Brazil invests in attracting more Muslim tourists

Brazil invests in attracting more Muslim tourists
São Paulo state’s goal is to improve the quality of the Muslim tourist’s experience by providing useful information and training the hotel and restaurant workers to adequately welcome them. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 27 January 2024
Follow

Brazil invests in attracting more Muslim tourists

Brazil invests in attracting more Muslim tourists
  • São Paulo, Brazil’s major economic hub, welcomed 21,500 tourists from Arab nations last year

SÃO PAULO: As the biggest exporter of halal protein in the world, Brazil is now aiming to attract Muslim tourists, a group that generates an income of $238 billion every year.

Currently, the number of visitors to the South American country coming from Muslim-majority countries is rather low. São Paulo, Brazil’s major economic hub, for instance, welcomed only 21,500 tourists from Arab nations last year.

People like Ali Zoghbi want to transform that reality. The secretary-general of the International Halal Academy, which offers training on halal products and services, told Arab News that both São Paulo state and the Federal District, where Brazil’s capital city Brasilia is located, are making efforts to become Muslim-friendly tourist destinations.

“We believe that São Paulo has several advantages when it comes to welcoming Muslims tourists, so we began to work along with the state’s tourism secretary in order to develop a program to qualify hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies to receive Muslims,” said Zoghbi, who is also the vice-president of halal certifier Fambras Halal.

São Paulo has a highly diverse population, including a century-old Muslim community, and several mosques. It’s the major gateway for Brazil and the most important destination for businessmen from the Islamic world.

“We developed a Muslim-friendly tourist guide, which includes information concerning the region’s mosques, consulates of Muslim-majority countries, and tourist attractions,” Ana Clemente, the state’s tourism coordinator, told Arab News.

Clemente affirmed that the state’s goal is to improve the quality of the Muslim tourists’ experience in São Paulo by providing useful information and training the hotels’ and restaurants’ workers to adequately welcome them.

“The idea is also to reduce the potential prejudice against Muslims,” she said. 

We believe that São Paulo has several advantages when it comes to welcoming Muslims tourists, so we began to work along with the state’s tourism secretary in order to develop a program to qualify hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies to receive Muslims.

Ali Zoghbi, VP of Fambras Halal

Today, US, European, Chilean, and Argentinian tourists make up the majority of visitors arriving in São Paulo every year.

“But there are several attractions for Muslim tourists in São Paulo’s metropolitan area and in the countryside as well,” she added.

Since the program began, a leading hotel in the city of São Paulo has obtained a Muslim-friendly certificate and two others have been working on it.

“The necessary adjustments are not so demanding, but a few details are important, like including in the rooms stickers showing the qibla, taking out alcohol from rooms for Muslim guests, and segregating all pork from the other items on the menu,” Zoghbi explained.

Implementing shower hoses in bathrooms for ablution, offering prayer rugs and making available copies of the Holy Qur’an are also relevant measures, he added.

“The great challenge is to make the guest feel at home. We have to know the differences and understand who those people are and what their needs are,” Zoghbi said.

After São Paulo started the program in 2023, the Federal District government also announced the intention of investing in Muslim-friend tourism. An agreement was signed with the International Hala Academy in December.

“Like São Paulo, Brasilia is a city that welcomes people from different cultural backgrounds. We’re now beginning to offer workshops to hotels, travel agencies, and transportation companies,” Zoghbi said. In the next phase, businesses interested in getting a Muslim-friendly certificate will be trained and audited by Fambras.

Zoghbi sees the effort to attract Islamic tourism as something similar to the first export of Brazilian halal beef to the Arab world in 1976. 

“The first sale was irrelevant, only a small amount of beef. Today, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of halal protein,” he compared.

He wants to redirect part of the flux of Muslims that visit major European capitals and the US to Brazil, a country famous for its many natural wonders.

“But those destinations have been prepared to welcome Muslims for more time than us,” he said.

Lebanese-born Brazilian entrepreneur Karen Hayek agrees. She told Arab News that until recently the South American country was not ready to deal with fully observant Muslims. That’s why she decided to launch a travel agency focused on tourists from Gulf nations.

