RIYADH: The value of contactless point-of-sales transactions in Saudi Arabia jumped 147 percent in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier as consumer embraced the use of smart devices in retail environments.
More than 2.1 billion contactless transactions valued at SR203 billion ($54 billion) were made in the six months through the end of June, representing 94 percent of all point-of-sale payments, government body Saudi Payments said in a statement.
Use of smart devices, such as mobile phones, to make payments increased by 310 percent to 724 million transactions valued at SR56 billion, or 34 percent of all contactless payments.
The 450 percent number of shops accepting mada e-commerce payment methods grew 450 percent to 28,000 stores as the number of e-commerce transactions carried out using the government platform rose 112 percent to 146 million for a value of SR31 billion.
Saudi Payments has been investing in its digital infrastructure, in line with the Kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 Financial Sector Development Program, which seeks to transition to a society less dependent on cash, and achieve 70 percent electronic transactions by 2030.
A report this week showed Saudi youth are using less cash compared with other age groups.
Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash, while almost half of people who are 60 and above use cash till date, a report by Fintech Saudi showed.
The report also showed that 20 percent of the population in central region of Saudi Arabia, which includes the capital Riyadh, use cash in their everyday transactions, while 37 percent of those living in the western region use paper money in their daily dealings.
Egyptian business leader brands UK-Egypt relations ‘best they’ve ever been’
A high-level Egyptian government and business delegation visited Britain to attract foreign investment
Acting Minister of Health and Population Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said ‘Egypt is now well prepared for foreign investment’
Updated 16 sec ago
LONDON: Relations between Britain and Egypt are the best they have ever been, with the UK keen to further increase cooperation, Egyptian officials have revealed.
The comments came during a visit to Britain by a high-level Egyptian government and business delegation.
Egyptian Acting Minister of Health and Population Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, said: “We see that Egypt is now well prepared for foreign investment, and well organized when it comes to legislation and opportunities.
“At the same time, we have been ranked through different financial institutions as a place where the future of investment and the future of economy is coming in front of us.”
Abdel Ghaffar, who is also the minister of higher education and scientific research, was on a one-day visit to the UK to highlight some of the opportunities to attract investors from different sectors in health care.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event organized by the London-based Arab British Chamber of Commerce where he briefed senior executives from the UK health and pharmaceuticals sectors, the minister told Arab News he aimed to spotlight the resilience and capacity of the Egyptian health care system, as well as the gaps needed to be filled by foreign investment.
“We are here to show our commitment as a government, and as a will for opening our hands for investments in different sectors in Egypt,” he added.
With economic activity in Egypt continuing to surge, its government is working to implement legislation for universal health care coverage by 2030, and UK investors could play a crucial role in providing health services and facilities in both urban and rural settings.
Wearing both ministerial hats, Abdel Ghaffar said many lines of communication had been opened in the health and higher education sectors between Egypt and the UK.
He pointed out that the two countries were holding “serious talks” on investing in hospitals, training nurses and physicians, and preparing ophthalmology and dentistry students to take their exams in Egypt. On the education front, he noted that several partnerships had already been established with a number of British universities and more were in the pipeline.
“We are planning to have around 15 new universities ready to operate by September and October this year. For that reason, we need to discuss more with our partners from the UK to encourage in that area,” Abdel Ghaffar added.
The minister was visiting as part of a four-day mission organized by the Cairo-based British Egyptian Business Association and the commercial attache of the Egyptian embassy in London, to promote other opportunities in Egypt too, with several events running in parallel targeting finance and green finance, infrastructure, renewable energy and green hydrogen, and opportunities in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.
It was the BEBA’s seventh annual business mission and its biggest by far, its chairman, Khaled Nosseir, said, adding that the delegation included four cabinet ministers — international cooperation, finance, electricity, and energy, and health and higher education — along with vice ministers, heads of authorities, and around 74 business leaders who came from Cairo.
Nosseir said they had held meetings, seminars, and events with counterparts, investors, and those interested in dealing with the north African country to address opportunities not only in the Egyptian market, but also other markets in Africa.
Another main highlight of the visit was Egypt’s Vision 2030 and the much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) which will be held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November, as the UK hands over the presidency from the previous year.
“Relations between Egypt and the UK, this is the best they have ever been, at least, that I’ve experienced. So, we’re trying to bank on that and really build on that to foster economic relations, trade, and investment,” Nosseir added, describing the response throughout the visit as “very positive” from all sides.
“There’s been a seismic transformation in Egypt over the last six years, and Egypt is not the same as what it used to be, and whatever we try to explain to anybody outside of Egypt what’s happening and the new Egypt, no one can really grasp it, because even for us in Egypt, it’s mind boggling,” he said.
Dur Hospitality plans to open Rixos Jeddah Resort by 2023
Updated 28 May 2022
Widad Taleb & Dana Alomar
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Dur Hospitality Co. has purchased Makarem Al Nakheel Village & Resort for $80 million and plans to convert it into the first Rixos resort in Jeddah, said a top executive.
In an interview with Arab News at the Future Hospitality Summit, Hassan Ahdab, president of hotel operations at Dur Hospitality, said that the all-inclusive resort will be open to visitors in one year.
“We plan to have a grand opening of the Rixos Jeddah Resort by the mid or the third quarter of 2023,” said Ahdab.
According to a press statement, the project will restyle and enhance all facilities, including 174 rooms, 73 furnished residential villas and two restaurants, among other amenities.
The statement added that the resort would also feature vast green landscapes, sandy beaches with breathtaking views, a marina, and a plaza overlooking the Red Sea.
The hospitality major has also roped in Accor to develop and manage the property.
“We were the first in Saudi Arabia to own, operate, manage, franchise, and even create brands for hotels,” said Ahdab.
