Emirates signs agreements to develop new routes: Arabian Travel Market

Emirates signs agreements to develop new routes: Arabian Travel Market
Emirates is looking to use the Arabian Travel Market even to sign more deals (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 May 2022

Emirates signs agreements to develop new routes: Arabian Travel Market

Emirates signs agreements to develop new routes: Arabian Travel Market

DUBAI: Emirates and Royal Air Maroc have signed a partnership deal to develop new routes, according to a top executive of the Dubai-based carrier.

Speaking to Arab News at the Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai, Emirates Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim revealed the two airlines will offer more travel choices and connections between Dubai and Casablanca.

“We just signed now with Royal Air Maroc, just an hour ago, with a full-fledged cooperation on the codeshare,” he told Arab News.

From Casablanca and Dubai, both airlines will use a combined 209 destinations for their marketing codes, the statement said. 

As part of the codeshare agreement, customers will also benefit from more competitive fares on single-ticket, multi-journey flights and baggage transfers. Travel agents, online travel agencies, and retail sales offices are selling the new codeshare flights, according to a statement on Emirates.   

Kazim said Emirates will use the event to sign with more cities and the tourism boards, adding that Jamaica is waiting for an agreement to be rubber-stamped. 

He said that Abu Dhabi will be entering into an agreement with Emirates as well.

Emirates used the first day of the event to launch its fourth class premium economy, which will be available to passengers from June 1 2022.

“It is going to be high in demand,” said Kazim to Arab News. 

Regarding post-COVID-19 expansion plans, the executive said the company has recovered 90 percent of the network because its main focus was on returning to its pre-pandemic level.

Emirates plans to reach 200 percent of pre-covid levels by next year, Kazim concluded.


The app that puts a festival in your living room

WOLF’s model revolves around gifts and reputation credits.  (Supplied)
WOLF’s model revolves around gifts and reputation credits. (Supplied)
Updated 53 min 56 sec ago

The app that puts a festival in your living room

WOLF’s model revolves around gifts and reputation credits.  (Supplied)
  • WOLF offers women the opportunity to create and explore things that were previously unattainable for them

DUBAI: The World Online Festival is a platform that aims to put a party in your living room. Its interactive app allows users to enter its virtual music festivals whenever they choose to take in singers, poets, comedians, musicians and DJs. Users can become more involved by producing an event, or simply hang out as a fan.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, WOLF CEO Gary Knight said that the platform offers women the opportunity to create and explore things that were previously unattainable for them. Its events also offer after-show gatherings where users can send texts, images, and audio messages.

Since it was launched, WOLF platform has reached 2.7 million users. (Supplied)

Knight added that WOLF originally started life as Palringo, a messaging platform in the Gulf Cooperation Council region that was founded more than ten years ago.

FASTFACTS

• The business also runs a WOLFStars program where producers and performers put together their own gigs and can compete against each other to win competitions and cash rewards.

• Users can become a producer or festival owner, which allows them to create their own room, put on their own artists and promote them to fans, says the CEO.

• Gary Knight says this program has 70 percent female performers and 58 percent female audience members.

The WOLF boss said: “The service developed from let’s bring people together, to let’s bring people together through performance and entertainment. We wanted to provide a unique experience between the users performing and the crowd, to make sure everyone is part of this thing.”

WOLFStars program
The business also runs a WOLFStars program where producers and performers put together their own gigs and can compete against each other to win competitions and cash rewards.
He added users can become a producer or festival owner, which allows them to create their own room, put on their own artists and promote them to fans.
Knight said this program has 70 percent female performers and 58 percent female audience members.

He added the app is proud to “provide a safe and secure environment where women can go to perform and be a full part of the whole ecosystem.”

The service developed from let’s bring people together, to let’s bring people together through performance and entertainment. We wanted to provide a unique experience between the users performing and the crowd, to make sure everyone is part of this thing.