“Our idea was to prepare Brazil to welcome Arabs. Today we have a list of restaurants and hotels which can receive those guests,” she affirmed.

HaLatina, Hayek’s company, works to mediate cultural and language barriers that Arab tourists face in Brazil. The idea emerged after Hayek realized that many Arab businessmen came to Brazil alone to take part in meetings and then faced the long journey back to the Gulf without properly getting to know the country. 

FASTFACTS

• São Paulo has a highly diverse population, including a century-old Muslim community, and several mosques. It’s the major gateway for Brazil and the most important destination for businessmen from the Islamic world.

• Both São Paulo state and the Federal District, where Brazil’s capital city Brasilia is located, are making efforts to become Muslim-friendly tourist destinations.

• Zoghbi sees the effort to attract Islamic tourism as something similar to the first export of Brazilian halal beef to the Arab world in 1976.

“They were afraid of Brazil and believed that there was nothing for them here. So, our suggestion for them is: Come to Brazil with your family and we will take care of all of you,” she affirmed.

While São Paulo is the main business destination, Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguaçu – where the gigantic Iguazu Falls are located – and the Amazon are the main tourist spots. All of them can be fully enjoyed by Arabs and Muslims, Hayek said.

The city of Foz do Iguaçu is a significant exception. With a huge Muslim community, it has been prepared as a halal destination over the past year. But the rest of the country still poses some challenges.

“Of course, we still have a low number of restaurants where Muslim families can have privacy and women can take off their scarves to eat, for instance. But little by little the market will adapt itself to attend to those needs,” she affirmed.

The lack of halal restaurants can be compensated in most of Brazil by the omnipresent offer of fish and seafood, Hayek added.

“We’re already advertising in the Arab world and are 100 percent prepared to welcome Muslim tourists,” she concluded.


Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum

Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum
Updated 22 April 2024
Follow

Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum

Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum
  • The aim of the gathering is to find solutions to global challenges relating to humanitarian issues, the climate and the economy

RIYADH: Final preparations are taking place this week in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for a special meeting of the World Economic Forum in the city on April 28 and 29.

Heads of state and senior executives from the public and private sectors are expected to be among the participants, who will discuss a range of global economic issues and developments under the theme “Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development.”

The aim of the meeting is to find solutions to a host of global challenges relating to humanitarian issues, the climate and the economy. On the sidelines of the main event, the Kingdom will host exhibitions and other events to highlight the latest developments and trends in areas such as sustainability, innovation and culture.

The selection of Riyadh as host of the special meeting reflects the extensive partnership between Saudi Arabia and the WEF, officials said.

It builds upon the Kingdom’s active participation and contributions to the WEF’s Annual Meetings in Davos.

The agenda is designed to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and collaboration with various panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities. It represents a significant gathering of global leaders and experts dedicated to forging a path toward a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world.


ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 
Updated 22 April 2024
Follow

ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

RIYADH: Saudi energy giant ACWA Power is signing a new agreement to accelerate the development of renewable projects in Azerbaijan. 

The private water desalination company, known for its extensive green hydrogen storage capacity, announced it has now finalized an agreement with SOCAR, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic.

This development follows an initial cooperation understanding signed in February 2023.

This deal focuses on the joint evaluation of the “Low-Carbon/Green Fertilizer” project, in which the two bodies will collaborate on assessing the production of green hydrogen to support the decarbonization of SOCAR downstream assets.

Marco Arcelli, CEO of ACWA Power, said in a statement, “I am proud to announce our collaboration with SOCAR to ignite a new era of renewable energy development in Azerbaijan. With our shared vision and commitment to sustainability, this partnership will not only drive innovation but also pave the way for a cleaner and brighter future for this country.”

The primary directive of the agreement will be to enhance SOCAR’s carbamide fertilizer facility, striving toward more value-added low-carbon products.

As part of the project, SOCAR and ACWA Power will conduct feasibility studies to assess the potential production and sale of green fertilizers, aligning with Azerbaijan’s vision of achieving a clean environment.

ACWA Power will take a role in driving the project’s renewable energy and green hydrogen production aspects, bringing their expertise to bear on this initiative.

