Saudi tourism chief eyes Q4 turning point as international flights resume

Saudi tourism chief eyes Q4 turning point as international flights resume
Saudi Arabia has a big presence at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai this week. (AN)
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Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi tourism chief eyes Q4 turning point as international flights resume

Saudi tourism chief eyes Q4 turning point as international flights resume
  • Kingdom has opened international tourism offices in major countries, including China and Russia

DUBAI: The fourth quarter of this year could be a turning point for Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry as the countries that the Kingdom is targeting reach a 70 percent vaccination rate.

Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) CEO Fahd Hamidaddin made the prediction at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, as the Kingdom reopened its borders to certain group of people on Monday.

Although foreign tourists are still not allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia, Hamidaddin said on Monday that it was preparing to reopen its borders for inbound travel and an announcement would be made “very soon.”

Saudi Arabia has opened international tourism offices in major countries including China and Russia, and is targeting 28 markets in a global marketing push.

Hamidaddin said international tourism in the country could only boom when other countries also restarted their travel industries — and that this could only be fully considered after they had reached a vaccination rate of 70 percent.

He said that such a vaccination milestone may be reached in the last quarter of the year. Speaking at an ATM panel focused on Saudi Arabia, participants highlighted the strong performance of domestic tourism in the Kingdom. “Domestic tourism was our huge success,” Hamidaddin told the conference.

Capt. Ibrahim AlKoshy, CEO of Saudia, the Kingdom’s state-owned flag carrier, who attended the event through a video link from Riyadh, said local demand was even exceeding airline capacity at times. He said travelers were particularly interested in leisure tourism, more than business and other essential travel. The aviation chief also told Reuters on Monday the airline expects to turn a profit by 2024.

HIGHLIGHT

Riyadh aims to raise the contribution of its tourism sector to its GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent, in a bid to modernize its economy and veer away from oil dependence.

Saudi Arabia opened up to international tourism in September 2019 and has since announced a number of megaprojects to attract visitors, including a $530 million fund to develop key destinations across the Kingdom. Riyadh aims to raise the contribution of its tourism sector to its GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent, in a bid to modernize its economy and veer away from oil dependence.

Market research firm Euromonitor International estimated in March that inbound tourism spending in Saudi Arabia would reach $25.3 billion by 2025, recovering from the impact of the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Saudi domestic tourism exceeded expectations during the pandemic, despite the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) describing 2020 as “the worst year on record in the history of tourism.”

Figures from the UNWTO in December revealed that destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October, compared with the same period in 2019 — a 72 percent year-on-year slump.

Despite the dire international picture, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism announced in September that domestic tourism saw a significant rise in traveler numbers, surpassing official projections.

During the 2021 Budget Forum in December, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom is aiming to attract new tourism investments worth SR220 billion ($58 billion) by 2023, and more than SR500 billion by the end of the decade. In 2019, Saudi travelers spent $22 billion traveling overseas. One of the ways the ministry is aiming to boost the Kingdom’s tourism revenues is to encourage Saudis to spend some of their tourism cash at home.

“We have reduced the leakage,” Al-Khateeb told Arab News in December. “In 2019, we launched 11 ‘seasons’ in Saudi Arabia and reduced travel outside by 30 percent. If we continue to do this, we will definitely reduce the leakage — Saudis will like to stay at home and they will enjoy the offering.”


OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August
Crude oil prices retreated on Tuesday, after Brent rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019 and as OPEC+ begins discussions on raising oil production. (AFP)
Updated 52 min 43 sec ago

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August
  • Group is aiming to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs

DUBAI: OPEC+ is discussing a further easing of oil output cuts from August as oil prices rise on demand recovery, but no decision had been taken yet on the exact volume to bring back to the market, two OPEC+ sources said on Tuesday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs. OPEC+ meets next on July 1.
“It is highly possible to increase gradually from August,” said one of the sources, adding that no final decision had been made and the exact volumes are yet to be agreed on.

HIGHLIGHTS

• OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million bpd to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs.

• The talks mean that OPEC and Russia are likely to find common ground again on oil production policy.

• Moscow has been insisting on raising output further to avoid prices spiking.

The talks mean that OPEC and Russia are likely to find common ground again on oil production policy. Moscow has been insisting on raising output further to avoid prices spiking, while key OPEC producers have given no signals on the next step until now.
Russian producers see August as a good time to further ease oil output cuts despite the expected return of Iranian barrels as the market is in deficit, an industry source told Reuters on Tuesday.
“Limping” US production also supports the case for easing the curbs, the Russian source said.
Crude oil prices retreated on Tuesday, after Brent rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019 and as OPEC+ begins discussions on raising oil production, but a strong demand outlook underpinned prices.


Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s finance minister has issued the necessary license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment, the Saudi cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday.

Developing...


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.


Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
Updated 22 June 2021

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
  • Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said

DUBAI: Dubai Municipality has become the first government agency in the UAE to approve job titles for remote work, state news agency WAM has reported.
Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said, parallel to its other work setups such as its shifting system.
The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made private, and even public, workplaces rethink ways to continue their operations despite the crisis.
Workplace innovation is not new to Dubai Municipality, as it pioneered flexible work systems for government departments in the UAE in 2007.
The pandemic has also made the municipality accelerate its smart transformation, to make the remote work system effective.