The Red Sea is preparing a new breed of Saudi hospitality professionals as its hotels to open early 2023

Special The Red Sea is preparing a new breed of Saudi hospitality professionals as its hotels to open early 2023
The company’s main task is to develop and promote a new international luxury tourism destination that will set high standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 May 2022

The Red Sea is preparing a new breed of Saudi hospitality professionals as its hotels to open early 2023

The Red Sea is preparing a new breed of Saudi hospitality professionals as its hotels to open early 2023
  • The company is committed to becoming an employer of choice, says top official

RIYADH: A few years ago, it was a bit inconceivable to see tourists in large numbers swimming in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea or marveling at the breath-taking natural habitats in the nearby islands.

Frankly, the Kingdom was never on the radar screen of potential European, American and Asian tourists as most of these visitors preferred to spend their vacations in more popular tourist destinations.

However, this is about to change.

The Saudi government, which is keen to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil as the primary source of revenue, has embarked on an ambitious multi-billion-dollar plan to turn the Red Sea into a significant tourist attraction.

To achieve this goal, the Kingdom set up The Red Sea Development Co., which was incorporated as a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The company’s main task is to develop and promote a new international luxury tourism destination that will set high standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel.

According to the company, the development will offer unprecedented investment options and allow visitors to explore the five untouched treasures of the west coast of the Kingdom: the archipelago of over 90 islands with stunning coral reefs, dormant volcanoes and pristine nature reserves.

The new destination, which covers an area of 28,000 sq. km, is located between Umluj and Al Wajh, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Oasis of relief

The company’s executives are upbeat about the future and feel confident that the first wave of tourists will come to the Red Sea at the end of 2022 with first three hotels to open by early 2023.

“We are gearing up to welcome the world’s most discerning travelers to The Red Sea Project by the end of this year when our first hotels will open. We have marked significant progress to ensure we remain on track,” Anton Bawab, head of operations at TRSDC, told Arab News. 




Anton Bawab, head of operations, TRSDC

Bawab said the company has identified the hotel brands and partners and announced nine of them last October.

These include leading world brands such as Jumeirah, Six Senses, EDITION, St Regis, Fairmont, Raffles, SLS, Grand Hyatt and InterContinental.

“These offerings will form part of the 16 hotels that we planned for the first phase of development by 2023. Upon full completion, we will host 50 resorts offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include an international airport, luxury marinas, golf courses, and entertainment and leisure facilities,” Bawab explained.

Bawab hoped by 2030 the number of visitors to the Red Sea would reach one million.

“By 2030, annual visitors will be capped at one million to ensure we provide an exclusive experience while mitigating environmental impacts and protecting the local heritage, nature, and culture for future generations.

“Access will drive visitors, and visitors will drive access. To that effect, we are working hand in hand with regional airlines to ensure that our international airport is accessible with frequent flights at guest-friendly timings,” he noted.

According to the estimates of TRSDC, by 2030, TRSP will contribute SR22 billion ($5.9 billion) per year to the local gross domestic product, while construction and 10 years of steady-state operations will generate cumulative revenues of SR464 billion by 2044.

Nurturing local talent 

The work of TRSDC does not stop here. The company has also created a talent team to groom young Saudi nationals to work on the project to create more jobs in the market.

One of the key people behind this team is Zehar Filemban, senior talent development director of TRSDC.

“Our commitment to injecting the local market with 70,000 jobs while engaging with the public, private, and start-up sectors, will reenergize a thriving economy. Our mission is to redefine the relationship between luxury and sustainability while inviting the world to witness previously undiscovered local treasures. This will spotlight the country’s credentials as an ambitious nation on the global tourism stage,” Filemban said. 




Zehar Filemban, senior talent development director

To achieve these strategic imperatives, the company is taking great care and caution to produce economic, environmental, and social co-benefits for the entirety of the tourism value chain.

“The overarching nature of the tourism industry means we are inspiring growth in supporting economic sectors like renewable energy, clean transportation, low-impact building and construction, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, and wildlife management,” Filemban said.

