Online platform Zamzam puts Umrah pilgrims few clicks away

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Updated 04 May 2022

Online platform Zamzam puts Umrah pilgrims few clicks away

Online platform Zamzam puts Umrah pilgrims few clicks away
  • The company served over 350k travelers and booked transfers for around 170k pilgrims in the last six months

JEDDAH: Zamzam, an online platform for Umrah travels, has been clocking record numbers with scores of pilgrims opting to undertake the arduous journey to the holy sites of Saudi Arabia in a few clicks.

The company served over 350,000 travelers and booked transfers for around 170,000 pilgrims in the last six months.

The numbers reflect the resurgence of religious tourism in a post-pandemic world and speak volumes on the role of technology in facilitating one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

“Travelers no longer have to wait for days to visit the embassy and physically collect their visas. Instead, they could do all of it in a few clicks,” Omar Akbar, founder and CEO of Zamzam.com, told Arab News.

Launched in 2019, the Jeddah-based travel platform offers flight reservations, hotel bookings and ground services, besides issuing Umrah visas to people who need them.

It recently launched a dedicated call center facility with experienced multilingual staff, an automated WhatsApp chatbot and email support, serving customers round the clock throughout the year. 




Omar Akbar, founder and CEO of Zamzam.com

“We had started this venture just before the pandemic with the idea of creating the first online portal that caters to religious tourism. Thankfully, we had a successful launch, but everything came to a standstill when the pandemic struck. So, rather than brooding over the stalemate, we spent the following two years improving our portal and adding more services,” recollected Akbar.

After two years of the pandemic restrictions, the perseverance paid off when the Kingdom raised the number of Hajj pilgrims per day by one million, bringing a new dimension to Umrah.

“Pilgrims today don’t want to restrict themselves in a room during their two-week stay in the Kingdom. Instead, they want to follow the trail of Prophet Muhammad and experience the authentic stories,” said Akbar.

The company is in an advanced stage of talks with the Ministry of Tourism to avail a license to create tourism packages that trail the footprint of Prophet Muhammad.

Established through a joint venture with TBO.com, Zamzam.com also offers high-end services such as VIP meet and assist services at Jeddah airport, guided Umrah tours, special programs to enrich the visitors’ experience, and premium services for executives, royal delegations and guests.

In addition, the platform has partnered with several financial institutions such as VFS, Merit, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Buy Now Pay Later to offer exclusive loyalty programs for customers with relevant credit cards.

The platform is committed to creating meaningful pilgrimage experiences for religious travelers coming to the Kingdom from over 110 countries across the globe and has nurtured an efficient network of partner agents, industry professionals, and destination managers.

On April 19, Zamzam announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Al-Birr Charitable Society in Makkah.

Under the MoU, Zamzam will donate a certain amount from every booking completed on its site toward Al-Birr over the next year. The donation will be used to support the various charity programs undertaken by Al-Birr to serve the community.

It will be interesting to see how good intentions could further influence the future of religious tourism. For more on this, watch out for this space.


Hub71 and e& enterprise open region's first AI Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi

Hub71 and e& enterprise open region's first AI Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi
Updated 7 sec ago

Hub71 and e& enterprise open region's first AI Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi

Hub71 and e& enterprise open region's first AI Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi
  • Scale-ups participating in e& enterprise’s innovation programs will be given priority access to Hub71's value-add programs

ABU DHABI: Hub71 and e& enterprise have opened the region's first AI Center of Excellence (AI CoE).The AI CoE will serve as a platform for AI initiatives in Abu Dhabi to be built and scaled.

The center's goal is to transform the future of AI, support an ecosystem of innovation, promote local talent, and boost socio-economic growth.

The partnership agreement was signed by the acting Chief Executive Officer of Hub71, Badr Al-Olama, and the Chief Executive Officer of e& enterprise, Salvador Anglada

“The region’s first AI Center of Excellence at Hub71 will provide a robust ecosystem for innovative technology ideas to grow and scale, and will allow startups to benefit from Hub71’s community, programs and knowledge sharing platforms.” Al-Olama said.

“The AI Center of Excellence, supported by our strategic partner DataRobot, will further progress our vision to be the leading digital enabler for our enterprise and government clients as we empower them to become data-driven and highly automated organizations.” Anglada said

“We look forward to driving the digital transformation conversation by leveraging the expertise of disruptive scale-ups and AI companies while establishing long-term partnerships with major accelerators and technology providers regionally and globally,” he added.

At the AI CoE, e& enterprise plans to launch new ventures using cutting-edge business models.

Scale-ups that participate in its innovation-led programs, such as FutureNow, will be given priority access to Hub71's value-add programs.