Gary Knight, WOLF CEO

Knight said the program allows performers to learn directly from their performances, because they can log into a virtual event every day, rather than attending a live music festival once or twice a year.
Knight pointed out that because it is not easy to go to music festivals in the Middle East, people are more likely to attend online festivals because they are more accessible.
WOLF’s chat rooms feature two-dimensional stages, which bring chat and interaction alongside entertainment.
The app head said ultimately the goal of the firm is to create a metaverse with a more three-dimensional environment.

Way forward
Knight said the business is also working on giving users the option of recording, editing, and sharing clips of performances. He said that toward the end of this year, the company will launch WOLF VR, which will allow users to look around chat rooms using virtual reality headsets.
He added: “By the end of the year, you’ll be able to put your headset on and be on stage and perform.”
Knight pointed out that after launching Palringo on the app store in 2008, he and his team saw a significant growth of the service in the Middle East and North Africa. That gave them the idea to do more in the region.
He launched WOLF two years ago and since then he says the app has reached 2.7 million users.
Knight added that maintaining the firm’s existing community after rebranding was a challenge.
“There was always a threat when you change something quite dramatically and rebrand and relaunch that it might not be something that fits your unique audience,” he added.
WOLF’s business model revolves around rewards, gifts, and reputation credits. The platform also has a store where users can buy games and charms to take into rooms. It also sells premium group accounts, with extra features such as free charms and ways to boost your group’s reputation.
“If you do well, or you do things well in the app, then you can get rewarded and gifted by other users,” he added.
The app boss said the firm has doubled its revenue over the last two years and will continue to do so this year.
Knight added that further investment is likely to come from backers in the region, and the company is currently in discussions about raising further finance.


Dual impact from oil and non-oil sectors ‘to propel Saudi GDP growth by 10 percent’

Dual impact from oil and non-oil sectors ‘to propel Saudi GDP growth by 10 percent’
Updated 21 May 2022

Dual impact from oil and non-oil sectors ‘to propel Saudi GDP growth by 10 percent’

Dual impact from oil and non-oil sectors ‘to propel Saudi GDP growth by 10 percent’
  • Capital Economics says it will be the highest annual growth rate in over a decade, if this happens

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product is expected to grow by 10 percent this year, driven by increased activities in the oil and non-oil sectors, according to a recent note from Capital Economics.

The London-based independent research firm said it will be the highest annual growth rate in over a decade, if this happens.

Capital Economics expects the Kingdom to achieve the projected 10-percent growth due to a  significant increase in oil output combined with an expected loosening of fiscal policy that is set to encourage growth in the non-oil sector.

This projection follows the flash estimate for the first quarter GDP released earlier this month which showed the economy grew 2.2 percent since the last quarter of 2021, and 9.6 percent year-on-year — the highest growth rate in 11 years.

In regards to performance on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the growth is attributed to a 2.9 percent rise in oil GDP due to increased output on the back of the OPEC+ deal and a 2.5 percent growth in non-oil activities.

The increase in energy prices, which has been the largest since the 1973 oil crisis, together with the war in Ukraine — which altered the global patterns on trade, production and consumption — have contributed to this record GDP growth.

SPEEDREAD

The projection by London-based Capital Economicsfollows the flash estimate for the first quarter GDP released earlier this month which showed the economy grew 2.2 percent since the last quarter of 2021, and 9.6 percent year-on-year — the highest growth rate in 11 years.

Though Saudi Arabia still hasn’t met its OPEC+ quota, it is one of the few members raising produc- tion significantly. With other member countries struggling to meet their quotas and an expected decline in Russian output, Capital Economics predicts the Kingdom will increase oil production faster than anticipated under the current OPEC+ agreement.

According to the World Bank, energy prices are expected to rise more than 50 percent in 2022, before easing in 2023 and 2024.

As oil prices remain elevated, policymakers are expected to relax fiscal policy to stimulate non-oil activities, with a reduction in the value-added tax a possibility, the note from Capital Economics pointed out.

The Kingdom’s non-oil sector has also expanded at the fastest rate in over four years, according to the Saudi Arabia PMI survey.

This has been due to new business and activity that boosted sharply as client demand recov- ered after COVID-19.

The increase in business also came in line with Vision 2030, a reform plan that aims to diversify the country’s economic resources.

