AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

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Updated 02 June 2022

AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
  • The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October

RIYADH: The historic city of AlUla received more than 250,000 visitors in the past 12 months, far exceeding its forecast, said a senior government official.

The city developers had already covered huge ground, considering it had envisaged attracting one million visitors by 2025.

“The plan is to keep it preserve the nature. We don’t want to create a destination and then destroy it by bringing too many people,” John Northen, executive director – head of hotels and resorts at the Royal Commission of AlUla, or RCU, told Arab News.

“So, we are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors,” Northen said.

One such labor of love is the Banyan Tree Hotel, a sprawling destination with 79 villas slated to open in October this year.

The plan is to keep it preserve the nature ... We are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors.

John Northen, Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU

The hotel is also a worthy neighbor of Maraya Hall, the largest mirrored building in the world and a centerpiece of the city’s growing cultural landscape.

The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October.

“It’s going to be completely different; you will feel like you traveled back in time and experienced something very unusual,” he said.

The city has also regenerated its 2,000 square kilometers of vast Sharaan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary to the Arabian leopards.

“Here, we are developing two exciting hotels, one designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, which will be crafted inside the mountain,” Northen said.

The destination is also home to international fine dining restaurants

“Food and beverage are already a great strength for AlUla,” he added.

Most of the restaurants in the city have been seasonal based on the tourism traffic. However, RCU will operate them throughout the year starting from next year.

Part of the RCU’s strategy is to engage the local community and offer training programs.

“The population of AlUla is 42,000 people. We are trying to hire as many as we can and give educational opportunities,” said Northen, adding that they have already opened a language school and will soon be setting up a hotel management school.


India In-Focus — China’s Great Wall Motor halts $1bn India plans; Ban on single-use plastic; Toyota unveils hybrid car

India In-Focus — China’s Great Wall Motor halts $1bn India plans; Ban on single-use plastic; Toyota unveils hybrid car
Updated 7 sec ago

India In-Focus — China’s Great Wall Motor halts $1bn India plans; Ban on single-use plastic; Toyota unveils hybrid car

India In-Focus — China’s Great Wall Motor halts $1bn India plans; Ban on single-use plastic; Toyota unveils hybrid car

MUMBAI: China’s Great Wall Motor has shelved plans to invest $1 billion in India and laid off all employees at its operations there after failing to obtain regulatory approvals, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

Without directly commenting on the exit, a Great Wall statement said the company “would like to thank all the members of the Indian team for their contribution,” adding that it would continue to study the Indian market and look for opportunities in the future.

Great Wall’s India entry plan was announced with great fanfare during the country’s biennial auto show in January 2020. India was a key market for the Chinese SUV manufacturer’s global expansion plans and the company had envisioned a plant that would be its biggest outside China.

Months later, after Great Motor began hiring staff in India, New Delhi increased scrutiny of investments from countries with which it shares a land border to deter opportunistic takeovers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crackdown deepened after a border clash between India and China later that year, which has since held up billions of dollars of capital inflow in the auto and technology sectors among others.

The sources, who declined to be named, said that Great Wall laid off about a dozen employees at its Indian business on Friday after telling them it had failed to obtain foreign direct investment approval from the government to buy a former General Motors plant in the country.

India imposes ban on single-use plastics

India on Friday imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat worsening pollution in the country whose streets are strewn with waste.

Announcing the ban, the government dismissed the demands of food, beverage and consumer goods companies to hold off the restriction to avoid disruptions.

Plastic waste has become a significant source of pollution in India, the world’s second-most populous country.

Rapid economic growth has fueled demand for goods that come with single-use plastic products, such as straws and disposable cutlery.

But India, which uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually, lacks an organized system for managing plastic waste, leading to widespread littering.

India’s ban on single-use plastic items includes straws, cutlery, earbuds, packaging films, plastic sticks for balloons, candy and ice cream, and cigarette packets, among other products, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a statement.

PepsiCo., Coca-Cola Co, India’s Parle Agro, Dabur and Amul had lobbied for straws to be exempted from the ban. 

Toyota unveils first mass-market hybrid car

Toyota Motor Corp. on Friday unveiled its first mass-market hybrid car for India, a sport utility vehicle, charting a new course for the Japanese automaker in one of the world’s fastest-growing car markets.

The Urban Cruiser Hyryder SUV, the first car to be built by Toyota as part of a global alliance with Suzuki Motor Corp., will compete with Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Corp. in a segment that accounts for a large portion of auto sales in India.

The new model will be an “ultimate game-changer” for the company in India’s electrified auto space, Vikram Kirloskar, vice chairman of local unit Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said at a launch event in New Delhi.

It also reinforces Toyota’s decision to take the hybrid route in developing markets like India, where it says infrastructure is not ready for battery electric vehicles and much of the electricity is generated using coal or other fossil fuels.

The new SUV is expected to be 40 percent to 50 percent more fuel-efficient than a comparable gasoline-powered car and reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent, Toyota said. 

About 90 percent of the car’s parts are sourced from local suppliers — a move that will help it price the car competitively when it goes on sale later this year. 

(With inputs from Reuters)


UAE raises fuel prices for 5th time in a year

UAE raises fuel prices for 5th time in a year
Updated 17 min 34 sec ago

UAE raises fuel prices for 5th time in a year

UAE raises fuel prices for 5th time in a year

RIYADH: The UAE has raised fuel prices for the fifth time this year to further widen the gap with other oil producers who subsidize gasoline costs, Bloomberg reported. 

