Thanks to COVID-19, holiday homes are now open for business

Thanks to COVID-19, holiday homes are now open for business
A general view of luxury area of Dubai. The city has become a safe halfway house for businesses to operate. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 May 2022

Thanks to COVID-19, holiday homes are now open for business

Thanks to COVID-19, holiday homes are now open for business
  • Foreign businesses are operating out of short-term rental villas, says CEO of Luxury Explorers Collection

DUBAI: It is not just holidaymakers that have contributed to the boom in the luxury holiday-home market. Foreign businesses are operating out of short-term rental villas, said Mohammed Sultan, founder and CEO of Luxury Explorers Collection, who has been helping them.

Sultan is a veteran of the luxury hospitality industry, specializing in high-level conferences and VIP travel arrangements since 2004. But when the pandemic hit — essentially bringing events and travel to a halt — he had to shift his strategy quickly. 

His company spotted an urgent need in the market for short-term, high-end vacation rentals. So, in June 2020, mere months after COVID-19 swept the world, Luxury Holiday Homes was established.

The majority of the company’s clients are from Europe and Asia, mainly China. These are not typical digital nomads; they are high-profile men and women who see the appeal of doing business in Dubai. 

Compared to the restrictive COVID-19 measures in many of Asia’s main cities and the current war in Eastern Europe, Dubai has become a safe halfway house for businesses to operate.

“Since the pandemic, China has been our biggest market,” Sultan told Arab News. 

“We see a lot of high-net-worth individuals moving their business and bringing staff members to operate out of a villa in Dubai, besides the influx of Russian businessmen holidaying in Dubai and investing here. They need a base, so they use our ultra-luxury properties to discover the market and feel settled,” he added.

Luxury in demand

The global vacation rental market is expected to reach $111.2 billion by 2030, according to a 2021 Precedence Research study. The ultra-luxury market, however, is more nuanced. 

In addition to beautifully decorated properties, often in desired destinations such as the exclusive Emirates Hills area or a penthouse in Downtown Dubai, there are amenities on offer that wealthy clients demand. 

Private chefs, butler services and high-end toiletries are expected. The company operates 20 properties in Dubai and five in Makkah. The three-bedroom unit in Makkah that overlooks the Kaaba is one of the most coveted properties in his scope.

“Most of the hotels in Makkah are old and don’t offer value for money. It’s really hard to find a large three bedroom in Makkah that fits a whole family and overlooks the holy site for prayers,” said Sultan. “It’s a spiritual experience.”

In Dubai, the company’s properties are spread between Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Hills and Downtown Dubai. The majority of holiday homes have pianos for children to continue lessons. Some come with outdoor cinemas and seaside barbeque areas. Luxury Explorer Collection’s rates per night range from 6,000 dirhams ($1,634) to 65,000 dirhams. 

“When we first started with a few properties, guests would call us at odd hours asking how to turn on the gas to cook, so we realized these need to be fully serviced to a high degree,” said Sultan. “We set an impeccable ultra-luxury standard now, and we’ve seen the highest occupancy rates.”

Shifting trends

Luxury Holiday Homes is currently planning to expand in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia to cater to rising demand. Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam are on the radar. In addition, the company will soon be working with a developer to create luxury mansion experiences from scratch within the next two to five years.

“It helped that I worked in the industry and had the right connections. I knew the habits of high-net-worth individuals in the region, so when we saw that hotel bookings were slowing in 2008 and private holiday homes were on the rise, I made a note of the consumer preference and acted when the time was right,” said Sultan. 

“Even hotel brands are moving into the short-term rental space,” he added.

Brands such as Marriott International launched Homes & Villas in 2018, encouraging guests to stay for longer periods.

“Hotels are definitely moving into the holiday-homes business. We talk about it at conferences all the time,” said Sultan. “But they have restrictions; we can upgrade easily and quickly; we offer more privacy.”

New data shed fresh insights into traveler habits that he did not anticipate, affecting renovation plans in some cases.

“Our data shows that the more you renovate your bathrooms, the more value you get. We renovated all bathrooms and set aside renovations for secondary bedrooms in villas with 11 bedrooms. It paid off,” he said. “We found out strikingly that revenue increases massively the more you upgrade bathrooms.”

Other preferences include entertainment facilities, including cinemas and sea-facing barbeque areas. As the lines stay blurred between work and home life, having everything you need in one place carries a particular appeal to the luxury travel consumer and business traveler.


Oil dips as slowdown worries limit price gains

Oil dips as slowdown worries limit price gains
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Updated 10 min 3 sec ago

Oil dips as slowdown worries limit price gains

Oil dips as slowdown worries limit price gains
  • US crude stocks fall by 7.1 mln bbl, far more than expected
  • US oil refiners aim to run full-bore, spurning recession fears
  • OPEC chief says blame policymakers, lawmakers for price rises (Recasts, updates prices)

SINGAPORE: Oil prices dipped on Friday after two days of gain, as market participants weighed worries about global economic slowdown — that could dampen fuel demand — against expectations of tighter supplies toward year-end.

Brent crude futures fell 36 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $96.23 a barrel by 0309 GMT after settling 3.1 percent higher on Thursday. US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $90.29 a barrel, down 21 cents, or 0.2 percent, following a 2.7 percent increase in the previous session.

