Big jump in tourism revenue could see Portugal end 2022 on high note

Exclusive Big jump in tourism revenue could see Portugal end 2022 on high note
Rita Marques, secretary of state for Tourism of Portugal, said she was optimistic that 2022 would end on a high note for the country. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 December 2022

Big jump in tourism revenue could see Portugal end 2022 on high note

Big jump in tourism revenue could see Portugal end 2022 on high note

RIYADH: Witnessing a strong rebound in tourism, Portugal has had an amazing summer with a quantum leap in revenue, according to the politician responsible for the sector.

Speaking to Arab News ahead of the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh, Rita Marques, Portugal's secretary of state for tourism, said she was optimistic that 2022 would end on a high note for the country.

“We expect to end this year with 10-15 percent more revenue than we did back in 2019 and we are very excited about these numbers,” she said. “We are also very happy with the overall resilience that the sector has shown because things had come to a standstill for two years.”

Talking about competition from neighboring countries and beyond, Marques said that, after the pandemic, there was room for everyone. “There is space for everyone to compete in the world of tourism,” she said. “And that’s not just because people are traveling more but because people are more and more curious about exploring new emotions and new experiences. Tourists are also getting more curious about discovering new spots.”

With regard to tourism opportunities in Portugal, she explained that the country offers a lot for tourists to discover.

“A couple of years ago, we were known to be a sunny place with beaches and all of that but now people come to Portugal for our golf courses, for our walking and cycling and more. And this allows us to compete with other destinations, not just with regular ones. We offer authentic and emotional experiences when tourists visit the old parts of Lisbon, for instance.” 

According to Marques, one of the main challenges that the tourism industry around the world is facing today is the shortage of talent because a lot of people left the industry during the pandemic. “In Europe, for instance, we lost pretty much 20 percent of our workforce,” she said. “So we need to create conditions for those people to come back. And how do we do that? Well, we need to open the door to migrants and that’s pretty much what we are doing.”

Marques added: “My message to everyone is to continue to invest in people because we might have nice places to visit, we might have nice cultural heritage sites, but if we don’t have trained people, then it’s going be hard to greet and host everyone. So it is important to pamper those that work in the sector and try to train them.”

Marques said she was glad that Saudi Arabia was taking the lead in this direction. 

“I know that the Kingdom has just launched a massive program to train more than 100,000 people to work in the tourism and sustainability sector. And that’s pretty much what we are doing as well but on a different scale, of course,” she added.  


Cigna Worldwide becomes 1st foreign health insurance firm to operate in Saudi Arabia

Cigna Worldwide becomes 1st foreign health insurance firm to operate in Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 sec ago

Cigna Worldwide becomes 1st foreign health insurance firm to operate in Saudi Arabia

Cigna Worldwide becomes 1st foreign health insurance firm to operate in Saudi Arabia

CAIRO: Cigna Worldwide Insurance Co. has become the first foreign health insurance company to start operations in the Kingdom following the issuance of a license by the Saudi Central Bank.

The permit aims to fulfill the objectives of the bank’s “Rules for Licensing and Supervision of Branches of Foreign Insurance and Reinsurance Companies in Saudi Arabia” initiative. 

It also comes as part of its role in supporting financial stability and contributing to economic growth aligned with Vision 2030’s objectives. 

The licensing falls under the strategy of the central bank, also known as SAMA, to encourage foreign direct investments to increase the sector’s competitiveness and utilize the Kingdom’s economic potential. 

“SAMA reaffirms its ongoing efforts to support the financial sector as a whole, raise the level of effectiveness and flexibility of financial transactions and encourage innovation in financial services,” stated SAMA’s website. 

Moreover, enabling new international entrants will enhance the quality of provided services, increase the diversification of investors and introduce unique business models to the market, according to the site.

 


Aramco announces deal with Zoom at LEAP 2023 

Aramco announces deal with Zoom at LEAP 2023 
Updated 7 min 34 sec ago

Aramco announces deal with Zoom at LEAP 2023 

Aramco announces deal with Zoom at LEAP 2023 

RIYADH: In line with the Kingdom’s aim to accelerate digital transformation, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Saudi Aramco, announced a strategic partnership with Zoom and an increase in funding for Wa’ed Ventures on Feb. 6.  

The announcements were made at the second edition of LEAP, a major international technology conference held annually in Saudi Arabia. 

With more than 700 speakers from 50 counties and 900 local and international companies in attendance at the Riyadh Front Center for Exhibitions and Conventions, this year’s edition of LEAP represents a huge economic advance in the Kingdom through many partnerships, deals and investment tours.

The strategic partnership with Aramco aims to build Zoom’s first global data center in the Kingdom to support the digital transformation ecosystem.

It is expected to connect to the Zoom global data center network and will serve Saudi Arabia and the region.

The two companies will also explore the joint development of innovative technology solutions for the energy sector. 

The partnership aims to contribute to the digital transformation of various market sectors, such as energy, industry, education and healthcare. 

Aramco also announced that additional funds had been allocated by the company to Wa’ed Ventures, increasing the size of its Kingdom-focused venture capital arm from $200 million to $500 million.

The increase aims to enable the company to deliver an accelerated investment performance regionally and globally.

Wa’ed Ventures intends to localize global frontier technologies to advance the Kingdom’s innovation ecosystem; expand investments in mid and growth-stage startups; and fund underserved domains such as environmental, social and governance, the metaverse and quantum computing. 

Amin Nasser, Aramco’s president and CEO, said: “Our establishment of a diversified network of partners has helped us maintain a track record of reliability, and our new strategic partnership with Zoom is expected to further enable innovative solutions focusing on the digital transformation ecosystem.”

“Furthermore, with an expanded fund size, Wa’ed Ventures aims to facilitate the cross-pollination of innovation between the global and local markets,” he added. 


Closing bell: TASI continues to decline, closes flat at 10,589 

Closing bell: TASI continues to decline, closes flat at 10,589 
Updated 24 min 32 sec ago

Closing bell: TASI continues to decline, closes flat at 10,589 

Closing bell: TASI continues to decline, closes flat at 10,589 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index on Monday lost 2.87 points — or 0.03 percent — to close at 10,588.58. 

While MSCI Tadawul 30 Index dropped 0.10 percent to 1,452.66, the parallel market Nomu slipped 0.76 percent to 18,761.95. 

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Monday was SR4.46 billion ($1.19 billion), with 101 stocks of the listed 224 advancing and 109 retreating. 

On Feb. 6, Saudi Reinsurance Co. was the topmost gainer, rising 5.73 percent to SR16.98.  

The other top gainers were Basic Chemical Industries Co., Riyadh Cables Group Co., Saudi Industrial Investment Group and Elm Co. 

The worst-performing stock of the day was Salama Cooperative Insurance Co., which dropped 3.81 percent to SR16.16. 

Other stocks that poorly performed were Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co., Riyad Bank, Alinma Bank and The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co. 

Among sectoral indices, 11 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined, while the rest advanced. 

The Software and Services Index was a clear winner, with the industry catapulting 2.98 percent to 38,040.86 and driving all five constituents in the green. 

On the other hand, the Food and Beverages Index fell 1.23 percent to 4,772.11. Five of the 10 constituents in the sector advanced and the rest declined. 

On the announcements front, Tihama Advertising and Public Relations Co. on Monday informed the stock exchange issued its prospectus for capital increase through an SR350 million rights issue. 

The company plans to offer 35 million shares, at SR10 per share, to raise the capital by 700 percent. 

Tihama aims to finance expansion plans and future investments, support working capital and pay off financial liabilities. The company’s share price rose 2.38 percent to SR94.8. 

Abdullah Saad Mohammed Abo Moati for Bookstores Co. announced that financial statements for the third quarter ended Dec. 31, 2022, might miss the disclosure deadline due to a cyberattack on its servers on Dec. 8, 2022. 

Abo Moati said the cyberattack resulted in the loss of financial data from Nov. 4 to Dec. 7, 2022. However, it restored data through hardcopy backups. 

The company also assigned an accredited cybersecurity company to examine the systems and network to ensure operations ran smoothly and normally. Its share price fell 2.46 percent to SR27.75. 

Meanwhile, Leejam Sports Co. signed on Feb. 5 a memorandum of understanding with UAE-based healthcare provider Burjeel Holding Co. to start a partnership in physiotherapy and sports healthcare services in Saudi Arabia. 

Both companies plan to establish a new company in a 50-50 partnership, the sports company said in a statement to Tadawul. 

The partnership aims to establish and operate a network of physiotherapy, rehabilitation and sports healthcare clinics within and outside Leejam centers in the Kingdom. 

The statement said it would also include the provision of physiotherapy and related wellness services, with a particular focus on sports medicine and advanced rehabilitation therapies. Leejam Sports’ share price closed flat at SR86.4. 


Microsoft, Huawei and Oracle among $9bn of tech deals announced during LEAP23 in Riyadh 

Microsoft, Huawei and Oracle among $9bn of tech deals announced during LEAP23 in Riyadh 
Updated 54 min 54 sec ago

Microsoft, Huawei and Oracle among $9bn of tech deals announced during LEAP23 in Riyadh 

Microsoft, Huawei and Oracle among $9bn of tech deals announced during LEAP23 in Riyadh 

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia witnessed the signing of $9 billion worth of investment contracts on the first day of the global tech event LEAP23 that began on Feb. 6 in Riyadh. 

Aimed at supporting future technology, digital entrepreneurship and tech startups, the deals were announced by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Abdullah Al-Sawaha, during his opening speech at the event that will run till Feb. 9. 

These deals include Microsoft’s $2.1 billion investment that the tech giant is putting in to develop a super-wide cloud in the Kingdom, while Oracle’s agreed to invest $1.5 billion to establish a new cloud region in the country.  

Chinese tech firm Huawei also pumped in $400 million to offer cloud services in the Kingdom, while state oil firm Aramco formed a partnership with Zoom worth $434 million to establish a cloud area. In addition, the event saw the signing of $4.5 billion worth of other deals with a wide range of global and local firms for various sectors.  

These investments aim to strengthen the Kingdom’s position as the largest digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa region aligned with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s goal to empower the technology sector.  

Al-Sawaha stated that hosting the LEAP23 conference is a global affirmation of the great support directed by the Kingdom to transform the economy into a digital landscape that promises rapid developments in line with Vision 2030.  

The conference also witnessed some major announcements including Meta launching the opening of the first Metaverse Academy in MENA, headquartered in Saudi Arabia; WEO Technology and Camel Lab launching Hektar, a multi-content social media app. In addition, MENA Communication and STC announced the launching of Beem – a new application for instant messaging, high-quality voice and video calls, and business features.  

Al-Sawaha stressed that the technology sector holds unprecedented opportunities supported by the Crown Prince in sub-sectors including digital economics, Internet of Things, health tech, quantitative sciences, space and satellites, fintech and open sources.  

In his opening speech, the minister stated that the event is set to host more than 250,000 attendees, as opposed to 100,000 last year, and will continue to see more investments as the Kingdom holds a $42 billion opportunity platform and stands as the largest technology market in the region.  

He added that Saudi Arabia continues to lead the human technical workforce with more than 340,000 workers in the market and female participation in the technical sector reaching 32.5 percent, higher than the average of the EU and Silicon Valley.  

Taking place at the Riyadh Front Center for Exhibitions and Conventions, the conference was launched under the title “Towards New Horizons” with more than 400 global and local technology companies. 


Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert
Updated 06 February 2023

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

RIYADH: The oil market is on track to reach balanced levels between supply and demand in 2023, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center expert Colin Ward said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

During 2023, oil supply is projected to surge 2.7 million barrels per day while demand is expected to increase by 1.8 million bpd, the research expert disclosed.

“We're going to see a market that pretty much hit some form of balance,” Ward told Arab News on the sidelines of the International Association for Energy Economics conference in Riyadh. 

Despite this, the KAPSARC expert noted that many unprecedented events could consequently alter demand figures such as whether or not there is a recession coming.

In addition to this, China’s reopening also poses a factor that could impact the demand for oil, Ward revealed.

“We're already seeing indications that their demand for jet fuel is going up significantly because people are traveling a lot more,” he explained.

Speaking on the supply side, Ward reveals that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as well as the behavior of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other key market players could potentially influence supply figures.

“If we are worried that the price cap is going to somehow have pushed back to where Russia may not wish to provide as much oil to the market, the 2 million barrels that OPEC pulled off is acting as a supply buffer, which means that it could come back online,” he exposed. 

In response to the price cap, people have been stocking up in order to assure that supplies are going to last, the KAPSARC expert pointed out.

“Going forward, there's going to be a period of probably a month or two where the logistics of delivering oil from sources to the consumers are going to take some time to get sorted out,” the researcher highlighted.

“We expect that there's probably going to be an increase in fuels being produced by some nations like China, India, perhaps Turkey or some others who would be able to supply the global market with these fuels,” he added.

The 44th IAEE International Conference is being held in the Saudi capital from Feb. 4 to 9, in what is a first for the Middle East and North African Region.

The event’s theme is “Pathways to a clean, stable, and sustainable energy future”, and is being hosted by KAPSARC and Saudi Association for Energy Economics.

More than 500 delegates from 40 countries are anticipated to attend the conference, with topics set to be discussed including energy, economic development, and climate change, the Circular Carbon Economy, and the role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

The IAEE is a global non-profit organization formed in the US in 1977 and works to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas around the economic analysis of energy resources.