Saudi Arabia, World Bank pledge $100m to global tourism fund

Hot Air Balloons fly over Mada'in Saleh (Hegra) ancient archeological site near AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Hot Air Balloons fly over Mada'in Saleh (Hegra) ancient archeological site near AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, World Bank pledge $100m to global tourism fund

Saudi Arabia, World Bank pledge $100m to global tourism fund
  • International Fund for Comprehensive Tourism will be the first global fund dedicated specifically to supporting global tourism growth
  • Other steps are now being taken by industry leaders to help the tourism sector recover as it navigates its way through the COVID-19 crisis

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the World Bank, pledged $100 million to establish the International Fund for Comprehensive Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Kingdom’s Minister of Tourism said during the opening speech of the Tourism Recovery Summit 2021 held in Riyadh.

“This will be the first and the only global fund dedicated solely to sustainable international tourism growth,” he said.

The ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the tourism sector to its knees. Steps are now being taken by industry leaders to help the sector recover as it navigates its way through the impact of the health crisis.

“Sustainability, inclusivity, and collaboration,” are the three vital principles the Saudi minister believes will be responsible for the global tourism recovery effort. 

“I am proud to say the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is already acting on these principles,” he said. 

“As a new destination, our priority is to protect our rich nature and cultural heritage and to set new standards in sustainability. Our giga projects will combine nature-adventure and cultural attractions in a way that adheres to the highest environmental standards.”

NEOM, a city located in the north of the Kingdom, will be the first city to rely solely on natural modes of transportation and eliminate carbon emissions of any kind. The Red Sea Project aims to be the largest global destination powered by “clean energy” with no connection to the national grid, the minister explained.

Furthermore, the minister also highlighted the recently announced Saudi Green initiatives which he said: “will protect more than 30 percent of the Kingdom’s land and enhance our precious, natural heritage by planting 10 billion trees.”

International arrivals in Saudi Arabia plunged by 74 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic while tourism contribution to global GDP nearly halved, according to the Saudi minister, with more than 60 million jobs lost worldwide.

During Saudi’s G20 presidency, the Kingdom hosted the first-ever private sector tourism event in collaboration with policymakers to forge strategies for the future of tourism and coordinate immediate-response action to the pandemic.

“We are talking about $5.5 trillion in losses in 2020 globally for this industry,” Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, the assistant tourism minister for executive affairs and strategy, said during the panel talk.

“We have changed the language in Saudi Arabia. We no longer call it jobs in tourism, we call it careers in tourism,” she said.

During the pandemic, 35,000 jobs were created in the Kingdom at a time when the world was losing jobs in tourism, Princess Haifa explained. Saudi Arabia additionally witnessed a 33 percent increase in spending due to a shift in focus towards domestic tourism.

A total of SR13.9 billion ($3.71 billion) was spent during the summer of 2020 alone, Princess Haifa said: “We have promoted it locally and engaged the local community.”

International travel restarted in the Kingdom on May 17. Last week at the annual Arabian Travel Market, the CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, Fahd Hamidaddin, said the fourth quarter of this year could be a turning point for the Saudi tourism industry as the countries that it is targeting reach a 70 percent vaccination rate.

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 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, which was a 72 percent year-on-year slump.


OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
Updated 5 min 2 sec ago

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
  • The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said the OPEC+ alliance will play a role in “taming and containing” inflationary pressures, just hours after Brent crude surged back above $75 a barrel, Bloomberg reported.
“We also have a role in taming and containing inflation, by making sure that this market doesn’t get out of hand,” he said Wednesday at a conference organized by Bank of America Corp., according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News.
The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic,” he said.
He said the group should remain cautious because the oil market wasn’t out of the “doldrums” created by the coronavirus pandemic. He also warned traders against conflating caution with inaction, Bloomberg said.
“We have to be cautious. But caution doesn’t mean we don’t have to do something,” he told the conference. “It means we have to ensure that we don’t make


Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
Updated 17 min 14 sec ago

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
  • The fund has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year

DUBAI: The Bitcoin Fund debuted on the Nasdaq Dubai on Wednesday, becoming the Middle East’s first listed cryptocurrency fund.
The fund, which was listed by Canadian digital asset management firm 3iQ on the Toronto Stock Exchange last year, has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year.
“With the listing of the Bitcoin Fund, it’s going to give people access in the region to this fund on the Dubai exchange in the hours that the Dubai exchange trades at,” Frederick Pye, the chief executive officer of 3iQ, told Reuters.
“If the volumes are significant, we’ll be looking to raise capital to increase the size of the Bitcoin Fund here in Dubai and we will continue to issue shares based on the demand that comes from the region,” Pye said in an interview.
The listing will help satisfy demand for investment diversification in the region, as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) needs, such as for pension funds and family offices, Pye said.
Dalma Capital, a Dubai-based alternative investment firm, was lead arranger for the Nasdaq Dubai listing. Corporate finance adviser 01 Capital and investment firm Razlin Capital, both based in London, advised on the listing and Pinsent Masons was legal counsel for the listing process.
“Today’s secondary listing of existing units from Canada was met with very strong demand, which has validated the need for an additional offering to satisfy the demand from regional investors,” said Zachary Cefaratti, CEO of Dalma Capital, declining to say when that could be.
Pye acknowledged that China’s recent crackdown on mining cryptocurrencies has hit digital currency prices, but he said the timing of that move would help those who bought into the Dubai listing.
“We’re very excited because when we hit an all-time high, our investors and our clients and our friends will have doubled their money,” Pye added.


Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
Updated 25 min 30 sec ago

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
  • The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.

PARIS: Plans for a new IMF “Resilience and Sustainability” fund that would expand its support to dozens more vulnerable countries gained key international backing on Thursday ahead of crucial meetings.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva this month proposed the new trust to allow rich countries to channel some of their new IMF reserves to poor and middle-income counterparts ravaged by COVID or climate change.
“This is something we certainly support” said Lars Jensen, a senior economist on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the author of a new report on how the IMF’s new funding should be directed.
The UNDP estimates the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which is also expected to play a key role in a voluntary redistribution of new ‘Special Drawing Rights’ (SDRs) money, is only open to 55 of the world’s 82 most debt-vulnerable developing economies.
The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations alone will receive $283 billion of the overall $650 billion SDR allocation. All “high-income” countries will get $438 billion, whereas 75 of the poorest countries will get $62 billion among them.
The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.
Additionally, nine of the 10 most climate-change vulnerable countries are also highly debt-vulnerable developing economies.
“As a possible development objective of an SDR channelling to vulnerable countries, it would be natural to target climate due to its global implications,” Jensen said, adding that the fund could even bulked up by leveraging it in borrowing markets.
G7 leaders have already signaled their backing to redistribute $100 billion of the new SDR money. Georgieva has said that China has expressed interest in participating and that she expected other major emerging economies to do the same.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday on the next steps and finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies will discuss the SDR reallocation issue when they meet in Venice in July.
Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development said funding for the proposed new IMF trust was already earmarked in the US Treasury’s recent budget request to Congress, underscoring Washington’s support.
The US Treasury is working closely with the IMF to explore options and design mechanisms for channelling SDRs to vulnerable countries, one US Treasury official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“The IMF’s proposed Resilience and Sustainability Trust is one of the options under discussion,” the official said, without elaborating on other options.
Jensen said he hoped the new fund would also give debt-strained countries who have so far resisted restructuring their debt for fear of losing access to borrowing markets, a safety net to take that step.


Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low
Updated 51 min 10 sec ago

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low
  • To replace Middle Eastern oil, refiners hiked imports from Latin America, the United States and the Mediterranean

NEW DELHI: The share of Middle Eastern crude in India’s oil imports fell to a 25-month low in May, tanker data provided by trade sources showed, as refiners tapped alternatives in response to the government’s call to diversify supplies.
India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, in March directed refiners to diversify crude sources after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, ignored New Delhi’s call to ease supply curbs.
Asia’s third-largest economy imported about 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in May, just below the previous month but about 31.5 percent higher than a year earlier, the data showed.
The Middle East’s share dropped to 52.7 percent, the lowest since April 2019 and down from 67.9 percent in April, the data showed.
Imports from Saudi Arabia, India’s second-largest supplier after Iraq, slipped by about a quarter from a year earlier, while supplies from the United Arab Emirates, which dropped to No. 7 position from No. 3 in April, fell by 39 percent, the data showed.
This comes after Indian state refiners nominated to lift less oil from Saudi Arabia in May.
Lower purchases of oil from the Middle East dragged OPEC’s share of Indian oil imports to a record low.
To replace Middle Eastern oil, refiners hiked imports from Latin America, the United States and the Mediterranean.
Indian refiners bought higher volumes of gasoline-rich US oil in March, expecting a recovery in local gasoline demand to continue in the months ahead, said Ehsan Ul-Haq, lead analyst for Oil Research and Forecasts at Refinitiv.
Strong demand for light crude saw Nigeria improving its ranking by two notches to become the No. 3 supplier to India in May.
Private Indian refiners Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy, however, boosted purchases of Canadian heavy oil to a record 244,000 bpd, equivalent to about 6 percent of India’s overall imports.
“Indians bought Kazakhstan’s CPC blend and Canadian oil due to attractive discounts in comparison to dated Brent and WTI, respectively,” Ul-Haq said.
Tanker arrival data showed higher imports in contrast to preliminary government data, as cyclones along India’s coast line last month delayed discharge of cargoes.


Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor
Updated 24 June 2021

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

DUBAI: A jet ski tour of Dubai has emerged as the world’s top tourism experience according to Tripadvisor.
The company announced its annual list of Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best Things To Do Awards,” which is based on data from January to April this year.
The jet ski tour which gives travelers panoramic views of Dubai’s iconic buildings and beaches beat competition from a long list of rival activities from around the globe, from white water rafting in New Zealand to paragliding in Turkey.
Tripadvisor noted this year’s list was largely dominated by outdoor and water-based activities, as travelers became more excited about going outside after months of lockdown.
The UAE has been investing heavily in activity-based tourism with Dubai seeing greater competition from other emirates including Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah which recently revealed 20 new outdoor attractions.