Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector set to lead after seeing significant rebound

Special Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector set to lead after seeing significant rebound
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Updated 23 May 2022

Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector set to lead after seeing significant rebound

Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector set to lead after seeing significant rebound
  • Kingdom’s hotels ‘enjoying higher occupancies of over 70% in most destinations’

RIYADH: Of all the industries impacted by the pandemic, the hospitality sector was the worst hit in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, as in all other territories.

In 2020, hotel occupancy rates declined to 49 percent in Riyadh from 60 percent in 2019. Likewise, Makkah witnessed a decline from 61 percent to 25 percent, and Jeddah from 58 percent to 37 percent, according to professional services firm Deloitte.

However, the Kingdom’s travel and tourism sector enjoyed an equally dramatic rebound. Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah witnessed revenue per available room recovery index rates of 88 percent, 85 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in 2021, as recently reported by the US-based hospitality research company STR. 

Furthermore, the pace of growth is set to gather steam as the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform program aims to attract 100 million annual visitors within eight years. 

The reforms will also focus on T&T outside the traditional destinations of Hajj and Umrah and in line with national gigaprojects such as NEOM and The Red Sea Development Company.

“There is a palpable excitement about Saudi Arabia – not just locally, but globally,” said Philip Wooller, area director, Middle East & Africa at STR.

“Despite the challenges of the last two years, the acceleration of Saudi Arabia as both a leisure and business destination has been remarkable, and the ambitious plans laid out in Vision 2030 are on track.” 

These remarks were echoed by Haitham Mattar, managing director of India, Middle East & Africa at UK-headquartered IHG Hotels & Resorts, the world’s third-largest hotel company, which has been active in the Kingdom since 1975. He expected the resurgence of Saudi Arabia’s T&T sector in the broader international context.

Too big to fail

“The global pandemic was a crisis that brought the industry to its knees for the first time,” Mattar told Arab News. “However, I always say the hospitality sector is too big to fail. We’ve gone through the 2008 financial crisis, foot and mouth disease, SARS and other global problems, and the industry always seems to bounce right back.

“Saudi Arabia’s hotel performance registered year-on-year gains in 2021, and the sector’s recovery is expected to persist throughout the coming year, with pent-up demand driving further improvements as COVID-19-related restrictions continue to ease.

“Our hotels are now enjoying higher occupancies of over 70 percent in most destinations from domestic and international customers.” 




Haitham Mattar, managing director of India, Middle East & Africa at UK-headquartered IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Mattar is an authority on Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector. He was a senior advisor to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism from 2019 to 2021, where he helped develop a national tourism strategy based on research into global markets, demographics, events, infrastructure, supply chains and identification of key tourism destinations.

Mattar credited the government of Saudi Arabia for helping the hospitality industry through the worst of times and bringing it back to its feet.

“The government supported the entire private sector, including the hotel industry, with subsidization of wages, reduced energy costs and flexible or deferred loan repayments, all of which helped our owners in their recovery plan.

“And today, the government of Saudi and the tourism ministry has been extremely active in bringing great events to the country, which generate demand both domestically and internationally. In addition, we’ve seen increased demand as the borders have started to open with the easing of restrictions.”

Evolving dynamics

According to STR, over 30,000 hotel rooms are currently under construction in the Kingdom.

“STR’s findings clearly point to ongoing and sustained recovery. We are looking forward to exploring the vast untapped potential of the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism sector,” said Danielle Curtis, exhibition director of Arabian Travel Market.

“Travelers today are seeking new destinations and new experiences, with sustainable tourism being high on their agenda,” Mattar said.

“And sustainability goes a long way. It’s not just about being environmentally friendly; it’s more about preserving wildlife, contributing to zero poverty, creating jobs, and protecting culture and heritage. That’s what travelers today want to associate themselves with.”

Mattar noted that the push for sustainable tourism is changing the very nature of hotel design in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

“It’s critical to ensure that our hotels are designed with zero emissions, renewable energy and zero usage of single-use plastic.

“Also, consumers want to move away from large lobbies, conglomerates and queues at the reception. New designs will allow people access to their accommodation with minimal touchpoints with other people, for example, online check-ins and services.”

Technology impact

These technical advances are coordinated with the Kingdom’s wider harnessing of artificial intelligence and internet-connected smart devices as Vision 2030 drives it towards a more knowledge-based economy.

NEOM, The Line and TRSDC, all slated to be global tourist hubs, are implementing digital technology from the ground up, emphasizing sustainability.

