stc, Thales sign MoU to develop digital solutions for businesses

stc, Thales sign MoU to develop digital solutions for businesses
Pascal Lesaulnier, chairman and CEO of Thales Saudi Arabia
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Updated 08 December 2021

stc, Thales sign MoU to develop digital solutions for businesses

stc, Thales sign MoU to develop digital solutions for businesses

stc and Thales have signed a memorandum of understanding for collaboration in various areas, such as ICT, AI, cybersecurity, smart cities, IoT, machine connectivity, identity solutions, payment solutions, and 5G satellite solutions. Through this partnership, stc aims to develop and enhance digital solutions in order to provide its customers with cybersecurity solutions, as well as provide training to enhance digital skills in these technologies through the stc academy.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies includes investing in digital capabilities in the Kingdom through research, development and innovation. Among the areas of cooperation covered by the memorandum of understanding  are eSIM technologies and national security technologies, especially smart new cities and digital identity and payment solutions. The partnership will involve close collaboration between the two companies in relation to ICT training provided by stc academy.

stc chief business officer Riyadh Muawad expressed his delight at the signing of the MoU. He said: “As the digital enabler in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are interested in building strategic relationships with strategic partners like Thales and are working together to further our digital transformation leadership goals. Through this partnership, we aspire to leverage Thales Group solutions in the areas of cybersecurity, AI, and other digital innovations.”

Pascal Lesaulnier, chairman and CEO of Thales Saudi Arabia, said: “Thales is a leading global company in the field of advanced technologies and invests in digital innovations and ‘deep technologies’ such as connectivity, big data, AI, cyber security and quantum computing. Over the past 50 years, the Group has had an active presence in the Kingdom in all our areas of expertise. We are very proud of the partnership we have developed with stc over the years. eSim, stcPay and other solutions are a testament to this vital collaboration. This MoU confirms Thales’ commitment to keep integrating and working alongside stc as part of this exciting journey towards digital transformation in Saudi Arabia, in which stc is a key player.”


Oman Air Holidays, CONNECT ink deal for 2022 MICE calendar

Oman Air Holidays, CONNECT ink deal for 2022 MICE calendar
Updated 18 January 2022

Oman Air Holidays, CONNECT ink deal for 2022 MICE calendar

Oman Air Holidays, CONNECT ink deal for 2022 MICE calendar

Oman Air Holidays has signed a partnership agreement with CONNECT, a subsidiary of Oman’s SABCO Group, becoming the exclusive travel partner for all CONNECT events on the 2022 calendar. As one of Oman’s leading providers of inbound and outbound flight and holiday packages, Oman Air Holidays will offer event delegates, exhibitors and visitors a variety of exclusive accommodation and tour packages, comprising flight tickets, transfers, excursions and bespoke itineraries and add-ons.

“The 2022 MICE season in Oman is shaping up to be a busy one, and we’re delighted to partner with CONNECT to facilitate and enhance the offering of exclusive hotel and tour packages available to everyone attending exhibitions this year,” said Mundher Al-Shaikhani, senior manager at Oman Air Holidays. “With five large-scale exhibitions already confirmed on CONNECT’s 2022 calendar, Oman Air Holidays has assembled customizable packages offering bespoke add-ons and itineraries for those wanting to explore Muscat and other regions in the sultanate during their stay.”

Sayyid Khalid Al-Busaidi, chairman of CONNECT and SABCO Group, said: “CONNECT is proud to be partnering with Oman’s national carrier and tour operator, Oman Air Holidays. This partnership is borne through the shared ambition to position the sultanate as a world-class hub for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition industry, an industry that has a fundamental role to play in stimulating in-country trade and investment, and in achieving Oman Vision 2040. Additionally, international exhibitors, delegates and visitors who attend CONNECT’s market-leading events will now have the opportunity to experience Oman Air’s multiple award-winning services, and through Oman Air Holidays’ extensive network of hotels, transportation services and excursions, to truly be able to discover the rich history, beauty and hospitality of Oman.”

Covering a wide cross-section of industry, this year’s CONNECT-organized events include Oman Design and Build Week (March 14-16), Oman Sustainability Week 2022 (March 14-16), Oman Petroleum and Energy Show (March 21-23), Oman Health Exhibition and Conference (Sept. 26-28), and Food and Hospitality Oman Exhibition and Conference (Sept. 26-28).


