Accor to build 45 new hotels in Saudi Arabia by 2030: CEO

Accor to build 45 new hotels in Saudi Arabia by 2030: CEO
Duncan O’Rourke, CEO of the Middle East, Africa and Asia at Accor, speaking to Arab News. AN
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Updated 12 May 2024

Accor to build 45 new hotels in Saudi Arabia by 2030: CEO

Accor to build 45 new hotels in Saudi Arabia by 2030: CEO

RIYADH: French multinational hospitality company Accor is set to expand its hotel portfolio in Saudi Arabia with 45 new establishments by 2030, as revealed by the regional CEO.

In an interview with Arab News, Duncan O’Rourke underscored the company’s dedication to the Kingdom’s vibrant hospitality sector and its aspirations embodied by Vision 2030.

O’Rourke said: “Saudi is an extremely important theater for us to play also because of what is happening, we are very proud to be part of this journey, this vision of 2030.” 

Reflecting on the firm’s substantial presence in Saudi Arabia, O’Rourke highlighted that while the company currently has 41 hotels in the Kingdom, it plans to add more – initially claiming there would be another 40, before later revealing it be 45, with an additional 9,800 rooms by 2030.

Commenting on Accor’s participation in the Future Hospitality Summit, the CEO said that it aims to actively share its expertise, learn from industry peers, and collaborate on initiatives that will shape the future of the hospitality sector.

With a historical foothold in the Kingdom, the CEO reminisced: “Accor has a very long history in Saudi, a very established history.”

He added: “We are very excited to be here, me personally, having lived here 22 years ago and see the growth and the challenges.” 

O’Rourke added: “One of the things we noticed tremendously was talent, and getting people to work in the hotels. Opening the hotels is one thing, but we need the local talent as well.” 

He highlighted Accor’s partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Education to nurture Saudi talent for the hospitality industry, saying: “We signed a partnership, which we were really excited about with the Minister of Tourism and Education, so we signed that partnership to be able to educate on all different levels, local people, to work in the hotels as well.” 

In line with Accor’s commitment to nurturing local talent, O’Rourke explained that the firm’s academies are based worldwide and driven out of Paris, saying: “It’s been very famous how we’ve done that and trained and coached, but we felt that here with this tremendous growth in the speed of that growth and the fact that we really wanted to get local talent working.” 

Diving more into the “Tamayyaz by Accor” program, the CEO explained that the educational process goes from an entry-level to a more senior position.

Accor and the Ministry of Tourism in Saudi Arabia have signed this partnership, which is dedicated to nurturing and developing Saudi talent in the hospitality industry. 

O’Rourke told Arab News that they’re starting with a modest number of around 250 trainees, but that’s “quickly going to go up to over 3,000 continuously going through the process there, and so every process, 3,000 more going through.”

Expanding beyond major urban centers, O’Rourke emphasized “it’s not just in Riyadh, or in Jeddah, but in the secondary and third cities as well,” signaling Accor’s commitment to broadening its footprint across the Kingdom.

In a discussion about Accor’s varied brand lineup, he explained: “We split our luxury lifestyle, so we’re one of the largest luxury players in the market, the largest lifestyle player in the market, and then we have that premium midscale economy.”

Accor is the largest hospitality operator in the Holy Cities, with 13 hotels encompassing 11,900 rooms and a pipeline of six hotels with 1,700 rooms. 

The firm has significantly contributed to developing the holy destination of Makkah, providing high-quality hospitality with direct access to the Haram. 

Accor currently operates 13 brands and more than 16,000 rooms in Saudi Arabia, ranging from premium to economy segments, including luxury brands and Ennismore’s lifestyle collective. With leading names like Novotel, Swissotel, and Pullman, it’s a top hospitality provider offering diverse services and experiences.

He added: “We go with all those brands there in those resorts, not in just major cities, with Banyan Tree, Sofitel, and then, of course, Fairmont Raffles and the rest of the traditional brands as well.”

O’Rourke highlighted the necessity of employing locals, saying: “At the Novotel hotel, which we opened tonight, that’s the first female GM (general manager) in Saudi and so we are very proud of this diversification and giving opportunities to everybody there.”