The 10 percent figure projected by Capital Economics is much higher than recent projections from the IMF, which predicted the Saudi economy to grow by 7.6 percent in 2022, as mentioned in its World Economic Outlook released in April 2022.

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Flash Entertainment plans a KSA office as sector booms

Flash Entertainment plans a KSA office as sector booms
Updated 21 May 2022

Flash Entertainment plans a KSA office as sector booms

Flash Entertainment plans a KSA office as sector booms
  • The new office will be a stand-alone; it will create jobs for Saudi citizens: CEO

Flash Entertainment plans to open a stand-alone office in Saudi Arabia within 3 months as the Kingdom is becoming a hotspot for events and leisure.

The entertainment firm, based in the UAE, is one of the Middle East’s leading live entertainment companies known for organizing some of the biggest global events, including several Formula One Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the FIFA Club World Cup, UAE National Day, the AFC Asian Cup — arguably the biggest event in the region prior to the upcoming Qatar World Cup — and even Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE in 2019, which saw over 180,000 people in attendance.

“The new office will be the Saudi headquarters, it’s a stand alone, it’s not a branch,” the company’s CEO John Lickrish told Arab News. “We have a branch office in Dubai but here we wanted to set up our own office.” The new office will create 25 jobs for Saudi citizens. Lickrish who was in Riyadh for the fourth edition of the Saudi Entertain- ment and Amusement Expo this week was attending the event to touch base with the local commu- nity in the sector.

“I’m here to touch base with the local community suppliers and decision makers and try to make people aware that we’re entering the market,” he said. “We have done events here but now that we’re establishing an office, we want to integrate the GCC into a network of reliable promoters and suppliers that we can count on, and that’s the real goal of this.”

HIGHLIGHTS

This year’s event brought together some of the leading products, services, and technology brands in the industry from more than 25 countries, as part of the Kingdom’s plans to become the entertainment and leisure hub of the Middle East.

The show offers a global platform for top manufacturers and suppliers of entertainment and leisure products and services to do business with investors, distributors, government officials and owners of malls, cinemas and family entertainment centers, as well as key procurement professionals involved in small and mega Saudi entertainment and leisure projects.

The SEA Expo, held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, is the first trade event dedicated to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning entertainment and leisure industry, with sellers from around the world showcasing the latest and greatest advances in the sector.

This year’s event brought together some of the leading products, services, and technology brands in the industry from more than 25 countries, as part of the Kingdom’s plans to become the entertainment and leisure hub of the Middle East.

The show offers a global platform for top manufacturers and suppliers of entertainment and leisure products and services to do business with investors, distributors, government officials and owners of malls, cinemas and family entertainment centers, as well as key procurement professionals involved in small and mega Saudi entertainment and leisure projects.

“The office will mostly have people from KSA,” Lickrish said. “We are going to be training them in our systems and processes, but they need to be here on the ground. Right now, we’re looking at 25 (local hires) based on our business plan for the next three years. From there, the sky is the limit.”

Flash Entertainment covers everything from event ideation, event management, marketing and communications, ticketing and sales, talent procurement and full operational and production delivery, as well as managing a portfolio of assets, including the Etihad Park and the multi-purpose state-of-the-art Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

A location for the office has yet to be decided, however, with Jeddah and Dammam as potential cities to set up the shop.

“This is a big populous, so for us, that’s interesting, and it’s an emerging market in the region as well.” Lickrish said. “I think what is important for us now is really setting the foundations, making sure that the country and the region is represented as not only capable but excelling in this field. And then we’ll go on to the regional talent and develop the local markets.” According to Lickrish, the company created the first citywide integrated enter- tainment program for Formula One in 2009 that has since been emulated with subsequent grands prix around the world. “So that was an innovation that we brought into the global market.”

Lickrish himself has been in the entertainment business for over 30 years and in the region for 14. He hopes to bring his exper- tise to Saudi Arabia that plans to invest $64 billion in the devel- opment of the entertainment industry over the next decade as part of Vision 2030.

