Twitter survey reveals travel trends in Saudi, UAE

Twitter survey reveals travel trends in Saudi, UAE
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Updated 15 June 2022

Twitter survey reveals travel trends in Saudi, UAE

Twitter survey reveals travel trends in Saudi, UAE
  • More than 50 percent of users keen for ‘escape from everyday life’

DUBAI: An insights survey commissioned by Twitter in May has revealed the top trends among travelers from Saudi Arabia and the UAE ahead of the high season.

With summer already here, many people in the Middle East are looking to travel abroad. Until recently, travel was on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as more and more countries begin to open up, travelers are looking forward to trips again.

Twitter’s survey helps discover the opinions, sentiments and potential behaviors of its users in the UAE and Saudi Arabia with regard to international travel.

One of the key findings of the survey is that consumers are craving novel experiences. More than 50 percent of Twitter users in the UAE and the Kingdom are motivated to travel as an escape from everyday life.

Many people were unable to travel and meet their family and friends in the last two years, which explains why the most popular reason to travel is for a family holiday, according to 46 percent of respondents in Saudi and more than 51 percent in the UAE.

Despite the long break from travel, people are still price-conscious. In Saudi Arabia, travelers were particularly concerned about high expenses at the destination (46 percent) followed by ticket prices (40 percent).

Moreover, price ranked much higher than other factors, such as safety (35 percent), geopolitical situations (29 percent) and public health (19 percent).

In the UAE, on the other hand, safety was the primary factor (39 percent), followed by ticket prices (36 percent), geopolitical situations (35 percent) and high expenses at the destination (35 percent). Public health, however, ranked as one of the lowest threats to travel plans for UAE respondents at 24 percent.

Still, price was the most important factor when choosing an airline in both countries (75 percent). Unsurprisingly, the most popular airlines were Saudia for people in the Kingdom (67 percent) and Emirates for people in the UAE (79 percent).

In both countries, last minute bookings appear to be more popular. Most people in the UAE said that they would book a trip about a month in advance (33 percent), while people in the Kingdom said that they would book less than two weeks ahead of their trip (30 percent).

In fact, when it comes to international travel this summer, only 4 percent of people in the Kingdom have already booked flights, while 48 percent said that they are unlikely to travel. On the other hand, 21 percent of people in the UAE have booked flights and 50 percent said that they are likely to travel.

Moreover, 31 percent in Saudi vs. 56 percent in the UAE are now confident about traveling on a plane, suggesting a significant difference in overall confidence between the two markets.


Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world
Updated 13 sec ago

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world
  • Partnership comes amid rapid cinema growth and strong box office results in Saudi Arabia and Middle East
  • Under the deal, Majid Al Futtaim Distribution will release Universal Pictures’ titles, including the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin”

LONDON: Universal Pictures International and Majid Al Futtaim Distribution on Wednesday announced a partnership that will see the Emirati-based distribution company release Universal films in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt.
“This is a very exciting time for cinema in the Middle East with the investment and audience interest at unprecedented levels. We are thrilled to be partnering with Majid Al Futtaim, one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking groups in the region,” said Paul Higginson, executive vice president, EMEA for Universal Pictures International.
News of the partnership, which will take effect on Feb. 1, 2023, comes as Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East experience rapid growth and strong box office results.
Under the deal, Majid Al Futtaim Distribution, one of the largest film distributors in the region and a subsidiary of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas, will release Universal Pictures’ titles, including the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin,” the Super Mario Bros movie and “Renfield” starring Nicolas Cage.
“This strategic partnership reaffirms Majid Al Futtaim’s commitment to deliver compelling content and the ultimate cinematic experience to cinemagoers in the region,” said Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas.
“We are proud to collaborate with Universal Pictures International, which has a long legacy of producing commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies. We look forward to bringing their impressive slate of blockbuster films and popular movie franchises to the big screen and working together to grow the Middle East’s cinema industry with films that attract a large and diverse audience,” he added.
Niels Swinkels, EVP and managing director of Universal Pictures International, said that the company will continue its distribution relationship with Four Star Films in Lebanon and Cyprus.
He said that Four Star Films “has been our trusted and exemplary partner in the region for over 40 years.”


Kerning Cultures’ new podcast tells ‘forgotten tales’ from around the region

Kerning Cultures’ new podcast tells ‘forgotten tales’ from around the region
Updated 10 August 2022

Kerning Cultures’ new podcast tells ‘forgotten tales’ from around the region

Kerning Cultures’ new podcast tells ‘forgotten tales’ from around the region
  • Arabic-language show ‘Masafat’ aims to bridge ‘gap in media coverage,’ host says

DUBAI: Kerning Cultures Network has released a new show “Masafat” that aims to tell overlooked and forgotten stories spanning the Middle East region — from Jerusalem and Palestine to Egypt and Morocco.