The CEO added: “Being able to be part of this growth industry in terms of opening hotels, but also in educating and watching talent grow and one day moving from Saudi out and using that talent abroad, is also very exciting.” 

In terms of partnerships, O’Rourke emphasized Accor’s strategic approach to collaborations that benefit both parties and local communities.

 “In any partnership which we do with our core, we want somebody that embraces our values. We call them partners, we want to synergize with partners and then grow where it makes benefit for them, for us and the communities as well,” he said.

Reflecting on market trends, O’Rourke said: “Where we see the secondary cities the most traction we are in that sense there is coming from the mid-scale and the premium midscale economy,” highlighting the burgeoning demand in these segments.

“Where we do see a difference and more and more coming through is that leisure markets both locally, so Saudis traveling in Saudi, but also from the GCC coming through there,” the CEO added acknowledging the rise of leisure travel.

As Saudi Arabia continues its remarkable growth trajectory, O’Rourke expressed optimism, asserting: “We stay focused on our footprint. We have a very aggressive expansion plan to go from 44 to another 40 by 2030 is already aggressive.”

He concluded Accor’s commitment to delivering on its expansion goals while fostering talent development in the Kingdom, saying: “We continue to drive forward and make sure that we are not only opening hotels with the right brand, right partners, but then being able to really deliver on what we promised.” 

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement
Updated 19 sec ago

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

RIYADH: Chinese tourist groups will now find it easier to visit Saudi Arabia following the implementation of the Approved Destination Status arrangement, effective July 1.  

This initiative marks a key step toward the Kingdom’s goal of positioning China as its third-largest source market for international arrivals by 2030, according to a statement.  

This initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s goal of attracting 5 million Chinese tourists by 2030, facilitated by new direct flights from Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern, alongside existing Saudia flights. 

Moreover, it highlights Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening its economic ties with China, leveraging opportunities in the tourism sector, and promoting mutual understanding, cooperation, and economic growth between the two nations. 

The Kingdom’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the agreement “demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s readiness for Chinese visitors.”

He added: “The Saudi Tourism Authority has played a crucial role in visa facilitation, reduced fees, improving air connectivity, and ensuring destination readiness with Mandarin-language information available on, Mandarin signage at airports, and Mandarin-speaking tour guides and hotel staff.”  

China’s ADS policy is a bilateral agreement between countries that allows its citizens to travel to specific overseas destinations for tourism purposes in organized groups.

It was first introduced in the early 1990s to accommodate the growing interest of Chinese citizens in international travel and the increase in disposable income among the population.  

“By strengthening bilateral ties with China, the ADS agreement opens doors for economic development across sectors, benefiting both nations,” added Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to China Abdulrahman bin Ahmed Al-Harbi. 

‘Historical transformation’ in Saudi Arabia fueling $141.5bn construction output: Knight Frank

‘Historical transformation’ in Saudi Arabia fueling $141.5bn construction output: Knight Frank
Updated 29 min 51 sec ago

‘Historical transformation’ in Saudi Arabia fueling $141.5bn construction output: Knight Frank

‘Historical transformation’ in Saudi Arabia fueling $141.5bn construction output: Knight Frank

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s construction output value is projected to have seen an annual rise of 4.3 percent in the first half of 2024, propelled by growth in Riyadh.

According to a recent analysis by global property consultancy Knight Frank, the $141.5 billion figure takes into account the Kingdom’s activities in the residential, institutional, and infrastructure sectors as well as industrial, energy, utilities, and commercial divisions.

This substantial investment in transforming the sector also serves to strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a global hub for tourism, commerce and trade.

This is further propelled by Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and goals to deliver over 660,000 residential units, more than 320,000 hotel keys, over 5.3 million sq. m. of retail space, and more than 6.1 million sq. m. of new office space by the end of the decade.

Mohamed Nabil, head of Project and Development Services for the Middle East and North Africa at the body, said: “We are currently witnessing a historical transformation unfolding in Saudi Arabia with construction projects standing out in their design scale and value. 

