Makkah’s hotel occupancy rises to 80%, the highest since 2020  

Makkah’s hotel occupancy rises to 80%, the highest since 2020  
Hotel rates, particularly in Makkah, are determined by certain factors, including supply and demand, proximity to the Grand Mosque, room views and amenities. (Shutterstock) 
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Updated 03 April 2023
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Makkah’s hotel occupancy rises to 80%, the highest since 2020  

Makkah’s hotel occupancy rises to 80%, the highest since 2020  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s hotel sector is witnessing a significant resurgence, with room occupancy in Makkah reaching 80 percent during the holy month of Ramadan this year, the highest level in the last three years.    

This resulted in room rates also climbing to record levels due to high demand, especially during the last 10 days of the season, according to the chairman of the Hajj and Umrah Committee of the Makkah Chamber, Abdullah Al-Qadi.  

Al-Qadi noted that hotel rates, particularly in Makkah, are determined by certain factors, including supply and demand, proximity to the Grand Mosque, room views and amenities.  

He also added that the hotel rates are similar to the prices of the airline tickets, especially those in the central region, where prices increase gradually as the season approaches.  

Al-Qadi revealed that the Ministry of Tourism worked with investors in Makkah with total transparency and clarity to restore the hotel sector’s recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He added that several remote meetings were held to address various issues faced by the investors – something that helped the sector achieve a speedy recovery.  

According to a survey conducted by the Saudi newspaper Al-Eqtisadiah on hotel room prices in Makkah’s central district during the last ten years, the rates soared between SR3,000 ($800) and SR9,000 per room per day.  

This year’s Ramadan season also saw a large turnout, particularly with the opening of visas and the facilities offered by the Kingdom to pilgrims from abroad.  

According to the Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia initiated 10 new policies in December to expand the tourism sector and protect tourists, describing the new laws as “a promising step toward a prosperous tourism future” in a tweet.  

According to a Saudi Press Agency report, the Kingdom’s hotel, restaurant, transportation, food and commercial sectors have benefited from the surge of Umrah pilgrims, as ready-made clothes, gifts and Zamzam water topped the list of the most demanded goods among pilgrims.   

Al-Khateeb also announced in November last year that the Kingdom is offering investment opportunities worth $6 trillion in the travel and tourism sector through 2030. 


Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 
Updated 8 sec ago
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Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

RIYADH: In a significant development for Saudi Arabia’s technology sector, Egyptian deep tech firm Intella has successfully secured $3.4 million in a pre-series A funding round. This funding round was led by Saudi-based HALA Ventures and Wa’ed Ventures, the venture arm of Aramco. 

The capital injection is set to accelerate Intella’s foray into the Saudi market and underpin the development of artificial intelligence models tailored for the Middle East and North Africa audience.    

To demonstrate its commitment to the market, Intella is strategically relocating its headquarters to Saudi Arabia, positioning itself in the midst of the Kingdom's growing tech and AI landscape. 

“Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming a hub for technological advances. This move fits perfectly with our plans for expansion,” said Nour Taher, CEO and co-founder.   

In its pursuit of technological excellence, Intella’s Voice system achieved a 95.73 percent accuracy rate after extensive testing involving 30,000 hours of Arabic audio. This accuracy rate surpasses industry giants like Google and IBM Watson. 

Omar Mansour, Intella’s co-founder and chief technology officer, highlighted the Arabic-focused voice technology, emphasizing its move into advanced audio analytics.   

Hailing Intella’s pioneering approach, Ali Abussaud of HALA Ventures noted: “We’re excited to back Intella’s vision. They’re making significant strides in connecting global AI progress with the needs of the Arab-speaking community, and it’s exactly the kind of initiative the region needs right now.”   

As Intella aims to lead the way in Arabic voice technology, this funding brings it closer to its goal of aligning the MENA region with global tech advancements. 

The funding round also received contributions from Sanabil500, INSEAD’s alumni angel network, and several other prominent investors.


SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 

SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 
Updated 31 min 2 sec ago
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SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 

SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 

RIYADH: In a bid to further strengthen its commitment to sustainability, Saudia Dairy & Foodstuff Co. has entered into an agreement with National Transport Solutions Co. to introduce zero-emission vehicles into its fleet. 

According to a press statement, this initiative, aimed at reducing carbon emissions, aligns with SADAFCO’s Sustainability 2030 Vision. Under the agreement, NTSC will assist SADAFCO in quantifying the current carbon emissions produced by its vehicle fleet and will help formulate a comprehensive roadmap for the transition to ZEVs. 

“SADAFCO is committed to creating a sustainable future through decarbonization. The decarbonization journey with NTSC is another crucial step toward creating a more sustainable future,” said Patrick Stillhart, CEO of SADAFCO.  

He added: “By switching to electric vehicles, SADAFCO will reduce carbon emissions and help create a cleaner, healthier world. Decarbonization is a long-term goal that requires a transformation of the energy systems. At SADAFCO, we have already set up our solar-powered warehouses and are planning to add more.”   

The proposed project will be executed in several phases. In the initial phase, an analysis will be conducted to assess the current carbon emissions generated by SADAFCO’s vehicle fleet.  

Subsequently, the focus will shift to assessing the availability of zero-emission vehicles in Saudi Arabia. This will be followed by integrating emissions data, fleet composition, operational cycles, and ZEV availability to formulate a strategic roadmap for the transition. 

