Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury
A luxury yacht is pictured off the Dubai Marina Beach in the Gulf emirate. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 June 2021

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury
  • Charter companies said they have seen an increased interest in yachting after coronavirus measures eased, especially among those who want to spend time with friends and family

DUBAI: Dubai earned a reputation for delivering luxury for those with cash to splash years ago, but amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a new mode of travel has become popular — yachts.
“It’s more private, you’re with only family and friends, and it’s the ideal outing during a pandemic,” said Nada Naeem, a 36-year-old Saudi citizen living in Dubai.
Dozens of white yachts are seen every day zipping through the emirate’s bays, canals and islands, while others are docked along the coast in Gulf waters overlooking the skyline of high-rise towers.
“You feel like you can breathe,” Naeem said, adding that she had not left Dubai since the pandemic began last year. “It’s like you’ve traveled.”
Unlike so many parts of the world, Dubai opened its doors wide open to tourists just a few months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold last year.
Life in the Gulf emirate — one of the first destinations to welcome visitors again last July — returned to largely normal, with restaurants and hotels up and running and beaches open to the public.
The UAE, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, launched an energetic vaccination drive with some of the highest inoculation rates worldwide, and continues to enforce strict rules on wearing masks and social distancing.
But some are fearful of overseas travel, and wary of crowded places where the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher.
For those who can afford the price tag, yachts are seen as a safer bet.
“When they eased the lockdown ... people preferred something secure and safe with regulations,” said Mohammed Al-Sayyed, manager of Royal Star Yachts charter company.
“We are providing them with the proper customer service, following all the rules, sanitizing the yacht.”
For now, yachts are allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity.
The company has a fleet that includes a 141-foot (42-meter) yacht able to host 80 passengers at full capacity — if you can afford the $4,900 price for a three-hour cruise.
Charter companies said they have seen an increased interest in yachting after coronavirus measures eased, especially among those who want to spend time with friends and family.
“People want to do sightseeing, cruising,” said Sayyed, who has been in the yacht industry for eight years. “They want to relax.”
Cheaper yachts to hire include the company’s 90-foot “Big Daddy” — capable of normally carrying 65 people, at $1,225 for three hours — down to smaller boats.
Some in Dubai said that when the price was split between a group, the cost was not as steep as it seemed at first.
“It can actually be more affordable than an all-inclusive brunch at a restaurant,” said Naeem.
And while some groups have been busted by authorities flouting the rules and slapped with hefty fines, most excursions run smoothly.
Sayyed insisted his company follows all the rules and that even on the most luxurious “party yachts,” there are COVID-19 regulations still in place, including the need for passengers to socially distance from each other and wear masks.
Dubai, known for its skyscrapers and mega-projects, boasts the most diverse economy in the oil-reliant Gulf region and has built a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub.
Tourism, which drew some 16 million visitors a year before the coronavirus hit, took a severe downturn in the first few months of the pandemic.
But a flood of arrivals since the beginning of the year has regenerated the industry, and helped many business activities recover.
Other yacht charter companies report an increase in demand for rentals in recent months.
And being out at sea doesn’t mean the guests must skimp on takeaway food or drinks. Jet skis and speed boats are on standby — for an extra fee — to take orders and deliver groceries from shore to ship.
“To go on a boat is as simple as being outdoors and being away from strangers, gathering with only those you trust,” said Palestinian Jeelan Herz, who has lived in the UAE for more than 30 years.
“It’s also something you can enjoy safely with children — go to the middle of the ocean, take part in water activities and take a nice dip.”


Saudi Arabia suspends desalination and power plant privatization amid strategy review

Saudi Arabia suspends desalination and power plant privatization amid strategy review
Updated 3 min 13 sec ago

Saudi Arabia suspends desalination and power plant privatization amid strategy review

Saudi Arabia suspends desalination and power plant privatization amid strategy review
  • New strategy for Saline Water Conversion Corporation to be announced soon

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has suspended the privatization of Ras Al Khair Desalination and Power Plant as it reviews its strategy.
This decision was made to capitalize on knowledge and capacity built in the Kingdom as a result of many years of experience in the areas of water desalination, new technologies, R&D and supply chains, the Privatization Supervisory Committee for the Environment, Water and Agriculture said in a statement on Monday.
A new engagement strategy and plan for the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) assets such as Ras Al Khair plant will be announced shortly.
“It is either that the outcome was not aligned with the government spending efficiency goals or it’s not a top priority for the time being, as there is price control on water services in the country that doesn’t allow room for enough profits to the private operators, that the government may need to offer significant subsidies to make the PPP project attractive to the private sector, ” Razeen Capital CEO Mohamed Alsuwayed told Arab News.
The Privatization Committee said it will continue to engage investors in future PPP and privatization transactions in the water sector, and new greenfield investment opportunities will be launched in due course.
Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) invited seven pre-qualified companies and strategic alliances to submit their bids (RFP) to participate in the Ras Al-Khair desalination and power plant’s privatization process, last January.
SWCC said in a statement that the winning consortium will own 60 percent of the project company, and will handle management, operation, and maintenance works. For now, SWCC will continue to manage it, according to the statement.


Kuwait loosens COVID restrictions for vaccinated, allows some direct flights

Kuwait loosens COVID restrictions for vaccinated, allows some direct flights
Updated 24 min 22 sec ago

Kuwait loosens COVID restrictions for vaccinated, allows some direct flights

Kuwait loosens COVID restrictions for vaccinated, allows some direct flights
  • 8 pm commercial curfew to end today
  • Unvaccinated only allowed to food markets, pharmacies, co-ops

KUWAIT CITY: The Kuwaiti cabinet cancelled its decision to close commercial activities at 8 pm, starting Tuesday, the state news agency KUNA reported on Monday.
All activities will be allowed except for large gatherings, such as conferences, weddings, and social events, starting from Sept. 1. Special activities for children will also be allowed.
Kuwait will allow only those who are vaccinated to take part in all activities, while the unvaccinated will be only allowed to pharmacies, consumer cooperative societies, and food and catering marketing outlets, starting from Aug. 1, the cabinet added.
Kuwait will also allow direct flights to Morocco and Maldives starting Aug. 1, the cabinet said in a statement.


Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll
Updated 33 min 4 sec ago

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll
  • Saudi 2022 growth seen at 4.3 percent, 2023 at 3.3 percent
  • UAE expected to grow 4.2 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2023

RIYADH: The six economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are set to rebound and grow 2 percent to nearly 3 percent this year while the region’s two largest economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are forecast to grow over 4 percent next year, a quarterly Reuters survey showed.
That outlook follows steep declines last year following an oil price crash and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while analysts expected Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to benefit from an OPEC+ deal to boost oil production.
“Our core assumption was that a longer-term deal would be secured, and we raise our 2022 forecasts on the back of the baseline adjustments, which will enable the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to raise oil output and their global market share from May 2022,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Medians in the July 5-26 poll pegged Saudi Arabia’s growth at 2.3 percent this year, down slightly from a forecast of 2.4 percent in a similar poll three months ago.
In 2022, the Middle East’s largest economy and world’s largest oil exporter’s gross domestic product was seen growing 4.3 percent, an upward revision of 100 basis points (bps). Growth for 2023 was revised up 30 bps to 3.3 percent.
The UAE was expected to grow 2.3 percent this year, unchanged, and 4.2 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2023, revised up 60 bps and 10 bps respectively.
Expectations for Kuwait’s 2021 GDP growth were lifted 60 bps to 2.4 percent, while growth next year was boosted 110 bps to 4.6 percent. Growth was seen 10 bps higher in 2023 at 3.0 percent.
Qatar’s 2021 growth forecast was scaled back 30 bps to 2.5 percent. The expectation for growth next year was unchanged at 3.6 percent and down 40 bps to 2.7 percent for 2023.
Oman was revised up 20 bps to 2.1 percent expected growth this year, up 10 bps to 3.3 percent next year and down 20 bps in 2023 to 2.2 percent. Bahrain’s outlook was unchanged for this year and next at 2.9 percent, while 2023 growth was seen 30 bps lower at 2.4 percent.
At least half of the GCC’s state revenues come from hydrocarbons, and diversification away from that will “likely take many years to achieve,” with fiscal diversification likely to follow with additional lag, Moody’s said in a report last month.
“The announced plans to boost hydrocarbon production capacity and government commitments to zero or very low taxes make it unlikely that this reliance will diminish significantly in the coming years, even with some progress in economic diversification, which we expect.”


Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
Updated 58 min 30 sec ago

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
  • China blue-chip index drops 3.5 percent to 8-month low
  • Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while Abu Dhabi is up 0.5 percent

RIYADH: Emerging market stocks slid 2 percent to a seven-month low on Tuesday, extending heavy losses to a third session, as a sharp sell-off in Chinese stocks continued.
Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while the Dubai Financial Market Index was little changed and Abu Dhabi's Securities Exchange General Index was up 0.6 percent.
China’s blue-chip index dropped 3.5 percent to its lowest in nearly eight months as worries lingered about regulatory crackdowns in the education and property sectors.
Hong Kong’s benchmark sank almost 4.5 percent, with losses over the past three days pushing the index more than 8 percent into the red for the year.
The Chinese yuan hit its lowest since April, weakening 0.4 percent to trade at 6.504 to the dollar.
“The question for investors is whether the sell-off presents an attractive opportunity to bottom fish,” said analysts at BCA Research.
“We argue otherwise and expect further pressure from regulators to continue to weigh down on Chinese stocks over a six- to 12-month horizon,” they said, adding that the medical industry could be the next target.
Adding to worries around China, profit growth at industrial firms slowed for a fourth straight month in June, while a surge in the Delta variant COVID-19 cases centered on the eastern city of Nanjing.
MSCI’s index of Asia shares excluding Japan hit its lowest so far this year, as did a broader index of EM equities as China stocks have the biggest weightage on both. Western European bourses traded well in the red, while US stock indexes looked set to retreat from all-time highs.
South Africa’s main index lost 1.7 percent, moving sharply away from 1-1/2-month highs, while Turkey’s index extended losses to day four. Polish stocks led losses across eastern Europe.
Tunisian bonds stabilized after their worst slide in a month on Monday following the government’s ouster by President Kais Saied.
Saied extended existing COVID-19 restrictions on movement on Monday and vowed any violent opposition would be met with force.
In currency markets, the South African rand slid 0.7 percent against a strengthening dollar ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday.
Investors are hoping to get clues on the world’s largest economy’s standing, as well as any hints on the timeline for stimulus tapering and interest rate hikes.
Massive support from major central banks and ultra-loose monetary policy to stimulate economic activity and growth has helped inflows into riskier assets of emerging markets.
Turkey’s lira and Russia’s rouble were broadly flat. Hungary’s forint was steady against the euro, staying near three-month lows ahead of a central bank meeting. An extension of a hiking cycle with a 20 basis-point increase in its base rate to 1.1 percent is expected.


Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
  • Analysis of MSCI EM Index puts Kingdom at the top of the list with a near 27% rise in market value

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been the best performing of all the emerging markets since the onset of the pandemic, according to new data from global information provider Refinitiv.

An analysis of 25 countries in the MSCI Emerging Market Index put Saudi Arabia, home to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, at the top of the list with a near 27 percent rise in market value since the start of 2020, when COVID-19 began to impact the global economy.

That compares with an average increase of just 1.6 percent in the overall index, and easily outstrips the 14.2 percent jump in the MSCI World Index of all countries.

Turkey was the worst performing of the emerging markets, with a 22.8 percent fall since the pandemic began, followed by Peru and Colombia, with drops of more than 20 percent. Of the other Middle East countries, Egypt witnessed a 6.5 percent decline, while Qatar barely grew, with just a 1.2 percent increase. 

The UAE placed second in the post-pandemic emerging market ranking, with a 21.3 percent rise.

Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

“The Saudi authorities were relatively quick to react with a series of measures, especially relating to smaller businesses, to help ease the burden of the pandemic economic effects, and the market has reacted to that,” Tarek Fadlallah, chief executive of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, told Arab News. 

The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities trading hub in the Gulf.

Tadawul has introduced derivatives trading which has broadened its appeal, especially to foreign investors accustomed to more sophisticated trading techniques.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

• The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities.

• Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance reflects its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank, says expert.

“Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance and strong corporate valuations reflect its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank,” financial expert Nasser Saidi told Arab News. 

“Economic and structural reforms, along with social liberalization policies, including opening up foreign markets to foreign investors, allowing for 100 percent foreign ownership in certain sectors, resulted in massive investment inflows.”

He highlighted the effect of the “policy-shattering” initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, and the steady stream of market flotations continuing this year, as a key feature of the Kingdom’s progress since the pandemic began.

The Saudi performance rates highly even in the context of rising global markets, buoyed by low interest rates and big government stimulus. New York’s S&P index has gained 33 percent since the onset of the pandemic.