“Given the scale of the development pipeline, the government is hoping to attract over $3 trillion in investments by 2030, a figure recently confirmed by the Minister of Investment during the inaugural Sino-Gulf Cooperation for Industries and Investments Forum in China last month.”

Oil Updates – crude eases as strong dollar weighs on commodities markets

Oil Updates – crude eases as strong dollar weighs on commodities markets
Updated 24 June 2024

Oil Updates – crude eases as strong dollar weighs on commodities markets

Oil Updates – crude eases as strong dollar weighs on commodities markets

SINGAPORE: Oil prices inched down on Monday as concerns of higher-for-longer interest rates resurfaced and lifted the dollar, offsetting support for oil markets from geopolitical tensions and OPEC+ supply cuts, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures slipped 3 cents to $85.21 a barrel by 9:32 a.m. Saudi time, after settling down 0.6 percent on Friday. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $80.71 a barrel, down 2 cents.

“The US dollar has opened bid this morning and appears to have broken higher following better US PMI data on Friday night and political concerns ahead of the French election,” said Tony Sycamore, a Sydney-based markets analyst at IG.

A stronger greenback makes dollar-denominated commodities less attractive for holders of other currencies.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, climbed on Friday and was up slightly on Monday after purchasing managers index data showed US business activity was at a 26-month high in June.

However, both benchmark crude contracts gained about 3 percent last week on signs of stronger oil products demand in the US, world’s largest consumer, and as cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, kept supply in check.

US crude inventories fell while gasoline demand rose for the seventh straight week and jet fuel consumption has returned to 2019 levels, ANZ analysts said in a note.

ING analysts led by Warren Patterson said speculators have also become more constructive toward oil into summer and increased their net-long positions in ICE Brent.

“We remain supportive toward the oil market with a deficit over the third quarter set to tighten the oil balance,” the analysts said in a note.

Geopolitical risks in the Middle East from the Gaza crisis and a ramp-up in Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian refineries are also underpinning oil prices.

In Ecuador, state oil company Petroecuador has declared force majeure over deliveries of Napo heavy crude for exports following the shutdown of a key pipeline and oil wells due to heavy rains, sources said on Friday.

In the US, the number of operating oil rigs fell three to 485 last week, their lowest since January 2022, Baker Hughes said in its report on Friday. 

Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

 Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports
Updated 24 June 2024

Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

 Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s trade balance surplus hit a year-high of SR41.4 billion ($11.04 billion) in April, a 36 percent increase from the previous month, fueled by a surge in non-oil exports. 

According to the General Authority for Statistics, the Kingdom’s non-oil shipments rose by 12.4 percent in April compared to the same month last year. 

This comes as the Kingdom intensifies its efforts to boost non-oil exports to reduce its reliance on the energy sector and diversify its economy. The significant growth underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening other sectors and achieving a more balanced economic structure. 

National non-oil exports, excluding re-exports, saw a modest rise of 1.6 percent in April this year compared to April 2023, while re-exported goods experienced a substantial increase of 56.4 percent over the same period. 

In contrast, overall outbound merchandise supply fell by 1.0 percent, primarily due to a 4.2 percent decline in oil exports. As a result, the proportion of oil in total outbound supply decreased from 80.6 percent in April 2023 to 78.0 percent in April this year. 

Imports also saw a slight decline of 1.3 percent, and the merchandise trade balance surplus dropped by 0.5 percent compared to the previous year. 

Month-over-month comparisons show a decrease in the value of merchandise exports by 1.7 percent, non-oil exports by 6.3 percent, and imports by 17.4 percent. However, the Kingdom’s trade balance still saw a substantial increase. 

The ratio of non-oil merchandise exports to imports improved significantly, rising to 37.1 percent in April from 32.6 percent in April 2023. This improvement is attributed to the increase in non-oil exports and the decrease in imports. 

Plastics, rubber, and their products were among the top non-oil exports, making up 26.2 percent of the total and growing by 20.5 percent compared to April 2023. 