Inspired by the network’s first English show “Kerning Cultures,” “Masafat” was launched because “we believe it’s important to have the same narrative style podcast in Arabic, telling stories in our native language — especially stories that are often overlooked or even forgotten,” Heba Afify, managing editor for Arabic content, told Arab News.

The show’s 13 episodes explore various topics, such as women in mahraganat (a popular form of street music in Egypt), Al-Quds Radio and how it contributed to the cultural and art scene in Palestine, block painting in Syria and reclaiming public spaces in Lebanon.

Afify, who also hosts the show, said: “There’s a gap in the media coverage when it comes to representation of what life looks like in our region, away from the politics and the sensational takes that often constitute the majority of media attention the region receives.”

She said the company was keen on “producing every episode with the perspective and knowledge of a local producer who knows the place and topic inside and out. So besides our diverse team, we collaborated with freelance producers from the countries that we cover in each episode.”

Although podcasts are a relatively new medium, they have grown in popularity with 67 percent of listeners in Saudi Arabia tuning in at least once a week, according to a 2021 report by Rising Giants Network.

“‘Masafat’ is built on the understanding that podcasts as a medium offer a safe space for stories that often don’t get featured or picked up by mainstream media,” said the network’s marketing director, Bella Ibrahim.

“Podcasts especially resonate with younger listeners that don’t feel seen or represented in mainstream media,” she added, with more than half of podcast listeners aged under 22, according to Mohtwize’s latest report.

The goal of “Masafat” is not only to tell overlooked stories but also to shine a light on the true nature of the region by exploring the “lost pieces of our history, the complex realities behind flashy headlines, inspirational journeys and the multifaceted unique realities of living in each corner of this region,” Afify said.

“Such nuanced coverage of our region grounded in deep knowledge and experience and an authentic and sympathetic approach is very much lacking and is crucial in correcting misrepresentation and giving our stories a place to be told.”


Taliban gunmen attack Al-Hadath TV team during live broadcast in Kabul

Taliban gunmen attack Al-Hadath TV team during live broadcast in Kabul
Updated 10 August 2022

Taliban gunmen attack Al-Hadath TV team during live broadcast in Kabul

Taliban gunmen attack Al-Hadath TV team during live broadcast in Kabul
  • Journalists were covering the UN’s aid distribution
  • Cameraman attacked with a whip, reporters pushed around

LONDON: Several armed Taliban members attacked an Al-Hadath TV team on Wednesday during a live broadcast while they were covering the Food and Agriculture Organization’s humanitarian aid distribution in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul.

In the video of the incident, Al-Hadath’s Kabul correspondent Christiane Baissary and her camera crew are seen being pushed around by men carrying guns, while the camera pans away.

Baissary is then heard saying “they attacked the cameraman,” while the camera focuses on two men waving their hands and guns at the TV team.

Al-Hadath’s correspondent then explains that the men are Taliban members in civilian dress.

“Some said we could film here, but others said we cannot,” explains Baissary. In the video, one armed Taliban man waves the camera away, and then forces the cameraman from the scene.

Baissary reiterates that one man has allowed them to film the FAO’s food aid distribution, but that another has attacked the cameraman with a whip, which is seen in his hand.

Baissary is then heard saying that they have to leave the scene, with the camera still rolling.

As the team members climb into their car, another Taliban man with a gun approaches the vehicle and the reporter is heard saying: “They entered the car and they are armed.”

The armed man then speaks to the driver and they drive off.

Since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have cracked down on press freedom in the country, prompting several watchdogs to increasingly voice their concerns about the safety of media workers.

According to the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Afghanistan ranks 156 out of 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press.

At least 12 journalists were arbitrarily arrested in Afghanistan in May, according to Reporters without Borders, despite the Taliban announcing the creation of a system for protecting media personnel.


Hamas issues, then rescinds, sweeping rules on Gaza coverage

Hamas issues, then rescinds, sweeping rules on Gaza coverage
Updated 10 August 2022

Hamas issues, then rescinds, sweeping rules on Gaza coverage

Hamas issues, then rescinds, sweeping rules on Gaza coverage
  • The Foreign Press Association, which represents international media, including The Associated Press, said the guidelines were rescinded after discussions with authorities in Gaza

