re doing sport outdoors, that’s not the moment when you’re going to give COVID-19 to someone. COVID-19 is passed on in enclosed places,” said Pierre de Monvallier, director of ski school Oxygene, which operates in several resorts including Megeve.

Announcing a phased easing of the lockdown on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “impossible to envisage” re-opening ski slopes for Christmas and New Year, and that he preferred instead to do so during January.

“It felt like the door had been slammed in our face,” said Catherine Jullien-Breches, the mayor of Megeve, whose green slopes are generally covered with snow by mid-December.

“Unfortunately it’s a real drama for the economies of the villages and the winter sports resorts.”

People who live within 20 km of France’s Alpine resorts will able to visit from this weekend, but with the lifts staying shut, the main draw is missing.

“It’s like going on holiday on the Cote d’Azur and being told the sea is off limits,” said David Le Scouarnec, co-owner of Megeve’s Cafe 2 la Poste.

The problem for the resorts — and the hotels, restaurants, and workers who depend on them for their livelihood — is that their season is short, and they will have little time after the New Year to claw back lost revenue.

Other European authorities are wrestling with the same problem. Italy’s resorts regions are seeking approval for restricted skiing, but Austria, whose biggest cluster of the first wave of the pandemic was at the ski resort of Ischgl — where thousands were infected — is skeptical.

Prevarication cuts little ice, however, with Mathieu Dechavanne, Chairman and CEO of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, which operates cable cars at Megeve and other resorts.

He said who could not understand why the government allowed trains and metros to operate, but barred him from re-opening. “It’s like we’re being punished. We don’t deserve this. We’re ready.”