For his part, Anar Mammadov, vice president of SOCAR, said, “Azerbaijan is committed to building a sustainable future, and our partnership with ACWA Power underscores our shared dedication to driving renewable energy development in the region. Together, we will work towards realizing our vision of a cleaner, greener Azerbaijan.”

He added: “The cooperation with ACWA Power represents a significant step forward in Azerbaijan’s transition towards a low-carbon economy and underscores the commitment of both organizations to sustainable development practices.” 

Preceding this announcement, the two nations posed their intent to collaborate on renewables as Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman met with Azerbaijan’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev in March.

During the meeting, the counterparts discussed opportunities for work and cooperation between their two countries in the field of climate change. 

They also talked about joint efforts to achieve the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the Kingdom’s ministry said in a statement at the time.


Closing Bell: TASI edges down to close at 12,509 points 

Closing Bell: TASI edges down to close at 12,509 points 
Updated 22 April 2024
Follow

Closing Bell: TASI edges down to close at 12,509 points 

Closing Bell: TASI edges down to close at 12,509 points 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index closed at 12,508.93 points on Monday, losing 9.29 points or 0.07 percent. 

The parallel market, Nomu, also shed 343.96 points or 1.28 percent to end the day’s trading at 26,596.22. 

Concurrently, the MSCI Tadawul 30 Index fell 3.95 points or 0.25 percent to finish at 1,567.16. 

The main index posted a trading value of SR8.8 billion ($2.3 billion), with 74 stocks advancing and 148 declining. On the other hand, Nomu reported a trade volume of SR37.7 million. 

Al-Rajhi Company for Cooperative Insurance was the top performer on TASI as its share price surged 9.93 percent to SR126.20. LIVA Insurance Co. followed next with its share price jumping 9.92 percent to close at SR21.50. 

Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co.  also performed well, climbing 9.16 percent to SR16.44. Raydan Food Co. and Fitaihi Holding Group increased 8.14 and 8.11 percent to SR28.55 and SR4.40, respectively. 

Conversely, Saudi Cable Co. recorded the most significant dip, declining 4.94 percent to SR75. 

Alkhaleej Training and Education Co. and Ash-Sharqiyah Development Co. also experienced setbacks, with their shares dropping to SR31.50 and SR23.40, reflecting declines of 4.83 and 4.10 percent, respectively.

Nomu’s top performer was Dar Almarkabah for Renting Cars Co., which saw a 9.73 percent jump to SR44. Mayar Holding Co. and Alqemam for Computer Systems Co. also recorded notable gains, with their shares closing at SR4.27 and SR89.80, marking an increase of 7.02 and 5.03 percent, respectively. Arabian International Healthcare Holding Co. and Foods Gate Trading Co. also fared well. 

On Nomu, Raoom Trading Co. was the worst performer, declining by 7.28 percent to SR135. Other underperformers included Natural Gas Distribution Co. and National Environmental Recycling Co., whose share prices dropped 5.58 percent and 5.23 percent to SR42.30 and SR12.32, respectively. 

Watani Iron Steel Co. and Future Care Trading Co. declined during the day to settle at SR2.81 and SR8.70, respectively. 


Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical
Updated 22 April 2024
Follow

Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco held talks with Chinese Hengli Group Co. to acquire a 10 percent stake in its subsidiary, subject to due diligence and required regulatory clearances.

Aramco and Hengli Petrochemical Co. signed a memorandum of understanding for the proposed deal. The agreement supports the former’s strategy to increase its presence in key downstream markets, enhance its liquids-to-chemicals initiative, and ensure long-term crude oil supply agreements.

Last year, Aramco signed two multibillion-dollar agreements for liquids to chemicals investments in China.

In March 2023, a deal was signed between China’s Norinco Group and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group to establish a joint venture to build a refinery and petrochemical complex in China’s Liaoning province. The initiative cost stands at approximately $12 billion.

The second agreement, signed in July, is an acquisition of a 10 percent stake in China-based firm Rongsheng Petrochemical Co. for $3.4 billion.

“This MoU supports our efforts to grow our global downstream footprint. We continue to explore new opportunities in important markets as we seek to progress in our liquids-to-chemicals strategy,” Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Aramco’s downstream president, said in a press release.

He continued: “We look forward to forging new partnerships and are excited by the prospect of expanding our presence in the important Chinese market.”