World’s first OTA platform Zamzam.com aims to transform religious tourism industry

World’s first OTA platform Zamzam.com aims to transform religious tourism industry
Updated 18 January 2022

World’s first OTA platform Zamzam.com aims to transform religious tourism industry

World’s first OTA platform Zamzam.com aims to transform religious tourism industry

Travel agents and pilgrims worldwide are now able to plan and organize religious travels with Zamzam.com, an advanced B2B/B2C booking search engine for end-to-end Umrah travel services, including visas, flights, hotels, transfer, ground service and religious sightseeing packages. It is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and certified by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

A joint venture with TBO.com, the world’s leading travel distribution technology platform, Zamzam.com is the first online travel agency platform for religious travels.

The travel platform was developed in response to the growing need for modern and seamless religious experiences. Guests of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are now able to complete their spiritual journey with confidence and ease of mind thanks to curated travel itineraries suited to their requirements.

Highlighting the role of an OTA platform in transforming the religious tourism industry, Omar Akbar, CEO of Zamzam.com, said: “Inspired by purpose and our core values of integrity, reliability, and transparency, we have created Zamzam.com to simplify the process of Umrah booking for everyone. Our vision behind the OTA platform is to assist travelers to search, plan, and book every service they need via a single platform.”

“More travelers than ever are looking for unique experiences and religious travelers are no different. To provide a peaceful spiritual experience, we collaborated with many partners, agencies and suppliers around the world to strengthen our position in the hope of introducing more personalized services and B2C packages in the future,” he added.

The booking search engine leverages technology with a user-friendly interface allowing users to book their Umrah trips with MAQAM — the ministry’s global distribution system. Hotel accommodations, transportation, transfers, online visas, meet and greet services and sightseeing tours can all be tailored to the users’ preferences.

“With the aim to revolutionize the travel experience for religious travelers coming to Saudi Arabia from more than 110 countries across the globe, Zamzam.com is committed to creating meaningful pilgrimage experiences for individuals, partner agents, industry professionals, and destination managers alike,” a press release said. “With affordable rates and a straightforward registration and booking process, Zamzam.com will work in true partnership with all of its providers to pioneer curated packages, competitive pricing and loyalty benefits, supported by a 24/7 multi-lingual world-class support center to offer an exclusive Umrah travel experience.”


Qatar Airways partners with utu for tax-free shopping

Qatar Airways partners with utu for tax-free shopping
Updated 18 January 2022

Qatar Airways partners with utu for tax-free shopping

Qatar Airways partners with utu for tax-free shopping

Travel tech company utu has teamed up with Qatar Airways Privilege Club, the loyalty program of Qatar’s national flag carrier, in a partnership that will reward travelers with a significant value addition to their international tax-free shopping experience. Members of Qatar Airways Privilege Club will now be able to benefit from a 25 percent increase in the value of their tax refunds by converting them into Qmiles, making their tax refunds even more rewarding.

utu provides a simple way to boost tax refunds on purchases made abroad and convert them into Qmiles. Travelers can benefit from higher tax refund values simply by entering their utu Tax Free Card number on their tax-free forms, and choosing Qatar Airways Privilege Club from the utu Tax Free app as their preferred refund method.

By leveraging the virtual utu Tax Free Card in the utu Tax Free app, Privilege Club members will now be able to boost their VAT refund value by 25 percent. As a special launch offer until March 31, Privilege Club members will collect 1,000 bonus Qmiles in addition to 4,167 Qmiles for every tax refund transaction above $100.

Qatar Airways Privilege Club is the latest airline loyalty program to join utu’s new service, which aims to revolutionize tax-free shopping. Travelers purchasing tax-free with the utu card gain a greater choice of rewards, an easier and more convenient reward claiming process, and significantly greater value in terms of Qmiles collected.

Drawing on its deep industry experience, utu believes travelers should be getting more value and a better experience when it comes to tax refunds. Tax-free shopping is available in 50 countries across the globe, including France, Italy, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, and the UAE. utu allows travelers to claim back the value-added tax or goods and services tax for purchases in countries they visit. By the time a refund is processed by VAT refund operators, shoppers typically only receive about half of the total value of the VAT refund they are due. utu is transforming tax-free shopping worldwide by empowering travelers with the freedom to obtain a higher VAT refund, something they have been unable to do until now.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker said: “Our partnership with utu will allow Privilege Club members the best value out of their trips. Members will not only be able to enjoy tax-free shopping at 50 countries and earn Qmiles on their travels, but they can even get more value out of their tax refunds when converted to Qmiles. This collaboration is a testament of our dedication toward introducing new ways to earn Qmiles, offering members more unique opportunities to bring them closer to their next reward.”

Asad Jumabhoy, co-founder and CEO of utu, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Qatar Airways Privilege Club, the loyalty program of the ‘world’s best airline,’ to open up a new world of better value, choice and opportunities for Privilege Club members. We believe the partnership is another valuable way Qatar Airways Privilege Club is providing exceptional travel experiences leading up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond.”


