Middle East Asia-Pacific to account for 58% of global air passengers by 2040: ACI

Middle East Asia-Pacific to account for 58% of global air passengers by 2040: ACI
Middle Eastern airports are expected to handle 1.1 billion passengers by 2040. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 27 November 2022

Middle East Asia-Pacific to account for 58% of global air passengers by 2040: ACI

Middle East Asia-Pacific to account for 58% of global air passengers by 2040: ACI

RIYADH: Air passenger demand is likely to double globally over the next 20 years, with Asia-Pacific and the Middle East accounting for 58 percent of the volume, according to a report by Airports Council International.

Global passenger numbers are forecast to rise from 9.2 billion in 2019 to about 19 billion in 2040 predicted the ACI Asia-Pacific's Airport Industry Outlook, a quarterly assessment of the airports' performances.

Of this volume, Middle Eastern airports are expected to handle 1.1 billion passengers by 2040 – a significant increase of nearly 300 percent of the combined traffic of 505 million they handled in 2019.

ACI Director General of ACI Asia-Pacific Stefano Baronci said that the region must prepare itself for the oncoming influx: "The consistent improvement in passenger volumes in the region is a positive indication of a sustained recovery of the industry following prolonged efforts towards rebuilding passenger confidence in air travel." 

He said restoring international connectivity will take longer and will be partly dependent on the decision of China to re-connect to the World.  "The macroeconomic headwinds, less acute in Asia than other western regions, should not hamper a process of growth, subject to continue to maintain the freedom to travel without restrictions." 

"All the stakeholders engaged in the aviation ecosystem must prepare to the surge in traffic,” insisted the ACI director general.

The Middle East is an ideally located axis for travel — aircraft flying from the geographical crossroads can reach almost all of Asia, Africa, and Europe within eight hours.

Tourism is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, to contribute to diversifying the base of the national economy, attracting investments, increasing sources of income, and providing job opportunities for citizens, as the sector is witnessing rapid growth as a result of plans to promote the tourism sector.

Last month, a report by the World Tourism Organization listed Saudi Arabia as top of the Group of 20 countries for the flow rating of international tourists in the first seven months of 2022.

The report, released during the G20 tourism ministers’ meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, did not detail the exact number of travelers who visited the Kingdom, but claimed the sector saw a growth rate of 121 percent in the first half of 2022.

During the event, Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the surge in tourist inflow aligns with the Kingdom’s economic diversification policies and aims to increase tourism’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, as outlined in Vision 2030, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Calling Saudi Arabia one of the fastest-growing markets for tourism, Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom’s tourism sector is accelerating at a rate of 14 percent compared to the pre-coronavirus pandemic period.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 450,000 tourist visas were issued, since the Kingdom’s Tourism Authority launched the tourist visa program in 2019, by targeting 49 countries in the initial stage, and facilitated access to tourist visas electronically or through entry points to the Kingdom within specific regulatory controls.

Earlier in June, Al-Khateeb said that Saudi Arabia has allocated $100 million to provide training for 100,000 people to work in the tourism and sustainability sector.

He added that 90 hotels were launched in the Kingdom as a part of its tourism strategy, and more hotels will be opened soon, with 70 percent being funded by the private sector.

Al-Khateeb, in June, told AFP that the Kingdom is hoping to attract 12 million foreign visitors in 2022, up from the 4 million tourists who visited Saudi Arabia in 2021.

“Saudi Arabia will change the tourism landscape globally. The destinations that Saudi will offer by 2030, it’s something completely different,” he said.


Saudi Arabia’s total tourism spending surges 93% to hit $49bn in 2022, minister reveals 

Saudi Arabia’s total tourism spending surges 93% to hit $49bn in 2022, minister reveals 
Updated 8 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s total tourism spending surges 93% to hit $49bn in 2022, minister reveals 

Saudi Arabia’s total tourism spending surges 93% to hit $49bn in 2022, minister reveals 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s tourism spending surged 93 percent in 2022 to hit SR185 billion ($49 billion), up from SR95.6 billion in 2021, as the Kingdom continues to diversify its economy as part of Vision 2030. 

The Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqil Al-Khatib revealed these details during his monthly meeting with citizens, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Reviewing the achievements made by the sector during the year 2022, the minister said: "The direct contribution of the sector in the gross domestic product amounted to 3.2 percent of the total target of 10 percent by 2030.”  

Moreover, he noted that the number of jobs in 2022 reached 880,000, reflecting an increase of 15 percent when compared to the previous year. 

“The percentage of Saudi women in the tourism sector also increased to reach 44 percent of the total workers in the sector,” Al-Khatib added.  

He also urged investors in the sector to adhere to the new regulations set by the ministry in order to achieve a healthy competitive environment that is both fair and attractive to investment. 

The new regulations tackle developing the proper procedures and requirements for practicing tourism activities while taking into consideration the diversity of services provided and raising quality levels. 

Additionally, the minister also stressed on the need to further raise the level of services provided in the sector through training and preparing the human cadre, which is the main factor in upgrading the sector. 

"The ministry is seeking to provide one million jobs in the tourism sector with its various activities, which requires the establishment of training institutes and the building and development of training programs and services in the field of hospitality and tourism,” Al-Khatib explained. 

Furthermore, the ministry launched a joint borrowing program with the banking sector to finance medium, small, and micro enterprises in an attempt to enhance investments in the sector. 

During 2022, the Ministry of Tourism also implemented as many as 11 advertising campaigns to introduce and market tourism in the Kingdom, reaching 35 countries. 