The company was instrumental in bringing Marriott International into the Kingdom, the first Marriott outside the USA.
“Our journey started by training and educating our people on the international standards while keeping the Saudi hospitality as part of the DNA of our services,” he said.
He further said: “Dur Hospitality’s main investment is Makkah’s Makarem Ajyad Makkah Hotel. Makarem is a homegrown brand with international standards, but it still carries a lot of Islamic flavors that pilgrims can appreciate.”
Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years
Hilton's top exec for MENA says Saudi Arabia has enormous potential for growth in the hospitality sector
Assures that the hospitality chain will work closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority
Updated 28 May 2022
Widad Taleb and Dana Alomar
RIYADH: Hilton Hotels & Resorts will add 59 more hotels across various asset classes in Saudi Arabia in the next five to 10 years. The hospitality group currently has 16 in the region.
In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit, Hilton’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amir Lababedi, said that Hilton will reach 75 hotels within the next five to 10 years and probably exceed that number as well.
“We will surpass 75 hotels in the next five to 10 years because of all the Kingdom’s efforts. These hotels will be spread across a range of asset classes and brands, serving a broad range of demographics,” said Lababedi.
He further added that the Kingdom has enormous potential for growth in the hospitality sector thanks to the wholehearted support offered by the government, including the Tourism Development Fund and the Public Investment Fund.
“The Hilton in Jeddah, Makkah and Medina are properties that are part of the fabric of the tourism industry, right from the start of domestic and international tourism,” Lababedi said.
As a result of Vision 2030, the market has changed in the last few years with regard to tourism and economic development, and Lababedi said that the company would fully support the goals and initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism.
He added that the hospitality chain works closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority to bring its performance engine to support the industry’s growth.
Hilton’s goal is to infuse a sense of local culture into all of its brands.
“We are looking to infuse the Diriyah property with the essence of its history, bringing the story of this unique location to life,” Lababedi added. “And we call these properties the heroes, and it’s part of a shared principle of brand sharing,” he said.
When it comes to hiring Saudis, he said the company needs to hire locals not just because of regulations and Saudization quotas but also because guests appreciate the gesture when a company can bring a local culture into their hotels.
“We work very closely with the authorities in training and developing Saudis to find a career in hospitality, get them ready for a work-life, and provide them with the basic life skills to go out into the workforce and prepare them for that,” said Lababedi.
AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months
The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October
Updated 28 May 2022
Fahad Abuljadayel and Widad Taleb
RIYADH: The historic city of AlUla received more than 250,000 visitors in the past 12 months, far exceeding its forecast, said a senior government official.
The city developers had already covered huge ground, considering it had envisaged attracting one million visitors by 2025.
“The plan is to keep it preserve the nature. We don’t want to create a destination and then destroy it by bringing too many people,” John Northen, executive director – head of hotels and resorts at the Royal Commission of AlUla, or RCU, told Arab News.
“So, we are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors,” Northen said.
One such labor of love is the Banyan Tree Hotel, a sprawling destination with 79 villas slated to open in October this year.
The plan is to keep it preserve the nature ... We are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors.
John Northen, Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU
The hotel is also a worthy neighbor of Maraya Hall, the largest mirrored building in the world and a centerpiece of the city’s growing cultural landscape.
The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October.
“It’s going to be completely different; you will feel like you traveled back in time and experienced something very unusual,” he said.
The city has also regenerated its 2,000 square kilometers of vast Sharaan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary to the Arabian leopards.
“Here, we are developing two exciting hotels, one designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, which will be crafted inside the mountain,” Northen said.
The destination is also home to international fine dining restaurants
“Food and beverage are already a great strength for AlUla,” he added.
Most of the restaurants in the city have been seasonal based on the tourism traffic. However, RCU will operate them throughout the year starting from next year.
Part of the RCU’s strategy is to engage the local community and offer training programs.
“The population of AlUla is 42,000 people. We are trying to hire as many as we can and give educational opportunities,” said Northen, adding that they have already opened a language school and will soon be setting up a hotel management school.
Dar Al Arkan acquires Compass Consulting to venture into project
The company saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to start consolidating with their clients and get their assets out to the market quickly as soon as the market rebounded
Updated 28 May 2022
Widad Taleb & Nour El-Shaeri
RIYADH: Dar Al Arkan, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest real estate developers, has acquired a Dubai-based project consulting firm, Compass Project Consulting.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News at the Future Hospitality Summit, Spencer Wylie, CEO of Compass Project Consulting, confirmed the buyout.
According to Wylie, the rationale behind purchasing Compass Project Consulting is twofold.
One, it allows Dar Al Arkan to venture into the fast-growing project management space. Two, it equips the real estate giant to bid for the upcoming megaprojects as a project consultant.
Dar Al Arkan wants to approach the larger mega developers, the Public Investment Fund, and other giga programs as a project management company and not just a residential developer.
Spencer Wylie, CEO of Compass Project Consulting
“Dar Al Arkan wants to approach the larger mega developers, the Public Investment Fund, and other giga programs as a project management company and not just a residential developer,” Wylie told Arab News.
With regional coverage and multi-sector expertise, Compass offers clients fully tailored project development solutions that can take an initial concept through to construction completion and handover.
Widely known within the construction, fit-out, engineering and design industries, the company provides a turnkey project consulting service to clients of all sizes. The buyout assumes significance as both companies had entered into a strategic partnership late last year.
Wylie added that the growth of the tourism sector in the Kingdom has been phenomenal and well-grounded around Vision 2030.
The company saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to start consolidating with their clients and get their assets out to the market quickly as soon as the market rebounded.
“Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom and as the company aims to develop more assets in the Kingdom,” said Wylie.