TEL AVIV, Israel: Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers issued sweeping new restrictions on journalists after the recent conflict there, but then rescinded them, a group representing foreign media in Israel and the Palestinian territories said Tuesday.
Palestinians who work with foreign journalists were first informed of the new rules earlier this week in messages sent by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry. They were ordered not to report on Gazans killed by misfired Palestinian rockets or the military capabilities of Palestinian armed groups, and were told to blame Israel for the recent escalation.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents international media, including The Associated Press, said the guidelines were rescinded after discussions with authorities in Gaza.
The FPA said in a statement that “such a move would have constituted a severe, unacceptable and unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of the press, as well as the safety of our colleagues in Gaza,“
Salama Marouf, director of the government media office in Gaza, confirmed the reversal. “There are no restrictions,” he said. “We welcome all foreign journalists and media into Gaza and we call on them to come.”
The rules would have gone much further than existing Hamas restrictions. They appeared aimed at imposing the Islamic militant group’s narrative on media coverage of the conflict by implicitly threatening Palestinian reporters and translators who live under its heavy-handed rule.
Even if the rules are officially withdrawn, Hamas has still signaled its expectations, which could have a chilling effect on critical coverage.
In the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides have attempted to impose their narratives and limit negative coverage. Israel, which portrays itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, has a military censor who sometimes imposes gag orders. Israeli authorities also restrict media access to military activities and the country’s nuclear program.
Hamas’ attempt this week to muzzle the foreign media came after it sat out the latest conflict with Israel. The decision to stay on the sidelines likely reflects Hamas’ desire to preserve economic understandings with Israel that have somewhat eased a 15-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Hamas takeover.
After a Gaza cease-fire took hold Monday, following three days of fighting between Israel and Hamas’ smaller sister group Islamic Jihad, the Interior Ministry distributed a written copy of the rules to Palestinians applying for entry permits on behalf of foreign media outlets, with instructions to communicate them to the foreign journalists in their “own local way.”
Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007 from rival Palestinian forces, requires all visiting reporters to have a local sponsor — usually a Palestinian journalist or translator hired by the news outlet.
Under the now rescinded restrictions, sponsors were told they must accompany the journalists during their reporting and will be held responsible for what they produce. The sponsors were warned that they must “demonstrate national spirit, defend the Palestinian narrative and reject the foreigner’s bias to the Israeli narrative.”
They would have also been required to inform Hamas of “any suspicious behavior or illogical questions” outside the scope of journalistic work, and to submit a full report to Hamas of what the journalists did in Gaza, in addition to links to all published works.
The guidelines appeared to suggest that writing about forbidden topics like the rocket misfires — or about the media guidelines themselves — could have led to the revocation of local sponsorship. For a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, that would have meant the loss of vital income in a blockaded territory where unemployment hovers around 50 percent.
In many respects, Gaza became a much safer place for reporters after the Hamas takeover, when the group imposed order and put an end to kidnappings and factional violence. But as Hamas consolidated control — and went on to fight four wars and countless smaller battles with Israel — it steadily imposed more and more restrictions on media.
In recent years, Hamas has required journalists to apply for advance approval to film in certain locations, such as the Gaza fishing port, the beach and the gold market.
Hamas has also barred Palestinians from working for Israeli media or providing services to them. Palestinians are also barred from giving interviews to Israeli outlets.


Twitter says loading issues fixed after user complaints

Twitter says loading issues fixed after user complaints
Updated 09 August 2022

Twitter says loading issues fixed after user complaints

Twitter says loading issues fixed after user complaints
  • More than 27,000 users had reported outage of the service, according to Downdetector.com
  • The outage started at 1.50 p.m. ET and had as many as 35,000 reports at its peak

LONDON: Twitter Inc. said on Tuesday it had fixed issues after thousands of users reported that they were having trouble accessing the micro-blogging platform.
More than 27,000 users had reported outage of the service, according to Downdetector.com, a website which tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources including user-submitted errors on its platform.
The outage started at 1.50 p.m. ET and had as many as 35,000 reports at its peak.
“We fixed it! We made an internal systems change that didn’t go as planned and have rolled it back. Twitter should now be loading as expected. Sorry about that!,” Twitter said in a tweet.
This was the second outage in as many months.
The social media company is in a legal tussle with Tesla boss Elon Musk over his $44 billion takeover deal.
Last month, Twitter users faced a nearly three-hour outage in July, with the San Francisco-based company saying it had some trouble with its internal systems that impacted many globally.
Notorious for outages in its early years, Twitter was known for using its popular “Fail Whale” illustration, which showed a beluga whale being lifted by birds, during such incidents.
Twitter users took to Reddit to complain about the outage, with many users saying all they could see was the Twitter logo when they tried to log in.
“There is no Twitter to find out why Twitter isn’t working” one user joked on a Reddit channel dedicated to Twitter.
Twitter had suffered another widespread outage in February that it blamed on a software glitch.
Other big technology companies have also been hit by outages in the past year, with a near six-hour disruption at Meta Platforms keeping WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger out of reach for billions of users in October.