International tourism body to work with new Saudi sustainability center as it pushes for net zero carbon roadmap

Special International tourism body to work with new Saudi sustainability center as it pushes for net zero carbon roadmap
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Updated 05 November 2021

International tourism body to work with new Saudi sustainability center as it pushes for net zero carbon roadmap

International tourism body to work with new Saudi sustainability center as it pushes for net zero carbon roadmap

The travel industry is launching a “net zero roadmap”, the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) told Arab News, adding that the organisation will work closely with Saudi Arabia’s new sustainability center in the battle against climate change.

Julia Simpson was speaking on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh last week, and set out the challenges facing an industry devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Simpson praised the aviation and cruise liner industries for the steps they have already taken to reduce their carbon footprints, but argued the technology needed for significant reductions are still “further down the line”.

She also singled out the hotel industry as an area where more can be done to “decarbonize faster”.

Reflecting on the challenges the sector has faced since 2019, Simpson predicts tourism will be a “comeback story” as the world continues to open up after two years of restrictions. 

Discussing environmental issues, Simpson says: “What we're doing at the WTTC is we’re launching a whole sustainability, net zero roadmap. 

“The net zero roadmap would be the first time we’ve looked at the environmental carbon footprint of all our individual industries within travel and tourism and added it all up and said: ‘What is our contribution and what are our solutions?’ 

“But what I will say is we have some tough industries in terms of carbon in our industry. You know, the cruise liners and aviation, there aren't actually technical alternatives. There's hydrogen, there’s electrics, but some of these are further down the line and what those industries are doing in the meantime is incredible.”

“To be honest, when it comes to sustainability and preserving the environment, reducing the carbon footprint, I see that the tourism industry is doing that.”

She added: “But there are other sectors that can decarbonize faster, probably the hotel sector. I can give you my assurance, among all of the 200 CEOs that I talk to, sustainability is top of their agenda. And why is that? Because customers demand it.”

Saudi Arabia is aware of that demand, which led Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to launch the Sustainable Tourism Global Center at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum last week.

Global travel and tourism is responsible for 8 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and the centre aims to work towards zero emissions across the industry.

Simpson reveals that the WTTC plans to “work side-by-side” with the new centre on several research projects.

The travel association will also hold its 22nd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in the Kingdom at the end of next year, Simpson announced last week at the Future Investment Initiative.

She said that Saudi “has been instrumental in leading the recovery of a sector which is critical to economies, jobs and livelihoods around the world”.

Few industries have been hit harder by the pandemic than travel and tourism, but Simpson is confident that “we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel”.

The head of the trade body says the industry has lifted by around 27 percent this year, compared to a 49 percent slump last year when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions closed borders, airports and hotels.

The travel sector represented 10.4 percent of global gross domestic product in 2019, yet this was slashed to 5.4 percent last year, according to WTTC annual data.

Simpson adds that during the height of the pandemic in 2019, global GDP fell by around 3 percent, while the travel industry revenues dipped by almost half.

In the Middle East, tourism as a contribution to GDP fell 51.1 percent to $138 billion last year, but this was a better performance than Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean.

Simpson says: “Our industry has been devastated. It's been turned inside out. But I'm very, very hopeful that it is going to come back. This will be a comeback story.”

She adds: “People are beginning to travel again because of higher vaccination rates. But there are still around four billion people who have not had any vaccinations at all – the young, those in parts of Africa and Asia. We must not forget about them.”

Her association backs the United Nation Covax plan to distribute millions of doses of free vaccines from rich countries to the developing world.

As you might imagine, Simpson has had plenty of practice travelling the world and speaking to movers and shakers in government and at the top of business.

She spent 14 years at British Airways parent International Airlines Group, leaving as chief of staff before taking up her post at WTTC in August. Before the travel business, she was a strategic communications adviser to then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, responsible for counter-terrorism, home affairs, education and local government.

As the pandemic begins to ease, the travel boss says richer people in the US, Europe and around the world are proving the first ones to board planes and cross-border trains again.

She says: “The wealthy middle class have not had anywhere to spend their money, so there's pent up demand there. They want to go out.”

But Simpson doubts that the industry bounce back will be uniform.

She says: “The domestic markets have been very, very strong. If people have not been able to travel overseas, they've chosen to travel within their own countries. That's been the number one driver of growth.”

“Secondly, I think that family has been a strong reason to travel. There are a lot of people that have not been able to see their families, and that has driven a lot of international leisure travel.”