He emphasized that TRSDC is committed to becoming an employer of choice by recruiting, developing and retaining exceptional talent, promoting Saudization and supporting diversity and inclusion.

“In this pursuit, we will continue to facilitate knowledge transfer within the local, regional, and international industry; enhance professional development opportunities and develop young Saudi talent,” Filemban said.

Preparing for the future

Filemban added that the company is creating the changemakers of tomorrow through robust learning and development courses such as the annual Elite Graduate Program, preparation programs in local towns, community workshops, and advanced training and mentorships opportunities.

“We do this in close partnership with industry leaders like National eLearning Center, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Human Resources Development Fund, Saudi Academy of Civil Aviation, Saudi Entertainment Academy, the University of Tabuk and the University of Prince Mugrin.”

Filemban also supervised different departments to harness the abilities of the young Saudi nationals and prepare them to assume new responsibilities in the future.

“Over 600 students are currently enrolled in educational programs that support the provision of high-quality education and improve the learning experience to meet the needs of all employees and students. Programs that vary between vocational training and scholarships, under a wide range of tracks including hospitality management, airport services and technical services,” he added.

Filemban insisted that people are the company’s greatest assets and are the center of its organizational development, supported by its education and learning systems.
On May 19, TRSDC achieved another key milestone geared towards upskilling young Saudi talent through signing the second agreement with the Human Resources Development Fund to deliver high-quality training programs. General Manager of HRDF Turki Aljawini visited the site to sign the new agreement and get introduced to the project site.

This partnership will create a substantial pipeline to support and equip 1,000 young Saudis with the knowledge and expertise needed to start successful careers at TRSDC spanning across various areas such as hospitality, tourism security and information technology.

Eager to learn

Students also shared their company experience and closely followed the progress of work.

Lojain Labban, a student at the University of Prince Mugrin under a TRSDC scholarship program, learned about the program through a Twitter personality that had advertised the hospitality scholarship, and it triggered her interest. 




Lojain Labban, scholarship student

“I honestly had no idea what I was going into, I didn’t know much about the major, but it seemed like a fantastic opportunity with one of the biggest companies in the Kingdom,” Labban said.

She expressed her admiration for the project and was even more impressed by the determination of officials to attract tourists to the Red Sea.

“I love that they are developing areas of Saudi soon to be one of the top places for tourism; they are creating a tourist hotspot right here. One does not need to look far to see luxury places to holiday in. It is helping the whole and the Saudi citizens themselves to truly explore and appreciate the beauty of the Kingdom,” Labban said.

Abdulrahman Hamid Alshithiwani, a high school student at Umluj, was also among the young Saudis who saw work progress at the Red Sea.

“First of all, I am proud of this most wonderful achievement because they set a very ambitious goal, and it is in my region that I was born and grew in. And to know that I am part of a giga-project that will draw the world’s attention by 2030,” Alshithiwani said.

He believes that these projects will offer massive numbers of job opportunities in many fields such as hospitality, renewable energy, aviation, the environment and much more.

“This project will take us to another level that will enable us to compete and excel in these markets,” Alshithiwani concluded.


-Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss

-Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss
Updated 19 sec ago

-Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss

-Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss
  • OPEC+ sticks to oil output policy, avoids debate on September
  • Traders prepare for long Fourth of July holiday weekend
  • Some Norway oil workers to strike from July 5

TOKYO: Oil prices eased on Friday as lingering fears of a recession demand weighed on sentiment, putting the benchmarks on track for their third straight weekly losses, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were down 20 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $108.83 a barrel by 0428 GMT, giving up earlier gains of over $1.

WTI crude futures for August delivery slid 37 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $105.39 a barrel, also surrendering an early gain of nearly $1.

Both contracts fell around 3 percent on Thursday.

“Earlier in the session, the market took a breather from Thursday’s sell-off as the OPEC+ gave no surprise, saying it would stick to its planned oil output hikes in August,” said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at NLI Research Institute.

“But uncertainty over OPEC+ policy in and after September and fears that the aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve would lead to a US recession and hamper fuel demand dampened sentiment,” he said.