PIF signs deal to build indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia

PIF signs deal to build indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia
Updated 1 min 29 sec ago

PIF signs deal to build indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia

PIF signs deal to build indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has signed a joint venture agreement with US-based AeroFarms to establish a company in Riyadh to build and operate indoor vertical farms in the Kingdom and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.

The deal will allow the joint venture to use AeroFarms’ proprietary smart agriculture technology platform, AgTech, to produce high-quality crops all year round.

The agreement will optimize the utilization of natural resources, including water and agricultural lands, through the implementation of indoor vertical farming, with no need for arable land, resulting in significantly higher yields and using up to 95 percent less water versus traditional field farming, according to a PIF statement.

The joint venture plans to build and operate several farms across the region in the next few years. The first farm in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to be the largest indoor vertical farm of its kind in the MENA region, will have an annual production capacity of up to 1.1 million kilos of agricultural crops.

Majed Al-Assaf, head of consumer goods and retail, MENA Investments Division at PIF, said: “The agreement with AeroFarms will lead to the establishment of indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia and the wider MENA region, increasing regional reliance on locally produced, high-quality crops grown in a sustainable way using the latest technologies. PIF is enabling the growth of the food and agriculture sector and localizing technology that can benefit private sector industry participants.”

The partnership aligns with PIF’s strategy, which focuses on developing and enabling the capabilities of key sectors, including food and agriculture, which will contribute to improving the trade balance, localizing technologies, developing industries, and the overall growth and diversification of the Saudi economy.

David Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of AeroFarms, said: “We are excited to partner with PIF to build our first large-scale commercial farm in Saudi Arabia, where the growing conditions are challenging with limited access to fresh water and arable land, and we envision building together smart indoor vertical farms throughout the broader MENA region.”

PIF is investing to localize new agricultural technologies that can benefit the local private sector, expanding its market reach and positioning Saudi Arabia as a leader in vertical farming.


SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 
Updated 16 min 56 sec ago

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

RIYADH: The impact of soaring inflation on the world’s economies, and the Middle East and North Africa region in particular, was among the most important topics that dominated this year’s annual conference of the Saudi Central Bank. 

This falls in line with the 2023 theme of the conference — Inflation Dynamics During Uncertain Times: The Path Toward Stable and Sustainable Recovery. 

The second annual Central Bank Conference on Development Economics in the Middle East and North Africa was held on Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, in Riyadh. 

During his opening speech, SAMA Deputy Governor for Research and International Affairs Fahad Alshathri encouraged academic research on behalf of the conference to enhance economic growth and stability.   

The governor added that the conference promoted the participation of the region’s economic entities to discuss the main issues facing policymakers.  

Alshathri also drew on the initiatives launched by SAMA to develop economic and financial research to boost the Kingdom’s economy further, which backs the Saudi Vision 2030 goals.   

Held under the patronage of SAMA Governor Fahad Almubarak, the event saw the participation of several central bank officials, senior economic researchers and top international speakers including the vice president of the World Bank Ferid Belhaj. 

The conference aligns with SAMA’s continuous efforts to develop research in different fields, as well as promote collaboration with local and international researchers and economists. 


UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 
Updated 27 min 9 sec ago

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

CAIRO: UAE-based agriculture technology startup Pure Harvest has signed a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s National Agricultural Development Co. to deliver a large-scale national food security project. 

Pure Harvest will increase production capacity over the next five years by farming a wide range of crops, while the Saudi company, also known as Nadec, will market these products to its consumer base, hotels, restaurants, and catering partners. 

The partnership will enable the production of locally and sustainably grown fresh produce on more than 27 hectares on Nadec's farms. 

“Nadec is a formidable incumbent food supplier with a sterling reputation and brand, sizeable landholdings and enabling infrastructure, and an experienced leadership team,” Sky Kurtz, Founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, said. 

Nadec is the first listed agricultural company in the Saudi exchange market and produces over 1.5 million liters of dairy and juice per day, serving over 40,000 stories in the region as well as employing over 7,000 people. 

Both Nadec and Pure Harvest completed and commissioned their first-ever project in December 2021, producing over fifteen varieties of high-quality, hydroponically-grown tomatoes in an approximately six-hectare high-tech, climate-controlled growing system in Nadec City, Haradh. 

Pure Harvest raised $64.5 million in funding last October, and has secured over $280 million in total funding since its inception. 


Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance
Updated 01 February 2023

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

CAIRO: Egyptian microfinance lending and payments company MNT-Halan is securing $400 million in new equity and finance, bringing its valuation to more than $1 billion, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The investments include an equity stake of at least 20 percent of MNT-Halan worth more than $200 million taken by private equity firm Chimera Abu Dhabi. Another $60 million in primary capital is being secured from international investors, the statement said.

These investors include the International Finance Corporation, according to data on the IFC's website.

MNT-Halan obtained $140 million in financing by securitizing part of its loan book, the statement said.

MNT-Halan provides small- and micro-business lending, payments, consumer finance and e-commerce, the company said. It has more than 5 million customers in Egypt, of which 3.5 million are financial clients and 2 million are borrowers. About 1.3 million of the customers are active monthly.

New legislation and regulatory changes in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, have been helping attract a surge in new fintech investments and change the way the country's largely unbanked citizens do business.

"Following the completion of these investments, MNT-Halan’s valuation will exceed $1 billion," the statement added.

Previous investors in MNT-Halan include Cairo-based Lorax Capital Partners, and Middle Eastern venture capitalists Algebra Ventures, DisrupTech, Endeavor Catalyst, Egypt Ventures, MEVP and Wamda.