Hengli Petrochemical, a controlled subsidiary of Hengli Group, owns and operates a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery and integrated chemicals complex in Liaoning province, and several plants and production facilities in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.

Speaking at a development forum held in March 2023 in Beijing, Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Aramco, highlighted substantial opportunities for cooperation between Saudi Aramco and Chinese partners in sectors aimed at reducing emissions.

“China has distinct strengths in renewables and critical materials, while Aramco and Saudi Arabia have a clear interest in solar, wind, hydrogen, and electrofuels. These areas have great long-term potential, and combining our strengths could match our ambitions,” he noted.

Saudi Arabia and China are working together to strengthen their already well-established strategic ties.

In September, the Kingdom’s minister of industry and mineral resources held meetings with key Chinese officials in Beijing. Bandar Alkhorayef also toured various companies and factories in different Chinese cities as part of his trip.

He held talks with China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen, during which they discussed ways to boost economic collaboration and trade ties, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The top officials also discussed investment opportunities in several economic sectors, including mining. At the time, the Saudi minister highlighted the Kingdom’s progress in the field of industries and mining.


IsDB leads multilateral development banks group in $300-$400bn lending boost target

IsDB leads multilateral development banks group in $300-$400bn lending boost target
Updated 22 April 2024
Follow

IsDB leads multilateral development banks group in $300-$400bn lending boost target

IsDB leads multilateral development banks group in $300-$400bn lending boost target

RIYADH: A group of elite financial institutions, led by the Islamic Development Bank, is aiming to increase its lending margin by $300-$400 billion over the next decade to reduce global inequalities.

The announcement came after presidents of ten multilateral development banks met in Washington, D.C., to discuss new strategies to strengthen their impact on tackling development issues and improve coordinated efforts in 2024 and beyond.

The MDB Heads Group, of which IsDB currently holds the presidency, is seeking to expand its financing capacity by implementing the G20 Capital Adequacy Frameworks Review report recommendations as well as other initiatives.

A joint statement issued by the group, which includes African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and World Bank Group, at the conclusion of the meeting read: “Collectively, these efforts on balance sheet optimization and financial innovation are expected to generate additional lending headroom in the order of $300 billion to $400 billion over the next decade, with strong contributions from shareholders and development partners. Related actions … have already created additional lending capacity.”

Among the actions set out to help increase funding include introducing diverse, innovative financial instruments, such as hybrid capital tools and risk transfer methods, to shareholders, development partners, and capital markets.

There will also be efforts to encourage the direction of International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights through the MDBs and to provide greater clarity on callable capital, helping rating agencies better assess its value.

Another area of focus seeks to boost action on climate change by presenting the first common approach for measuring environmental outcomes in terms of adaptation and mitigation, aligning operations with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and providing joint reporting on climate-related finance.

Additionally, the MDBs will engage in the UN-led process toward a new collective climate finance goal.

A third area is strengthening country-level collaboration and co-financing. The MDB heads emphasized enhancing partnership and co-financing and assessing proposals for nation-led and owned platforms to reach a common understanding.

Some MDBs will establish platforms and use one another’s procurement policies to cut transaction costs, boost efficiency, and promote sustainability.

They will also accelerate co-financing for public sector projects through the newly launched co-financing collaboration gateway.

A fourth area focuses on mobilizing the private sector, with MDBs committing to increase the division’s financing for development goals, expand local currency lending, and offer foreign exchange hedging solutions to boost private investment.

The heads agreed to develop the type and classification of statistics issued by MDBs and development finance through the Global Emerging Markets Risk Database Consortium.

Moreover, in a fifth area, MDBs agreed to emphasize impact more through enhanced collaboration in joint impact assessments.

This includes sharing approaches for measuring and monitoring outcomes, maintaining ongoing coordination efforts, and assessing key performance indicators tied to nature and biodiversity.

The statement added that the MDB group “recognize our collective duty to accelerate international efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, reduce inequalities, tackle regional and global challenges including on climate and health, as well as boost inclusive socioeconomic development.”

It continued. “As a group, we reaffirm our determination to deliver on our commitments and continue strengthening our collaboration for the benefit of poor and vulnerable countries, communities, and people.”