On Thursday, the OPEC+ group of producers, including Russia, agreed to stick to its output strategy after two days of meetings. However, the producer club avoided discussing policy from September onwards.

Previously, OPEC+ decided to increase output each month by 648,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July and August, up from a previous plan to add 432,000 bpd per month.

US President Joe Biden will make a three-stop trip to the Middle East in mid-July that includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, pushing energy policy into the spotlight as the United States and other countries face soaring fuel prices that are driving up inflation.

Biden said on Thursday he would not directly press Saudi Arabia to increase oil output to curb soaring prices when he sees the Saudi king and crown prince during a visit this month.

“All eyes are on whether or not Saudi Arabia or any other Middle Eastern oil producers would bolster output to respond the US request,” NLI’s Ueno said.

Elsewhere, 74 Norwegian offshore oil workers at Equinor’s Gudrun, Oseberg South and Oseberg East platforms will go on strike from July 5, the Lederne trade union said on Thursday, likely shutting about 4 percent of Norway’s oil production.

Oil prices are expected to stay above $100 a barrel this year as Europe and other regions struggle to wean themselves off Russian supply, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, though economic risks could slow the climb. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Yuka Obayashi; editing by Richard Pullin and Kim Coghill)


Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers
Updated 01 July 2022

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers
  • Some 48,000 app developers are eligible to apply for the $90 million fund, if the court approves the proposed settlement

WASHINGTON: Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a legal fight with app developers over the money they earned creating apps for Android smartphones and for enticing users to make in-app purchases, according to a court filing.
The app developers, in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, had accused Google of using agreements with smartphone makers, technical barriers and revenue sharing agreements to effectively close the app ecosystem and shunt most payments through its Google Play billing system with a default service fee of 30 percent.
As part of the proposed settlement, Google said in a blog post it would put $90 million in a fund to support app developers who made $2 million or less in annual revenue from 2016-2021.
“A vast majority of US developers who earned revenue through Google Play will be eligible to receive money from this fund, if they choose,” Google said in the blog post.
Google said it would also continue to charge a 15 percent commission to developers who make $1 million or less annually from the Google Play Store. It started doing this in 2021.
The court must approve the proposed settlement.
There were likely 48,000 app developers eligible to apply for the $90 million fund, and the minimum payout is $250, according to Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, who represented the plaintiffs.
Apple Inc. agreed last year to loosen App Store restrictions on small developers, striking a deal in a class action. It also agreed to pay $100 million.
In Washington, Congress is considering legislation that would require Google and Apple to allow sideloading, or the practice of downloading apps without using an app store. It would also bar them from requiring that app providers use Google and Apple’s payment systems. 


 


SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes
Updated 01 July 2022

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes
  • SpaceX has steadily launched some 2,700 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit since 2019
  • It has amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers, including many who pay $110 a month for broadband Internet

WASHINGTON: The US Federal Communications Commission on Thursday authorized Elon Musk’s SpaceX to use its Starlink satellite Internet network with moving vehicles, green-lighting the company’s plan to expand broadband offerings to commercial airlines, shipping vessels and trucks.
Starlink, a fast-growing constellation of Internet-beaming satellites in orbit, has long sought to grow its customer base from individual broadband users in rural, Internet-poor locations to enterprise customers in the potentially lucrative automotive, shipping and airline sectors.
“Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move,” the FCC said in its authorization published Thursday, echoing plans outlined in SpaceX’s request for the approval early last year.
SpaceX has steadily launched some 2,700 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit since 2019 and has amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers, including many who pay $110 a month for broadband Internet using $599 self-install terminal kits.
The Hawthorne, California-based space company has focused heavily in recent years on courting airlines around Starlink for in-flight WiFi, having inked its first such deals in recent months with Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private jet service JSX.
“We’re obsessive about the passenger experience,” Jonathan Hofeller, Starlink’s commercial sales chief, said at an aviation conference earlier this month. “We’re going to be on planes here very shortly, so hopefully passengers are wowed by the experience.”
SpaceX, under an earlier experimental FCC license, has been testing aircraft-tailored Starlink terminals on Gulfstream jets and US military aircraft.
Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has previously said that the types of vehicles Starlink was expected to be used with pursuant to Thursday’s authorization were aircraft, ships, large trucks and RVs. Musk, also the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc, had said he didn’t see “connecting Tesla cars to Starlink, as our terminal is much too big.”
Competition in the low-Earth orbiting satellite Internet sector is fierce between SpaceX, satellite operator OneWeb, and Jeff Bezos’s Kuiper project, a unit of e-commerce giant Amazon.com which is planning to launch the first prototype satellites of its own broadband network later this year. 