Startups will also benefit from Hub71's expanding capital ecosystem, which includes venture capital firms with assets worth nearly $1.72 billion.

Startups can apply to join the AI CoE through The Outliers, a Hub71 program that aims to solve corporate and government challenges through innovative solutions.


Saudi food security boosted with $373m loans from Agricultural Development Fund

Saudi food security boosted with $373m loans from Agricultural Development Fund
Updated 49 min 37 sec ago

Saudi food security boosted with $373m loans from Agricultural Development Fund

Saudi food security boosted with $373m loans from Agricultural Development Fund

RIYADH: Farmers, poultry breeders and vegetable producers in Saudi Arabia are set to benefit from financing loans and credit facilities worth SR1.4 billion ($373 million) from the Kingdom's Agricultural Development Fund.

The announcement comes in line with the Fund’s strategic objectives of developing the agricultural sector in all its vegetable, animal and fishery fields, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The approved loans include development loans for small farmers, financing loans for the sectors of vegetable production in greenhouses, poultry breeding and production and fish farming.

So far, the value of loan approvals until the end of the first half of the current fiscal year amounted to over SR2.8 billion.


PIF launches new aircraft leasing company

PIF launches new aircraft leasing company
Updated 30 June 2022

PIF launches new aircraft leasing company

PIF launches new aircraft leasing company

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has launched an aircraft leasing company named AviLease, according to a statement.

PIF said AviLease will initially focus on scaling through purchase-and-lease-back transactions with airlines, portfolio acquisitions and direct orders from aircraft manufacturers.

PIF added that AviLease will also look into expansions through corporate acquisitions.

AviLease’s fleet will consist of narrow-body and wide-body aircraft developed by the world’s leading manufacturers.

“As a PIF fully owned company, PIF’s ample liquidity and strong balance sheet, combined with its depth of financing and investment-structuring expertise will help the company leverage the opportunity in the aircraft leasing market,” according to PIF.

In the statement, PIF revealed that its assets under management had reached approximately $620 billion.

 


Dubai’s real estate sector most transparent in MENA: JLL Index

Dubai’s real estate sector most transparent in MENA: JLL Index
Updated 30 June 2022

Dubai’s real estate sector most transparent in MENA: JLL Index

Dubai’s real estate sector most transparent in MENA: JLL Index

DUBAI: The real estate sector in Dubai has been named the most transparent in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to JLL’s latest Global Real Estate Transparency Index, also known as GRETI.

This is for the first time that Dubai’s real estate sector is entering the transparent tier, and is the only city in the region to enter the list.

“The government’s ongoing efforts that are driving digital services and data provisions, new regulations and sustainability reporting have helped advance Dubai’s ranking in this year’s Global Real Estate Transparency Index, which is an important guide used for cross-border investment and corporate occupiers to inform their decision making,” said Sultan Butti bin Mejren, director general of Dubai Land Department.

In the overall global list, Dubai is placed 31st on the overall global list, while Saudi Arabia ranked  49th, which indicates a semi-transparent market.

“The Kingdom scored particularly well in the category of Listed Vehicles’ Corporate Governance transparency. KSA also scored well on its Investment Performance transparency,” said JLL in a statement.

Abu Dhabi which ranked 45th globally gained one rank and maintained its position in the “Semi-Transparent” tier.

The UK ranked first in the list of 99 countries, followed by the US, France, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand.

China is placed 30th on the list, while India is on the 36th spot.

According to the report, ranks until 34 come under the transparent tier, while 35th to 56th are considered semi-transparent. 

 


Retail major Alhokair back to profit as sales soar to $1.6bn post-pandemic

Retail major Alhokair back to profit as sales soar to $1.6bn post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Retail major Alhokair back to profit as sales soar to $1.6bn post-pandemic

Retail major Alhokair back to profit as sales soar to $1.6bn post-pandemic

RIYADH: Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co. has turned into profit in its fiscal year ended March 31, supported by a post-pandemic rebound in sales.

The Saudi retailer made SR38 million ($10 million) in profit, after erasing losses of SR1.11 billion from a year earlier, according to a bourse filing.

The profit hike was coupled with a 40-percent rise in revenue due to a gradual ease of COVID-19 restrictions which led to a recovery in trading activity and consumer spending.

Revenues reached as high as SR5.9 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

“The robust results are supported by the trading activity returning to pre-pandemic levels, the successful execution of the operational upgrade strategy, and the strength of our teams across the business,” said interim CEO Mohamad Mourad, commenting on the results.

Based on the strong foundation set during the past year and the positive momentum in key markets, he said the company expects to build on its growth trajectory to deliver a credible performance in the fiscal year 2023.