Still, the benchmark contracts were headed for weekly losses of about 1.5 percent.

While bullish US weekly data bolstered optimism for improved fuel demand for the near-term, lingering recession fears and a possible increase in output by OPEC+ will likely limit oil price’s upside, said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities.

US crude inventories fell sharply as the nation exported a record 5 million barrels of oil a day in the most recent week, with oil companies finding heavy demand from European nations looking to replace crude from warring Russia.

Keeping crude supplies snug, US oil refineries plan to keep running near full throttle this quarter, according to executives and estimates, as refiners set aside worries about recession and sliding retail prices to deliver more fuel.

The rise in US fuel production could partly offset lower oil products exports from China this year as Beijing prioritizes the local market to curb domestic fuel inflation.

On supplies, Haitham Al Ghais, new secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, told Reuters that policymakers, lawmakers and insufficient oil and gas sector investments are to blame for high energy prices, not his group.

The group together with allies such as Russia, known as OPEC+, are due to meet on Sept. 5 to adjust production. OPEC is keen to ensure Russia remains part of the OPEC+ oil production deal after 2022, Al Ghais said.

In a sign of improving supplies, the price gap between prompt and second-month Brent futures narrowed about $5 a barrel from the end of July.

Record US crude exports, the resumption of Libya’s production and sustained exports from Russia and Iran have eased global supply tightness ahead of peak refinery maintenance.

Russia forecasts rising output and exports until the end of 2025, an economy ministry document seen by Reuters showed, saying revenue from energy exports will rise 38 percent this year, partly due to higher oil export volumes.

Iran, meanwhile, increased its oil exports in June and July and could raise them further this month by offering a deeper discount to Russian crude for its main buyer China, firms tracking the flows said. 


UK’s Liz Truss says defining mission will be reviving the economy

UK’s Liz Truss says defining mission will be reviving the economy
Updated 19 August 2022

UK’s Liz Truss says defining mission will be reviving the economy

UK’s Liz Truss says defining mission will be reviving the economy

LONDON: The frontrunner to be Britain’s next prime minister Liz Truss said her government’s defining mission would be to revive the economy as she set out a series of measures to help parts of northern England.
Britain’s economic performance has lagged behind those of the United States, Italy and France in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy is expected to enter a long downturn at the end of the year amid surging inflation and rising interest rates.
“The defining mission of my government will be to get our economy growing again, cutting taxes to put more money into the pockets of hardworking people,” Truss said.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said reducing regional economic inequality was his main goal. But public spending in the north of England fell behind the national average in the first two years of his government, research by the Institute for Public Policy Research has shown.
Truss said she was committed to the current government’s goal of reducing economic inequalities but would do so in a “Conservative way,” interpreted as meaning a focus on tax cuts and deregulation.
Speaking ahead of election hustings in Manchester in northern England on Friday, Truss pledged to provide more devolution, to ensure poorer areas receive the government funding they need, and to build two new vocational colleges in the north of England that will be “the vocational equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge,” dubbed “Voxbridge.”
Truss has portrayed herself as a radical insurgent who would overturn the current failed orthodoxy and has proposed to reverse more than £30 billion ($36 billion) of tax rises.


UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund
Updated 18 August 2022

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

RIYADH: G42, a UAE-based technology company, launched a $10 billion G42 Expansion Fund in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund to invest in late-stage companies.

Managed by a G42 subsidiary, the fund will focus on growth companies in computing, communication technology, intelligent mobility, clean tech, digital infrastructure, fintech, healthcare, and life sciences, Wamda reported.

“With the G42 Expansion Fund, we aim to accelerate our global impact not only through the deployment of capital, but also by providing unique access to our networks, management, and operational assets to our portfolio companies,” Peng Xiao, group CEO at G42 and chairman of the G42 Expansion Fund’s Investment Committee, said in a statement.

 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 

Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


RIYADH: CASHIN, a Saudi-based fintech and point-of-sale provider, signed a partnership with the Saudi National Bank to support small and medium enterprises.

The partnership will facilitate management of transactions for business activities like receiving payments and sales with immediate bank settlements.

“We are proud to be an active element in the national transformation journey within the financial sector by providing innovative products in the field of fintech and information systems,” CASHIN CEO Omar Al-Ramah said in a statement.

Founded in 2021, CASHIN is providing its services to over 10,000 businesses in more than 30 sectors with transactions at around $800 million, MAGNiTT reported.


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition

Updated 18 August 2022

Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


RIYADH: The inaugural LEAP22 International Technology Conference won five Gold Awards at the 19th Annual International Business Awards, according to a statement. 

Competing with over 3,700 nominations from organizations across 67 countries, LEAP clinched the best award for Tech Event, B2B Event, Launch Event, Conference Event, and Exhibition Experience.

In its first edition held in early February 2022 for three days, under the theme “An Eye on the Future,” over 509 speakers speakers participated in the event with over 100,000 conference’s visits.

It also announced investments worth $6.4 billion, in the presence of more than 700 international companies, over 1,500 startups, and 330 investment funds.

The Annual International Business Awards, also known as Stevie Awards, were created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals.

LEAP Conference was organized by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in cooperation with the Saudi Federation of Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones.