The rise of cryptocurrencies: Year in Review

The rise of cryptocurrencies: Year in Review
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Updated 09 January 2022

The rise of cryptocurrencies: Year in Review

The rise of cryptocurrencies: Year in Review
  • The year witnessed digital coins gaining global acceptance as legal tender

RIYADH: 2021 was a record year for cryptocurrency, which saw the market value for digital coins briefly top $3 trillion (SR11.3 trillion) in November.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value and the second-largest cryptocurrency, ether, also hit all-time highs. While altcoins and the meme-inspired Dogecoin gained traction.

Other digital assets, such as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, sold for millions of dollars alongside fine art in major auction houses. A digital collage by US artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million in March.

In addition to art, NFTs for use in video games to buy digital land or other items soared in value.

And El Salvador became the first country to accept Bitcoin as legal tender in September, in a move that saw the government provide digital wallets giving away $30 in Bitcoin to every citizen. 

HIGHLIGHT

El Salvador became the first country to accept bitcoin as legal tender in September, in a move that saw the government provide digital wallets giving away $30 in Bitcoin to every citizen.

Blockchain-based applications, including decentralized finance, or DeFi, garnered interest from both retail and institutional investors, pushing the growth of Web3, which is the decentralized version of the internet based on blockchain technology that powers NFTs and underpins cryptocurrencies.

All of this helped push cryptocurrency into the mainstream in 2021.

Here are the crypto highlights of 2021.

 

Most searched cryptocurrencies

Receiving an average of 1,100,000 Google searches per month, Bitcoin was the most Googled cryptocurrency in the UK in 2021, according to a new study.




A representation of the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this picture illustration taken June 14, 2021. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Research conducted by Bacancy, a software firm, added that Dogecoin is the second most searched digital coin in the UK with a monthly average of 596,000 Google searches over the past year.

In third place with 378,000 searches is Ethereum, the blockchain-based software platform for receiving and sending value globally.

With 189,000 searches per month, the Shiba Inu token, another digital coin with a dog theme, was in fourth place.

Cardano is the fifth most-searched, with 187,000, followed by XRP in sixth place with 185,000 monthly searches and in seventh place is Ripple with 83,000 Google searches in 2021.




A representation of the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this picture illustration taken October 19, 2021. (REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo)
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Meanwhile, Dogecoin has overtaken Bitcoin in popularity in the US in 2021 as it is the most searched cryptocurrency in the country’s 23 states, according to research.

This survey was conducted by financial adviser The Advisor Coach to establish the cryptocurrency each US might want to invest in based on searches.

Analysis of the Google Trends data revealed that Dogecoin had the highest number of states who were interested in investing in the digital coin with a total of 23 states, including Illinois, Florida, Hawaii and New Jersey. The rise in interest can be partially attributed to the endorsement of US billionaire Elon Musk who said in December that his electric carmaker Tesla would accept Dogecoin as a form of payment.

Bitcoin was the second most popular with 10 states looking up investments opportunities in cryptocurrency, including Connecticut, Alaska, Mississippi, and New Hampshire.

A total of eight states inquired into Ethereum, the third-highest spot in the research, with states such as Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and Ohio showing an interest.

 

Who’s mining

Most Bitcoin mining took place in China, according to internet protocol, or IP, addresses that used the mathematical functions needed to search for the digital coin.

In 2021, the world’s top Bitcoin mining pools all came from China, with five pools being responsible for over half of the cryptocurrency's total hash, or mathematical mining functions. 




Cryptocurrency mining facilities are seen in Pristina, Kosovo. (REUTERS/Hazir Reka/File Photo)

This is likely related to energy prices around the world as the cost of electricity in Germany is more than 10 times the price in China. Successful mining for Bitcoin uses banks of high-powered computers that use a great deal of energy.

Digital coin mining companies bought a lot of hardware this year, which resulted in the price of some mining accessories jumping roughly 10 percent a week in 2021, according to Statista.

However, on the currency’s dark side, the US Internal Revenue Service revealed in November that $3.5 billion of cryptocurrency was seized last year.

This represents 93 percent of all funds seized by the criminal investigation unit during 2021.

The agency expects to confiscate billions more dollars in cryptocurrency next year.

“I expect a trend of crypto seizures to continue as we move forward into fiscal year 2022. We are seeing crypto involved in a number of our crimes as we move forward,” IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee said.


Egyptian business leader brands UK-Egypt relations ‘best they’ve ever been’

Egyptian business leader brands UK-Egypt relations ‘best they’ve ever been’
Updated 51 min 42 sec ago

Egyptian business leader brands UK-Egypt relations ‘best they’ve ever been’

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’

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.

Egyptian Acting Minister of Health and Population Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar was visiting as part of a four-day mission organized by the Cairo-based British Egyptian Business Association. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)

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.

The visit was organized by the British Egyptian Business Association’s and it was its seventh annual business mission and its biggest by far. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)

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

Dur Hospitality plans to open Rixos Jeddah Resort by 2023
Updated 28 May 2022

Dur Hospitality plans to open Rixos Jeddah Resort by 2023

Dur Hospitality plans to open Rixos Jeddah Resort by 2023

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.

Hassan Ahdab, Dur Hospitality's president for hotel operations, in an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh. (AN)

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 to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years
Updated 28 May 2022

Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years

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

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

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
John Northen Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU
Updated 28 May 2022

AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
  • The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October

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

‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
Updated 28 May 2022

Dar Al Arkan acquires Compass Consulting to venture into project

‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
  • 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

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.