“A hundred years from now, we will experience exactly the same natural treasures in the Red Sea,” said Najwah Hamzeh, senior smart destinations director at The Red Sea Development Co.

These initiatives will give the Kingdom an edge in the highly competitive global hospitality industry in the future. Still, according to Mattar, other attributes make it uniquely attractive to international travelers.

“Saudi Arabia has beautiful and diverse landscapes, from snow-topped mountains to green mountains to beautiful, lush valleys, great cultural experiences, a rich gastronomy, and preserved authenticity, with 7,000 years of history,” he said.

“There’s a great opportunity for the Kingdom to be a global player in the global tourism arena. The government is working with us, the operators, to ensure that they deliver to their plans.”


Saudi Arabian Mining Co. emerges as TASI’s 5th-best performer

Saudi Arabian Mining Co. emerges as TASI’s 5th-best performer
Updated 10 August 2022

Saudi Arabian Mining Co. emerges as TASI’s 5th-best performer

Saudi Arabian Mining Co. emerges as TASI’s 5th-best performer
  • Analysts expect Ma’aden to maintain its solid performance throughout 2022, owing to its expansion plans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Mining Co., known as Ma’aden, ranked fifth among the top share price gainers this year on the Saudi stock index TASI buoyed by strong results and a thriving mineral sector.

Ma’aden’s share price in 2022 opened at SR39.25 ($10.5) and climbed to SR59 on Aug. 4, surging 53 percent.

A booming mineral industry fueled this rise in Saudi Arabia as, in recent years, the Kingdom has shifted its focus toward discovering and extracting minerals and metals to support its mining industry.

“There is over $3-trillion worth of minerals to be exploited in the Kingdom, which opens huge opportunities for minerals companies,” said Peter Leon, a partner in Johannesburg-based law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

Leon advised the Kingdom’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources on drafting its new mining law.

Khalid Almudaifer, vice minister of MIMR, told Arab News that the ministry had established the mining sector’s infrastructure, allowing the Kingdom to leapfrog in both mining and sustainable mining.

FASTFACTS

• The company’s share price in 2022 opened at SR39.25 ($10.5) and climbed to SR59 on Aug. 4, surging 53 percent.

• Ma’aden reported a 185 percent surge in profit during the first quarter of 2022, hitting SR2.17 billion.

• The mining company has a market capitalization of over SR100 billion.

As the Kingdom revealed that it could be sitting on untapped mineral deposits worth $1.3 trillion, Almudaifer added that the $1.3 trillion estimate of untapped minerals is only a starting point and that underground minerals are likely worth even more.

In March, the state-owned firm announced its plans to increase production capacity and invest in exploration to tap into $1.3 trillion mineral reserves, a reason economist Ali Alhazmi believes that made Ma’aden shares lucrative, further leading to high performance.

Speaking to Arab News, Alhazmi explained that one of the reasons could be attributed to Ma’aden turning into probability last year, reaching SR5.2 billion, compared to SR280 million in losses in 2020.

The other reason could relate to its plan to double its capital by distributing three shares to shareholders, which has attracted investors to buy Ma’aden shares.

According to Abdullah AlRebdi, CEO of Rassanah Capital, the beginning of the third line of its ammonia production also helped the company’s fortune, especially when there was a considerable shortage of raw material for fertilizer. It is worth mentioning that the ammonia plant expansion is set to add over 1 million tons of ammonia production to reach 3.3 million tons, making Ma’aden one of the largest ammonia producers east of the Suez Canal.

Ma’aden reported a 185 percent surge in profit during the first quarter of 2022, hitting SR2.17 billion, amid a jump in commodity prices.

Analysts expect Ma’aden to maintain its solid performance throughout 2022, owing to its expansion plans and gold mining projects in Mansoura and Masarrah.

“By the end of 2022, Ma’aden will achieve SR9 billion in profit, a growth of 50 percent from 2021,” Alhazmi predicted.

As one of the fastest-growing mining companies worldwide, Ma’aden has a market capitalization of over SR100 billion and is one of the Kingdom’s 10 most prominent players.


Oil up, rebounds on renewed gasoline demand, weak dollar

Oil up, rebounds on renewed gasoline demand, weak dollar
Updated 10 August 2022

Oil up, rebounds on renewed gasoline demand, weak dollar

Oil up, rebounds on renewed gasoline demand, weak dollar
  • US crude inventories up more than 5 million barrels
  • Transneft restarts oil flows via Druzhba

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Wednesday, rebounding from losses early in the session on lift from encouraging figures on US gasoline demand and as a lower-than-expected US inflation figure drove investors into riskier assets.