But she admits business travel will take longer to return to pre-pandemic levels. Some observers say that the meteoric rise of virtual meeting software such as Zoom and Microsoft’s Teams, means that this sector will never fully recover.

Simpson says: “I love Zoom. I use it. But you cannot do big deals and shake hands on this software.

“If I am an investor and want to invest in the NEOM [£500 billion mega-city] project, I need to come to Saudi and see it and see the country.”

The travel body forecast that business travel will rise by 26 percent this year and reach two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels by 2022, in a report this week. Business travel collapsed by 61 percent in 2020.

Global travel and tourism is on a long-haul journey back to recovery, but Simpson and Saudi Arabia are convinced they can see light at the end of the tunnel.


Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut
Updated 53 min 23 sec ago

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut
  • OPEC+ has begun talks on output cut at Oct. 5 meet and Russia seen suggesting OPEC+ cuts output by 1 mln bpd — source
  • US markets slide on Fed’s aggressive moves to tame inflation; US production to return after shutting for Hurricane Ian

NEW YORK: Oil prices settled lower on Thursday in choppy trading, rising above $90 per barrel and then retreating as traders weighed a worsening economic outlook against potential OPEC+ output cuts next week.

Brent crude futures settled down 83 cents at $88.49 per barrel, after rising as high as $90.12 during the session. US crude futures for November settled 92 cents lower at $81.23 a barrel.

Leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, have begun discussions about an oil output cut at their next meeting on Oct. 5, three sources told Reuters.

OPEC+, which combines OPEC countries and allies such as Russia, agreed a small oil output cut of 100,000 barrels a day at its September meeting to bolster prices.

Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia flagged in August the possibility of output cuts to address market volatility. 

Also at the group’s last meeting, OPEC+ members agreed to stick to their forecasts for robust global oil demand growth in 2022 and 2023, citing signs that major economies were faring better than expected despite headwinds such as surging inflation.

Oil demand will increase by 3.1 million barrels per day in 2022 and by 2.7 million bpd in 2023, unchanged from last month, OPEC said in its monthly report.

One OPEC source told Reuters a cut was “likely,” while two other OPEC+ sources said key members had spoken about the topic.

Reuters reported this week that Russia is likely to propose that OPEC+ reduce oil output by about 1 million barrels per day(bpd).

“Right now, the oil market is teetering between the Fed-induced demand destruction and tight oil supplies,” said Ryan Dusek, a director in the Commodity Risk Advisory Group at Opportune LLP.

US stock markets tumbled on worries that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive fight against inflation could hobble the US economy, and as investors fretted about a rout in global currency and debt markets.

“Amid so much uncertainty, seesaw trade may be common over the next week, unless we get more clarity from OPEC+ sources on the likely size of any adjustment and what it means for previous missed quotas,” said Craig Erlam, senior markets analyst at OANDA.

The market also eased as the threat of Hurricane Ian receded with US oil production expected to return in coming days after about 158,000 bpd was shut in the Gulf of Mexico as of Wednesday, according to federal data.

In China, the world’s biggest crude oil importer, travel during the forthcoming week-long national holiday is set to hit its lowest level in years as Beijing’s zero-COVID rules keep people at home while economic woes curb spending.

Crude benchmarks remain on pace to notch weekly gains after a four-week losing streak. Early this week they rebounded from nine-month lows, buoyed by a dip in the US dollar index and a larger than expected US fuel inventory drawdown.

The dollar index dropped again on Thursday, easing off 20-year highs, indicating some more risk appetite from investors.

Further support for oil prices could come from the United States announcing new sanctions against companies that facilitated Iranian oil sales.

“I think traders have almost given up on a nuclear deal being agreed and this announcement from the US appears to be a make or break move,” said Erlam.


Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, in coordination with its regional partners, has launched a food security action plan with an initial funding of $10 billion to tackle the global food supply crisis, the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture said.

Speaking at a meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in Indonesia, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli said the Kingdom will continue its role in helping stabilize the global food production supply chain.

On the domestic front, he added, the Kingdom has also succeeded in reducing the use of water for agricultural purposes by more than 40 percent, the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.

Al-Fadhli also highlighted the Kingdom’s achievement in the agricultural sector, which according to him, grew by more than 7.8 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. 

He said the Kingdom is applying modern techniques to boost its agriculture sector and reduce wastage of water.


PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO
Updated 29 September 2022

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

RIYADH: With investments worth SR142 billion ($37.8 billion), Saudi Arabia’s PIF-owned Savvy Games Group seeks to transform the Kingdom into a global gaming hub with world-class gaming companies, said CEO Brian Ward.

Ward was addressing members of the media following the announcement of the company’s strategy by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday.

The investments will include SR70 billion to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy’s game development agenda and SR50 billion to acquire “a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.”

Another SR20 billion will be invested in industry partners and SR2 billion will target industry disruptors “to grow early-stage games and esports companies.”

“Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying.

Savvy's CEO Brian Ward

In the press briefing, Ward said: “Our mission will be to lead global investments in the sector.”

He said gaming and esports is the largest entertainment sector with a potential to “exceed $300 billion by 2020 and $400 billion by 2028.”

Ward said Savvy aims to accelerate the growth of the sector in the Kingdom and take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s “unique geopolitical position in the world.”

The PIF-owned company has five independent subsidiaries, including esports arm EFG, as well as Nine66, which "is building an ecosystem for game developers and studios,” and VOV company, which is building gaming and competition venues.

“We intend to make new investments in startups and (established) tech companies,” the top official said.

He also told the media that more details about the company’s acquisition deals and agreements strategy would be announced in the next six months.

Ward said the strategy unveiled on Wednesday seeks to help local gaming companies grow into global players producing world-class games.


UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023
Updated 29 September 2022

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

DUBAI: Damac Properties has seen significant growth in pure online sales as a result of its fully interactive virtual real estate and communities designed in the metaverse, according to a senior official.

On the sidelines of the Metaverse Assembly in Dubai, Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac Properties and CEO of D-Labs, said that online-only transactions are accounting for an increasing portion of the company’s real estate activity, approximately 367 million dirhams ($100 million) a quarter.

By mid-2023, the UAE-based developer aims to grow this figure to $150 million per month, according to a statement.

The realty major has invested up to $100 million to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

The company's metaverse platform D-Labs will create digital replicas of its top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

AD Ports Group welcomes its first international shipment 

AD Ports Group, one of the leading providers of international trade and logistics, announced Thursday the arrival of its first international shipment at Mugharraq Port, according to a statement.

The UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has recognized Mugharraq Port as an international port facility under the provisions of the International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities.

The port gained international recognition after a series of major upgrades including extending the quay wall and adding additional berths, deepening the facility’s depth to eight meters, and constructing additional Ro-Ro ramps.

Combined with its strategic proximity to Ruwais, Hail, Ghasha, and other key upstream oil and gas projects in the region, Mugharraq Port is well-equipped to meet the demands of international operations and will further solidify its position as an ISPS port in the region, the statement said.

As a premier maritime facility, the port offers a wide range of offshore, oil and gas, general cargo, logistic support, bulk, and break-bulk handling services.

Al Dhafra’s long-term development plan will be supported by the ongoing port extensions and the new international certification.


Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 
Updated 29 September 2022

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s current account balance has witnessed a 17.6 percent increase in the second quarter of 2022 to SR170.1 billion ($45.26 billion) , fueled by a rise in oil and non-oil exports, according to the Saudi Central Bank’s monthly bulletin.

The Kingdom’s exports of goods increased to SR272. 2 billion, showing a 23.1 percent surge from SR221.1 billion over the same period.  

Services such as transport and construction all witnessed declines over the second quarter of 2022, resulting in a 53.9 percent reduction in the sector.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets increased 2.4 percent from the first quarter of 2022, hitting SR4.9 trillion in the second quarter of 2022.

Portfolio investments — which include equity and investment fund shares and debt securities — slightly declined by 1.1 percent for the second month in a row, equating to 1.4 trillion by the end of June.

Trade credit, loans, and currency and deposits — which fall under the category of ‘other investments’ grew 2.9 percent to 1.1 trillion in this quarter, slowing down from a 9.6 percent growth in the previous quarter.

Inside the Kingdom, residential new mortgage loans to individuals soared 76.6 percent month-to-month, from SR7.2 billion in July to SR12.7 billion in August.

Moreover, consumer loans and credit card loans both increased 2.1 percent and 4.8 percent respectively from last month.

Consumer loans grew from SR436.5 billion in July to SR445.8 billion in August, and credit card loans increased from SR19.6 billion to SR20.5 billion over the same period.

As for Saudi Arabia’s total bank credit, it rose 1.6 percent — recording SR2.3 trillion worth of brank credit in the transition between July and August.