Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings

The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
1 / 2
The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings
2 / 2
Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Dubai-based Vista Global Holding. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 12 June 2022

Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings

The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
  • We have seen a significant surge in new corporate memberships, says chairman of Vista Global Holding
  • We introduced an entirely new way to fly, with access to an entire worldwide branded fleet, paying only for hours flown, with guaranteed availability and no asset risk

DUBAI: Long ignored by the business class travelers as an ultimate luxury, private jet bookings reached new heights during the pandemic when commercial travel became restricted. Those with critical travel needs had no option but to look to private aviation to fill the void.

“This led to a sudden and massive influx of business travelers flying private for the first time,” said Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Dubai-based Vista Global Holding, a private aviation portfolio of companies, including VistaJet, the first and only worldwide business aviation company.

Globally, 3.3 million private flights were operational in 2021, which is 7 percent higher than pre-COVID figures, according to WingX, a business aviation intelligence firm based in Germany.




While the UAE has been one of the company’s top destinations, KSA
has shown robust growth, says Thomas Flohr, Chairman of Vista Global Holding

The pandemic allowed private aviation companies like VistaJet to show new clients that flying private can be a financially viable travel solution in the long run.

“Overall, private aviation was well-insulated over the past couple of years,” said Flohr. “Ultimately, the pandemic showed that it does not necessarily work out more expensive. As a result, we have seen a significant surge in new corporate memberships due to organizations recognizing the many benefits we offer in terms of safety, security and accessibility.”

By mid-2021, up to 71 percent of VistaJet’s new requests were from passengers who had not regularly used business aviation solutions in the past.

FASTFACTS

• Globally, 3.3 million private flights were operational in 2021, which is 7 percent higher than pre-COVID figures, according to WingX, a business aviation intelligence firm based in Germany.

• The pandemic allowed private aviation companies like VistaJet to show new clients that flying private can be a financially viable travel solution in the long run.

• By mid-2021, up to 71 percent of VistaJet’s new requests were from passengers who had not regularly used business aviation solutions in the past.

“This shows how people value the ease, security, and accessibility of private aviation,” he said. “While the pandemic certainly provided the catalyst for change and redefined the global aviation landscape, the industry could respond quickly and efficiently to the change which has helped create a permanent shift in perception towards private travel.”

Changing dynamics of private aviation

Overall, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. While the UAE has consistently been one of the company’s top destinations, Saudi Arabia has shown robust growth, particularly over the past six months, with “travel at the highest rate we have ever seen,” according to Flohr.

He credited the surge in travel to domestic demand within the GCC. Still, the company has also witnessed an increase in long-distance travel from the Kingdom and the Middle East overall, mainly to and from the US, followed by Europe.

In turn, these long-distance flights are driving demand for VistaJet’s longest-range aircraft, with requests for its expanding fleet of Bombardier’s Global 7500 among the highest globally.

Overall, private aviation was well-insulated over the past couple of years. Ultimately, the pandemic showed that it does not necessarily work out more expensive.

Thomas Flohr, Chairman of Vista Global Holding

“Travel into Saudi Arabia has also been on the rise, especially during April when VistaJet saw many flights entering Jeddah for Umrah,” said Flohr.

The changes in private travel habits do not stop here. VistaJet Members request longer trips to reach destinations further afield across the globe. In addition, many of them choose to embark on big adventures and far-flung expeditions — on a quest for new, thrilling and memorable moments.

Recent non-stop journeys include St Maarten to Seychelles (14 hours, 45 minutes), Honolulu to Helsinki (13 hours, 30 minutes) and Liège to Jakarta (13 hours, 30 minutes) thanks to VistaJet’s fleet of 10 brand new Global 7500 jets with a range of 7,700 nautical miles.

It is the largest, fastest and longest-range aircraft in business aviation, opening up a new world of long-haul private flying.

“We are also thrilled to see a growing emphasis on sustainability in the decision-making process, with 85 percent of VistaJet members having opted to compensate for their fuel use-related emissions by investing in certified carbon credits worldwide,” he added.

Global ambitions

While Vista is headquartered in the UAE, the chairman’s vision is to create a global private aviation ecosystem.

The recent acquisition of Jet Edge, the fastest-growing North American charter operator, and Air Hamburg, Europe’s leading charter operator, earlier in the year served this ambition.

With these acquisitions, VistaJet is actively scaling its fleet at a time of unprecedented demand and bringing two long-established reputable companies under its umbrella.

It is the latest step in Vista’s transformation of the highly fragmented business aviation ecosystem. It builds on the successful integrations of Apollo Jets, Talon Air and Red Wing Aviation into the brand.

“Following the completion of both transactions, it will bring Vista’s combined global group fleet to over 350 aircraft, including owned and managed, and we expect an increase of around 30 percent flight hours globally,” said Flohr. “In addition, we are also pleased to welcome over 1,000 highly skilled new colleagues to Vista’s family of experts.”