Brent crude futures rose 68 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $96.99 a barrel as of 12:46 p.m. EST (1746 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 83 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $91.33.

US stocks

US crude oil stocks rose by 5.5 million barrels in the most recent week, the US Energy Information Administration said, more than the expected increase of 73,000 barrels. However, US gasoline stocks fell sharply as implied demand rose after weeks of lackluster activity during what is supposed to be peak summer driving season.

“Everyone has been very much focused on potential demand destruction, so seeing implied demand showing an outsized rebound for last week has probably given some comfort to those really concerned about that,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst, Americas, for Kpler.

Gasoline product supplied rose in the most recent week to 9.1 million bpd, though that figure still shows demand down 6 percent over the past four weeks compared with the year-ago period.

US oil refiners and pipeline operators expect strong energy consumption for the second half of 2022, a Reuters review of company earnings calls showed.

US consumer prices were unchanged in July due to a sharp drop in the cost of gasoline, delivering the first notable sign of relief for Americans who have watched inflation climb over the past two years.

That contributed to a rise in risk assets including equities, while the US dollar fell more than 1 percent against a basket of currencies. With most worldwide oil sales transacted in dollars, a weakening greenback is supportive for oil. However, crude's gains were modest.

Druzhba pipeline

The market earlier slipped as flows on the Russia-to-Europe Druzhba pipeline resumed, alleviating fears of another squeeze on world energy supply by Moscow.

Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft restarted oil flows via the southern leg of the Druzhba oil pipeline, RIA news agency said.

Ukraine had suspended Russian oil pipeline flows to parts of central Europe since early this month because Western sanctions prevented it from receiving transit fees from Moscow, Transneft said on Tuesday.


Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures
Updated 10 August 2022

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

RIYADH: US-based Insilico Medicine has raised an additional $35 million in a Series D funding round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures.

According to FierceBiotech, with this new round the total Series D financing has reached $95 million.

The funds will allow the company to expand its artificial intelligence platform into other areas such as sustainable chemistry, green energy and agriculture.

The financing brought in Prosperity7 Ventures as a new investor.


Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 
Updated 10 August 2022

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

RIYADH: Dubai-based Emirates airline is investing over $2 billion to boost its inflight customer experience, according to a statement. 

The investment includes a program to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, in addition to an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.

“While others respond to industry pressures with cost cuts, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers,” President Tim Clark said.

“Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground,” he added. 

The airline’s latest initiatives include upgraded meal choices, new vegan menu, a “cinema in the sky” experience, cabin interior upgrades and sustainable choices. 


EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force
Updated 10 August 2022

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

BRUSSELS: The EU’s total ban on coal imports from Russia comes into force from midnight Wednesday, at a time the bloc is grappling with soaring energy costs following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Leaders of the EU’s 27 countries agreed the embargo in April in their first move targeting Russia’s key energy exports over its war on its pro-Western neighbor.

The measure was subject to a 120-day grace period before full implementation, to allow pre-existing contracts to be fulfilled.

The EU up to last year imported some 45 percent of its coal — worth an estimated €4 billion ($4.1 billion) — from Russia.

Overall, the bloc slashed its consumption of the polluting fossil fuel from 1.2 billion tons to 427 million tonnes between 1990 and 2020 as it pushed to hit climate goals.

But the closure of many mines across the continent led to an increase in Europe’s dependence on imports.

Some countries including Germany and Poland that used it to produce electricity were particularly reliant on Moscow.

In the face of cuts to Russian gas deliveries in recent months, EU members such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy have stepped up their use of coal-fired power plants.

Adding to the energy crunch, an EU plan to cut natural gas use by 15 percent in the face of rocketing prices came into force earlier this week.

During the first five months of 2022, the amount of electricity Germany produces from coal rose by 20 percent, according to energy analyst Rystad.

The embargo on Russia has pushed the EU to step up imports from other sources, including the US, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.

But ending imports of Russian coal has already proved complicated for traditional mining nation Poland, which imported roughly 10 million tons from Moscow each year.

Its government imposed a total ban on Russian coal imports in mid-April, causing severe shortages and a surge in prices.

The cost of a ton of coal in Poland rose around fourfold from a year ago, leading to protests from the three million Poles still using it to heat their homes.