“My goal is to see a self- sustaining, vibrant, regional business that has international recognition and ultimately a footprint globally,” he said. “We want to be giving them a unique experience, as well as a cultural and international experience.”


FII Institute unveils new inclusive ESG framework and scoring methodology

FII Institute unveils new inclusive ESG framework and scoring methodology
Updated 21 May 2022

FII Institute unveils new inclusive ESG framework and scoring methodology

FII Institute unveils new inclusive ESG framework and scoring methodology
  • The institute is investing $527,515 in Timbeter, a leading green tech company specializing in timber measurement
  • Timbeter provides an AI-driven photo-optics app that accurately determines quantities of logs in an area with precise length and diameter

LONDON: The Future Investment Initiative Institute hosted a summit in London about Environmental, Social and Governance in emerging markets, involving world leaders, global CEOs, international investors, thought leaders and heads of sustainability.

The event unveiled a new inclusive ESG framework and scoring methodology to inform and accelerate investments in emerging economies.

The new methodology aims to give unbiased ratings for companies in emerging markets who currently receive less than 10 percent of ESG flows, despite being home to nearly 90 percent of the world’s population and roughly half of global GDP.

ESG rating agencies are one of the main barriers to increasing investment in emerging markets. Currently, mainstream rating agencies employ key perfor- mance indicators not relevant to emerging markets. The existing frameworks focus too much on disclosure and ignore year-over- year performance improvement.

The new framework, developed with the support of Ernst & Young, values performance improvement over time more than breadth of disclosure, emphasizing sectoral challenges rather than country risks, to ensure fair competition between companies in both emerging markets and developed markets.

The FII Institute is investing €500,000 ($527,515) in Timbeter, a leading green tech company specializing in timber measurement. Timbeter provides an artificial intelligence-driven photo-optics application that accurately determines quantities of logs in an area with precise length and diameter.

Timbeter is a software as a service workflow management solution for the timber industry, founded in 2013 at the Nordic Hackathon by Anna-Greta Tsakhna, its CEO, and Martin Kambla, CTO.

Forestry continues to be an important and controversial issue, with world forests decreasing by a third in size over the last century due to reckless practices.

This technology is key to a more proactive management of forests and a more sustainable sector.

Meanwhile, the ESG white paper is designed to encourage greater ESG investment in emerging markets. It calls on investors to publicly commit to raising the portion of capital allocated to emerging markets from less than 10 percent today to a minimum of 30 percent of committed and invested capital by 2030. It also calls on governments to encourage emerging market-headquartered companies to become more proactive at disclosing relevant information through their normal reporting channels.

Richard Attias, CEO of the FII Institute, said: “Central to our work at FII Institute is to increase awareness about the weaknesses in current ESG standards and their impact on global sustainability prospects, and to advocate for an inclusive and equitable application of ESG through driving real action by key players globally.

“ESG has been one of the fastest-growing investment strategies over the past few years, accounting for one-third of all assets under management. But this growth is not even. Working with our partners at EY, we identified and removed the barriers to ESG investment in emerging markets, which are often overlooked,” he added.

“By launching the Inclusive ESG Framework and Scoring Methodology, investing in a global sustainable solutions company, and publishing our recent ESG white paper — we are making tangible actions to create a better future for humanity. And we are confident that our partners around the world will help us drive those actions further.”


Saudi sovereign wealth fund considers new hydrogen company; developing 70% of vision 2030 renewable target

Saudi sovereign wealth fund considers new hydrogen company; developing 70% of vision 2030 renewable target
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi sovereign wealth fund considers new hydrogen company; developing 70% of vision 2030 renewable target

Saudi sovereign wealth fund considers new hydrogen company; developing 70% of vision 2030 renewable target

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is now establishing a new hydrogen company and it will be like a mediator in many of the PIF’s initiatives.

Speaking in a regional forum on ESG organized by the Future Investment Initiative in London, the governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said the sovereign wealth fund  plans to develop 70 percent of renewable energy targets under vision 2030.

The fund owns companies that are already developing hydrogen such as NEOM and Aramco. 

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