VistaJet currently flies to 96 percent of the globe — essentially anywhere in the world where you can land an aircraft, so they are already present in every market.

“However, when it comes to opportunities for growth, there is still huge potential here in the Middle East,” he said. “I founded VistaJet in 2004 to make flying private simple. We introduced an entirely new way to fly, with access to an entire worldwide branded fleet, paying only for hours flown, with guaranteed availability and no asset risk.”

The opportunity is there to see, and the demand clearly outstrips supply. It will be interesting how long the trend lasts and how VistaJet steers its business in years to come.


Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report
Updated 26 November 2022

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report
  • City’s transport authority bans adverts by Gulf state reportedly due to human rights concerns
  • Decision ‘interpreted as message that Qatari business not welcome in London,’ source tells FT

LONDON: Qatar is reviewing its London investments following a decision by the city’s transport authority to ban Qatari adverts from its bus, taxi, train and underground network, the Financial Times reported.

Transport for London’s decision is reportedly due to concerns about the World Cup host’s human rights record.

A person involved with the review told the FT that the Gulf state is “reviewing current and future” London investments and “considering investment opportunities in other UK cities.”

The source added that the ban has been “interpreted as a message that Qatari business is not welcome in London.”

Through its sovereign wealth fund, Qatar is now one of the biggest investors in London, and owns nearly 2.1 million sq. meters of property in the UK.

Among its London assets are the Harrods department store; Britain’s tallest building, The Shard, built with £2 billion ($2.4 billion) of Qatari investment; the Savoy and Grosvenor House hotels; co-owning Canary Wharf; and a 20 percent stake in Heathrow Airport.

In May, Qatar pledged to invest £10 billion in the UK over the next five years, including in the technology, healthcare, infrastructure and clean energy sectors.


Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism
Updated 26 November 2022

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to encourage and develop cooperation in tourism, and coordinate efforts to achieve the sustainable development of the industry in both countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The memorandum was signed in the presence of Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, and Fatima-Zahra Ammor, the Moroccan minister of tourism, handicrafts, and social and solidarity economy, on the sidelines of the 117th session of the executive council meeting of the UN World Tourism Organization.

Al-Khateeb said: “Saudi Arabia and Morocco enjoy a common commitment to protecting the rich heritage sites and natural marine, mountainous and desert areas in both countries, in addition to their keenness to give priority to youth in their development plans.

“The issue of sustainability occupies an important place in Saudi tourism ambitions, so cooperation with partners who have a similar vision, like Morocco, helps to strengthen the sector in our region and the world as a whole, and contributes to consolidating the sustainability, flexibility, and inclusiveness of the tourism sector for the benefit of people and societies.”

The Moroccan tourism minister said: “The memorandum reflects the strong relations between the two countries and the common vision toward strengthening partnership and raising prospects for cooperation in the tourism sector.

“It will lead to more joint initiatives and the exchange of experiences and best practices, allowing the two countries to develop their capabilities in tourism.”

The agreement will also help to support an increase in training and knowledge-sharing opportunities, and provide new openings for investment.

Saudi Arabia is currently one of Morocco’s largest trading partners in the Arab world. In 2020 the Kingdom invested $26.6 million in its real estate, tourism, and agricultural sectors.


Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends
Updated 25 November 2022

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

RIYADH: More than 50 cooperation and research partnership agreements were signed between universities and various sectors at the Sustainable Partnerships Conference held in Riyadh.

The two-day conference, held under the theme “Research and Innovation Towards A Prosperous Economy” was part of an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Education to foster ties between Saudi universities and the industrial and development sectors.

The event hosted 150 ministers, decision-makers, local and international leaders — of which 100 were from the industrial and development sector — and 40 Saudi universities and colleges.

Some 1,000 research products and industrial models for universities were presented, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

On the sidelines of the conference, 40 training workshops specialized in research and innovation were held, along with 25 dialogue sessions, in addition to a presentation of 220 scientific inventions through the “Promising Technologies and Innovations” exhibition for the country’s citizens and graduates of Saudi universities.

The conference also saw the Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih announce a new strategy for research and development would soon be launched in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and minimal resources Bandar Al-Khorayef also addressed the forum, revealing that a budget for research and development will be allocated soon. 

Al-Khorayef pointed out that the innovation strategy will enhance Saudi Arabia’s exports, and will contribute to national gross domestic production. 

According to SPA, the Ministry of Education sought to use the conference — the first of its kind in the Kingdom — to not only strengthen the links between the higher education sector and industry, but also to identify research and innovation needs of national priority and provide effective solutions to them.

The event was held with a growing focus on Saudi Arabia’s R&D sector, as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its economy away from oil in keeping with the Vision 2030 program.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to become one of the top 10 countries in the Global Competitive Index by the end of this decade, increasing from 24th in 2022.


Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report
Updated 25 November 2022

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

RIYADH: The appetite for food delivery in the Middle East and North Africa region has continued to grow in 2022 after the pandemic kick-started demand for the services in the region, according to a new report.

According to data in ‘Digital Transformation in MENA 2022’, produced by cloud-based payments platform Checkout.com, over half  — 53 percent — of MENA consumers purchased food online in the past year, with 42 percent consumers saying they are buying food online more frequently this year than in 2021. 

The online food ordering sector has numerous moving parts that need to come together in each transaction, from the restaurants to drivers and aggregators to payment providers. Close collaboration is therefore vital for the many stakeholders, noted Ramzi Alqrainy, chief technology officer at The Chefz, a leading Saudi-based food delivery app. 

“Collaboration allows us to innovate effectively and to reach and serve society in its most inclusive sense. These days, one provider doesn’t need to manage all aspects of a consumer experience from A to Z. We all need to work together. This is the death of ownership,” said Alqrainy. 

The findings fit the trend of the region increasingly embracing digital technology.

Data from the report shows that 91 percent of consumers across MENA bought products online in the past year, with fashion and clothing making up 46 percent of all online purchases in the region. A fifth of consumers across the region purchased retail products online more frequently than last year, with 33 percent shopping more often for fashion and clothing online.  

Paul Carey, executive vice president of Cards & Payments at Al-Futtaim Group said the figures point to a rapidly developing digital ecosystem that allows government agencies, established companies and start-ups to flourish.

“This is particularly evident in payments, where governments have set up regulatory sandbox infrastructure and made it easier for businesses in the region with more flexible visa options and commercial licensing,” he added. 

The survey shows that remittance apps remain the most widely utilized form of fintech in MENA, but as other products increase, so does adoption. 

The report found that 82 percent of consumers in MENA use some form of fintech app in 2022, up from 76 percent in 2021. 

Innovation has been underpinned by solutions such as Visa’s Account Funding Transactions which pull funds from an account and for use on a prepaid card, top up a wallet, or fund a person-to-person money transfer. 

“The secure, reliable, and fast movement of digital money between individuals, businesses and governments is the engine powering today’s global economy”, said Saeeda Jaffar, senior vice President and group country manager for the Gulf Cooperation Council region at Visa.

The findings come from the second phase of Checkout.com’s Digital Transformation in MENA 2022 report. 

Part one, which was released in October, included insights from 15,000 consumers in the region, while the latest publication contains interviews with business leaders in the digital economy.


ACWA Power expands Indonesian portfolio thanks to partnership with state electricity firm

ACWA Power expands Indonesian portfolio thanks to partnership with state electricity firm
Updated 25 November 2022

ACWA Power expands Indonesian portfolio thanks to partnership with state electricity firm

ACWA Power expands Indonesian portfolio thanks to partnership with state electricity firm

RIYADH: Saudi energy firm ACWA Power will work with Indonesia’s state-owned electricity provider to develop battery storage for renewable energy facilities and green hydrogen development in the Asian country.

The firm has announced it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara — known as PLN — at the B20/G20 Summit in Bali and coincided with the state visit of thw Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Indonesia.

According to the terms of the MoU, ACWA Power and PLN will jointly investigate several avenues of partnership, including a project study for pump storage for a 600-800MW hydroelectricity facility; investigating the possibility of a 4GW battery energy storage system and the development of a green hydrogen/ammonia facility that is powered by hydroelectricity.  

Paddy Padmanathan, CEO and vice chairman of ACWA Power, said: “As a nation that is fast tracking economic growth, Indonesia is focussed on advancing sustainable development through strategic partnerships. 

“With the signing of this extensive renewable energy and green hydrogen MoU with PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara, we are delighted to extend our collaboration and strengthen our presence in the country. 

“We look forward to partnering with the government in ensuring that its renewable energy goals are realized.”

Indonesia’s National General Energy Plan states that 23 percent of the country’s power should be generated via renewable energy sources by 2025. 

PLN is Indonesia’s sole buyer of electricity produced by independent power projects, including power produced from renewable energy projects. 

As of last year, the enterprise owns or operates nearly two-thirds of Indonesia’s power generation industry, which is approximately 65.5GW of electricity.

Darmawan Prasodjo, president director and CEO of PLN, said: “Dealing with climate change is not only a challenge to preserve the environment, but also a business opportunity. 

“In the future, there will be many PLN agendas in the energy transition that require the collaboration of all parties. ACWA Power and PLN have built a very strong, long-term and productive partnership.”

The agreement comes after ACWA Power and Indonesian energy firm Pertamina New & Renewable Energy signed a joint development agreement on core utilities supplies to Tuban Grass Root Refinery and Petrochemical Project in Java, eastern Indonesia.

This agreement was also signed on the sidelines of the G20 summit.