 


Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets
Updated 01 July 2022

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin dropped 6.1% to $18,866.77 at 2004 GMT on Thursday, putting the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency down $1,226.41 from its previous close and down 60.9% from the year's high of $48,234 on March 28.
Several big players in the cryptocurrency markets have had difficulties, and further declines could force other crypto investors to sell holdings to meet margin calls and cover losses.
Ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 7.5% to $1,016.08 on Thursday, losing $82.38 from its previous close.
Both digital assets have struggled since U.S. based lender Celsius Network this month said it would suspend withdrawals. Bitcoin and ether were further rattled by the apparent insolvency of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which a person familiar with the matter told Reuters has entered liquidation.
Many of the industry's recent problems can be traced back to the spectacular collapse of so-called stablecoin TerraUSD in May, which saw the stablecoin lose almost all its value, along with its paired token. (Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru and Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)


Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge
Updated 01 July 2022

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge
  • EU to subject cryptocurrency transfers to money laundering rules

RIYADH: Europe prepares to lead the world in regulating the cryptocurrency industry at a time when prices have plunged, wiping out fortunes, fueling skepticism and sparking calls for tighter scrutiny.

The EU took a first step late Wednesday by agreeing on new rules subjecting cryptocurrency transfers to the same money laundering rules as traditional banking transfers.

A much bigger move was expected as EU negotiators hammer out the final details late Thursday on a separate deal for a sweeping package of crypto regulations for the bloc’s 27 nations, known as Markets in Crypto Assets, or MiCA.

Like the EU’s trendsetting data privacy policy, which became the de facto global standard, the crypto regulations are expected to be highly influential worldwide.

The EU rules are “really the first comprehensive piece of crypto regulation in the world,” said Patrick Hansen, crypto venture adviser at Presight Capital, a venture capital firm.

Patrick Hansen, analyst

“I think there will be a lot of jurisdictions that will look closely into how the EU has dealt with it since the EU is first here,” Hansen said.

He expected authorities in other places, especially smaller countries that don’t have the resources to draw up their own rules from scratch, to adopt ones similar to the EU’s, though “they might change a few details.”

Companies issuing or trading crypto assets such as stablecoins face tough transparency requirements requiring them to provide detailed information on the risks, costs and charges that consumers face.

Providers of bitcoin-related services would fall under the regulations, but not bitcoin itself, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency that has lost more than 70 percent of its value from its November peak.

Russia probes 400 cases

The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation is trying to detect around 400 cases in which cryptocurrencies are involved, the agency’s director, Yury Chikhanchin, revealed the number during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Russian law enforcement authorities have already initiated 20 criminal cases related to digital assets, Bitcoin.com reported.

Chikhanchin acknowledged that Russians continue to actively use cryptocurrency platforms located outside the country.

“This phenomenon continues to exist. And only on two foreign sites, two exchanges, several hundred thousand Russian citizens participate in transactions worth tens of billions,” he said.

According to official data released earlier this year, the number of lawsuits related to cryptocurrency mining in Russia exceeded 1,500 in 2021.

$100 million crypto hack

Digital investigative firms have concluded that North Korean hackers are most likely responsible for an attack last week that took as much as $100 million in cryptocurrency from a US company, according to Reuters.

Cryptocurrency assets were stolen on June 23 from Horizon Bridge, a service provided by Harmony blockchain that transfers assets between blockchains. The hackers’ activity since then suggests they may be affiliated with North Korea, which experts say is among the most prolific cyberattackers.

The UN sanctions monitors say Pyongyang uses the stolen funds to finance its nuclear and missile programs.