“This partnership underscores SADAFCO’s unwavering commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, driving sustainability initiatives, and fostering a greener future. Both SADAFCO and NTSC are eager to set a precedent for responsible corporate citizenship in the region with this move toward sustainable transportation,” stated the company in the press statement.   

In July, SADAFCO, one of the prominent names in Saudi Arabia’s food market, announced a net profit of SR107.63 million ($28.69 million) for the first quarter of 2023, compared to SR56.27 million in the same period the previous year. 


Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears

Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears
Updated 54 min 54 sec ago
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Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears

Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears

LONDON: Oil fell on Wednesday, as Saudi Arabia’s announcement to continue crude output cuts to the end of 2023 was offset by demand fears stemming from macroeconomic headwinds.

Brent crude oil futures were down 87 cents, or 0.96 percent, to $90.05 a barrel at 1:14 p.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 94 cents, or 1.05 percent, to $88.29 per barrel.

Both contracts traded more than $1 lower than Tuesday’s settlement price at their intraday on Wednesday, with Brent falling to $89.83 a barrel, and WTI to $88.11 a barrel.

Prices remain under pressure from demand fears driven by macroeconomic headwinds.

“Oil prices are resuming their decline amid concerns over high interest rates for longer, hurting the demand outlook and as investors look ahead to the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting,” said Fiona Cincotta, analyst at City Index.

Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry confirmed on Wednesday it will continue its voluntary 1 million barrel per day crude supply cut until the end of this year.

Russia said it will continue its current 300,000 bpd crude export cuts until the end of the year, and will review its voluntary 500,000 bpd output cut, set back in April, in November.

Russia was also discussing partial permission for fuel exports “at all levels,” state-run TASS agency reported on Wednesday, citing Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov.

The Kremlin could be ready to ease its diesel ban in coming days, according to a daily Kommersant report on Wednesday citing unidentified sources.

A strong US dollar could also be weighing on investor sentiment.

The current dollar strength is “a rally that will continue to haunt all markets including oil, even when, as is now, there is a compelling fundamental backdrop,” PVM analyst John Evans said.

As the trade currency of oil, a strong dollar makes oil comparatively expensive for holders of other currencies, which can dampen demand.

Elsewhere, latest purchasing managers’ index data showed a score of 47.2 in September for the euro zone, edging higher from 46.7 in August. Anything below 50 implies economic contraction.


Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  

Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  
Updated 04 October 2023
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Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  

Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  

RIYADH: The Makkah Chamber of Commerce has been honored with this year’s Economic Excellence Award in recognition of its commitment to providing constructive economic solutions for the business sector in the city. 

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the announcement was made on Monday by the governorate of Makkah, which organizes the award annually.  

The chamber had previously received the Urban Excellence Branch Prize, SPA reported. 

Over the recent period, the organization has undertaken numerous projects and initiatives of significant economic and social value while playing a crucial role in supporting various business sectors. 

One of the notable initiatives was the tripartite benefits agreement, which brought together the Makkah Chamber, the Madinah Chamber and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture to transform the two cities into centers for financial and commercial activities in the Islamic world. 


DEWA inks 30-year deal with ACWA Power for desalination plant  

DEWA inks 30-year deal with ACWA Power for desalination plant  
Updated 04 October 2023
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DEWA inks 30-year deal with ACWA Power for desalination plant  

DEWA inks 30-year deal with ACWA Power for desalination plant  

RIYADH: In a bid to further boost its desalination capacity, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has inked a 30-year water purchase agreement with Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power for developing the first phase of the seawater reverse osmosis plant at Hassyan.  

The completion of this initial phase is expected to boost DEWA’s water desalination capacity to 670 million imperial gallons per day by 2027, up from the current 490 MIGD, as stated in a press release.  

In August, DEWA announced ACWA Power as the preferred bidder for the first phase of the project, with a 3.35 billion dirham ($914 million) investment. 

Considered the world’s largest project of its kind, the Hassyan IWP is DEWA’s first endeavor under the independent water producer model, spanning an area of 252,300 sq. meters. It is part of DEWA's initiative to raise its water desalination capacity to 730 MIGD by 2030. 

Mohammad Abunayyan, founder and chairman of ACWA Power, said: “The Hassyan IWP will be the largest plant of its kind in the world, and we have set a new record for the lowest levelized water tariff. The plant will be highly efficient, desalinating water through reverse osmosis powered by solar energy.”   

He added: “With this project, we are reaffirming our commitment with our partners toward achieving the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050.”   

Saeed Mohammed Al-Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA, said that this agreement with ACWA Power will help carry out desalination in Dubai in a sustainable manner, thus contributing to Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050.   

“We are building water production plants based on seawater reverse osmosis technology, which require less energy than multi-stage flash distillation plants, making it a more sustainable choice for water desalination. By 2030, DEWA aims to produce 100 percent of desalinated water by a mix of clean energy and waste heat,” added Al-Tayer.   

In August, DEWA selected state-owned renewable energy firm Masdar to construct and manage the 1,800-megawatt sixth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, as part of its clean energy promotion efforts.  

With an estimated cost of up to 5.51 billion dirhams, the solar park will be developed under the independent power producer model. 

A report released in August by UK-based Global Water Intelligence revealed that ACWA Power is the world’s largest water developer outside of China.  

ACWA Power leads the list of top global water developers with 6.8 million cubic meters per day of gross capacity and 3.2 million cubic meters per day of net capacity.