As oil prices jumped, gasoline prices in the UAE have surged by around 80 percent since the beginning of the year, while crude has increased almost 50 percent to reach over $100 a barrel. 

Gasoline in the UAE now costs three times more than in Kuwait and prices are more than double the average in the Gulf Cooperation Council members. 

According to data from globalpetrolprices.com, fuel prices in the UAE are below the global average. 


Madinah to have 12 electric charging stations to promote EVs

Madinah to have 12 electric charging stations to promote EVs
Updated 48 min 14 sec ago

Madinah to have 12 electric charging stations to promote EVs

Madinah to have 12 electric charging stations to promote EVs

RIYADH: The Madinah municipality has signed an agreement with Al-Sharif Holding Group to establish 12 electric charging stations in different parts of the city, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to achieve its zero-carbon goals.

The opening of these new electric charging stations is expected to increase the popularity of electric vehicles and will also support environmental sustainability programs. 

The agreement was signed between Fahd bin Muhammad Al-Balishi, mayor of the region and Ahmed Sindi, CEO of Sharif X Company for Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions. 

According to reports, these electric charging stations are expected to provide fast and medium charging devices, both AC and DC through power supply sockets with a power ranging from 22-200 kilowatts.

Recently, Kalyana Sivagnanam, group CEO of Petromin, during an exclusive interview with Arab News said that its electric charging station arm Electromin is planning to open new charging stations, in addition to the existing 100 to end Saudis’ reluctance to EVs. 


Commodities Update — Gold prices fall; Indonesia to raise palm oil export quota; Russia reduces grain export taxes

Commodities Update — Gold prices fall; Indonesia to raise palm oil export quota; Russia reduces grain export taxes
Updated 03 July 2022

Commodities Update — Gold prices fall; Indonesia to raise palm oil export quota; Russia reduces grain export taxes

Commodities Update — Gold prices fall; Indonesia to raise palm oil export quota; Russia reduces grain export taxes

RIYADH: Gold prices fell on Friday as a firm dollar and looming rate hikes soured appetite for the non-yielding asset, while India’s import tax hike on bullion also dampened its demand prospects.

Spot gold is currently priced at $1,811.43 per ounce, while US gold futures settled down at $1,801.50. 

Silver, Platinum fall

Spot silver is priced at $19.67 and has dropped about 6.5 percent this week, its biggest weekly fall since January 2022.

Spot platinum is priced at $892.73 per ounce, on course for its fourth consecutive weekly fall, while palladium is at $1,959.58, gaining about 4.5 percent this week.

Indonesia looks to raise palm oil export quota

Indonesia proposed raising palm oil export quotas on Friday and is considering increasing mandatory levels of biodiesel in fuel mixes to prop up prices for farmers when domestic palm oil inventories are high, a senior minister said on Saturday.

Palm oil inventories ballooned, and mills limited purchases of fresh fruit bunches from farmers after Jakarta stopped exports of crude palm oil and some other derivatives for three weeks to May 23 in a bid to contain soaring domestic cooking oil prices.

Indonesia replaced the ban with a domestic market obligation, requiring companies to supply a portion of their products to the domestic market through the government’s bulk cooking oil program and linked DMO volumes to companies’ export permits and quotas. 

DMO volumes as of the end of June were around 270,000 tons, the government said.

The government will now allow palm oil companies to export seven times the amount of their sales from currently five times, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said.

“I asked the Trade Ministry to increase the export multiplication factor to seven times starting July 1, with the main objective to increase farmer’s FFB prices significantly,” Luhut said in a statement.

Russia reduces grain export taxes to support exports

Sanctions-hit Russia has sharply reduced its grain export taxes after changing the formula it uses for calculating them to support shipments in the July-June marketing season, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

Russian farmers are expected to harvest a massive wheat crop this summer, bringing a record exportable surplus in the 2022-2023 season. 

However, shipments are complicated by high export tax, a strong rouble and sanctions-inflated costs for freight and insurance.

The ministry said that the new base price for calculating the wheat export tax is set at 15,000 roubles ($283.68) per ton.

It was previously in US dollars at $200 a ton. The agriculture ministry used the base price and price indicators reported by traders to determine the level of tax weekly.

The wheat export tax is set at 4,600 roubles ($85.8) per ton from July 6-12 against $146.1 per ton from June 29 to July 5, the ministry said in a separate note.

President Vladimir Putin said this week that Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter and aims to remain so. Despite disrupting the Black Sea supply chains, it continues to supply its traditional markets in the Middle East and Africa.

(With inputs from Reuters)


Careem acquires money transfer technology platform Denarii

Careem acquires money transfer technology platform Denarii
Updated 03 July 2022

Careem acquires money transfer technology platform Denarii

Careem acquires money transfer technology platform Denarii

RIYADH: Careem, the ride-hailing and e-commerce platform, has acquired Denarii, a Dubai-based money transfer platform, in its second acquisition this month.

While the company has not disclosed the value of the deal, this acquisition will allow Careem to integrate Denarii’s technologies and assets into its platform.

Some key members of the Denarii team will also join Careem as part of the acquisition, MAGNiTT reported. 

Careem will use Denarii’s technology for its Careem Pay feature, to connect customers and Captains with remittance services provided by licensed providers. 

“Denarii’s innovative API will accelerate our journey to offering simple and affordable international remittance services, adding to the wide variety of services already available through Careem Pay,” Mudassir Sheikha, CEO and co-founder of Careem said.