New Zealand showcases culture at Expo 2020

New Zealand showcases culture at Expo 2020
Updated 17 January 2022

New Zealand showcases culture at Expo 2020

New Zealand showcases culture at Expo 2020

The New Zealand Pavilion is set to celebrate its biggest month yet at Expo 2020 Dubai, revealing a stellar lineup of music, dance and culinary events throughout January. The action-packed cultural calendar, running from Jan. 13, culminates with New Zealand’s National Day celebrations on Jan. 31, including a special performance by one of the nation’s top-selling live bands, Six60.

Guided by its Expo theme “Care for People and Place,” New Zealand’s January cultural showcase celebrates the breadth and variety of the country’s creative talent. Throughout the month, Expo visitors can join culinary events hosted by leading New Zealand chefs and enjoy a diverse range of performances by some of its most celebrated singers, dancers, and artists, as well as a specially curated production from the future of New Zealand’s performing arts.

Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand’s commissioner-general to Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “This month’s calendar of cultural happenings at Expo 2020 Dubai is a prime opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand to demonstrate our creativity and innovative spirit on a global stage. We look forward to welcoming visitors to join us in marking our National Day on Jan. 31 and celebrate our country’s creativity, showing how care and hospitality are part of New Zealand’s rich culture.

“The diverse lineup of events planned for our National Day celebration will give Expo 2020 visitors a deeper understanding of who we are and put the spotlight on our arts and creative sector, which contributes $10.98 billion to our gross domestic product,” he added.

Taste New Zealand, a culinary showcase of the nation’s food and beverage offering, is a three-week event being led by visiting chefs Sid Sahrawat, and Kārena and Kasey Bird, as well as New Zealander Jesse Blake, head chef at homegrown restaurant LOWE.

From Jan. 23-31, New Zealand will host a modern, urban and youth-focused lineup of performances. Curated by Parris Goebel, creative director of the entertainment and cultural program for New Zealand at Expo 2020, and one of New Zealand’s most internationally successful entertainers, the program will appeal to entertainment seekers of all ages.

Goebel, a New Zealand Samoan choreographer, has become a renowned figure in pop culture around the world, having worked with the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Janet Jackson, and Nicki Minaj. As part of New Zealand’s January showcase, she has created, directed and produced a show, exclusively for Expo 2020 Dubai, called “Wonderland” that will amplify the voices of young New Zealanders.

“It has been such a privilege to be part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Expo journey and to showcase our unique entertainment and culture to the world through our amazing talent,” Goebel said.


Dubai chefs add French twist to American cheeseburger

Dubai chefs add French twist to American cheeseburger
Updated 17 January 2022

Dubai chefs add French twist to American cheeseburger

Dubai chefs add French twist to American cheeseburger

As part of a campaign launched by the French Dairy Board and the European Union, a quartet of Dubai chefs, authors and bloggers visited New York City to undertake various workshops and masterclasses to replicate the original cheeseburger recipe, using a key ingredient, European cheese.

Synonymous with America, the cheeseburger dates back to the 1920s and 1930s when the first versions of cheeseburgers appeared on menus. Back then, cheese was already a central ingredient with toppings typically consisting of lettuce, tomato, pickle and raw onions with a selection of condiments.

Cheeseburgers have since moved on. The burger’s doneness can be specified to suit a particular taste; toppings now include eggs, mushrooms, chili, avocado, and sauteed onions; and the cheese covers everything from comté to fourme d’Ambert, and camembert to brie.

As part of the four-day cheeseburger journey, chefs including Mohamed Chabchoul from the Grand Millennium Business Bay; Dalia Dogmoch Soubra, renowned chef and blogger; Zahra Abdalla, TV personality and food blogger; and Tiffany Eslick, editor at Spinneys magazine UAE, met with several of New York City’s leading chefs to learn the secrets of how to make the mouth-watering dish, a staple of the New York dining scene.

As part of the program, each chef was given insights into cheese pairing, courtesy of the French Dairy Board, while also being provided with the basics of making the perfect cheeseburger by Chef Stephen Parker at Black Tap Midtown. In addition, award-winning chef Harold Moore from the Charlie Palmer Steak Restaurant advised on creating a gourmet cheeseburger before a culinary tour of the city explained the history and heritage of the burger.

Marie-Laure Martin, international project manager from the French Dairy Board, said: “The cheeseburger is an institution in America — with almost a century of experience creating cheeseburgers, there is no one better to bestow the secrets of how to make it so tasty. As part of this program, we wanted to combine our French cheesemaking expertise with that of American chefs and create the perfect cheeseburger!”

Each of the chefs created their unique cheeseburger recipes, adding a Middle Eastern twist to the original recipes, which will shortly be available in their respective restaurants and blogs for anyone to try.