Chemical products also constituted a significant portion, accounting for 25.7 percent of non-oil exports, although they saw a 13.8 percent decrease from the previous year. 

On the import side, machinery, electrical equipment, and parts were the leading category, representing 26.6 percent of total imports and increasing by 32.4 percent compared to April 2023. 

Transportation equipment and parts followed, making up 11.7 percent of imports but decreasing by 24.5 percent from the previous year. 

China remained Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, receiving 16.6 percent of total exports in April 2024. Japan and India followed with 9.2 percent and 8.1 percent of total exports, respectively. 

These top three countries, along with South Korea, the UAE, and the US, alongside Poland, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Singapore, collectively accounted for 65.6 percent of the Kingdom’s total exports. 

China also led in imports to Saudi Arabia, constituting 22.4 percent of total imports. The US and India followed, with 8.3 percent and 6.6 percent of total imports, respectively. 

Imports from the top ten countries made up 62.2 percent of the total. 

The main entry points for imports into the Kingdom included King Abdulaziz Sea Port in Dammam with 29.7 percent, Jeddah Islamic Sea Port with 18.4 percent, and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh with 14.3 percent. 

Other ports included King Abdulaziz International Airport with 7.6 percent and King Fahad International Airport in Dammam with 5.9 percent. 

Together, these five ports handled 76.0 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total merchandise imports. 

These statistics are based on administrative records from the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority and the Ministry of Energy, with classifications according to the Harmonized System maintained by the World Customs Organization. 

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data
Updated 23 June 2024

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

RIYADH: Oman’s capital market has attracted investors from 135 nationalities, up from 67 in 2023, supported by favorable policies including low tax rates and flexible capital transfer options. 

Newly released statistics from the Muscat Stock Exchange reveal a 19 percent increase in foreign investments as of May, including participants from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Arab countries, and beyond. 

Oman’s capital market has implemented policies favoring foreign investments, including unrestricted profit repatriation and exchange operations. This trend aligns with the nation’s economic resurgence and growing institutional confidence in government strategies aimed at reducing public debt, increasing investment in essential services, and launching infrastructure projects to bolster private sector participation. 

The MSX data also indicates that foreign investments are predominantly focused on the industrial and service sectors, accounting for 15.8 percent and 15.7 percent respectively. 

Gulf investors are particularly focused on the services sector, accounting for 15.4 percent, and the financial industry at 8.5 percent. 

Conversely, non-Gulf Arab investments are primarily directed toward the financial sector, comprising 3 percent. 

Local investments heavily favor the financial industry at 87.6 percent, followed by the industrial sector at 75.6 percent and the services sector at 67.7 percent. 

The first half of this year has seen significant growth in trading activity at MSX, underscoring heightened market dynamism.  

Trading volumes surged to 3.1 billion securities, surpassing 517 million Omani rials ($1.3 billion) in value by the end of May, marking a notable 38.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Executed transactions also rose, reflecting increased market participation and liquidity. 

The exchange is expanding its database on listed companies to enhance transparency and advocate for disclosure standards among publicly traded entities, the Oman News Agency reported.  

Additionally, efforts are underway to encourage government and family-owned businesses to transition into privately held entities, enriching market diversity and investment opportunities. 

Foreign investors can invest in shares of MSX-listed companies or investment funds without prior permission, under the oversight of an independent supervisory body ensuring market fairness, investor protection, and transparency.  

Foreign investment in MSX-listed public joint-stock companies is permitted up to 100 percent, with significant interest observed in the industrial and services sectors, highlighting diversified investor preferences. 

Reflecting positive sentiment, the market capitalization of MSX-listed public joint-stock companies reached 9.4 billion rials by May’s end, up 448.5 million rials since the start of the year.  

The broader market value of all MSX-listed securities rose to 24.48 billion riyals, a gain of 676 million riyals year-over-year, bolstered by contributions from closed companies and the bond and sukuk market. 

Market indices reflected this growth, with the main index climbing to 4845 points by May’s close, up 331 points from the previous period.  

Successful IPOs by entities like Abraaj Energy Services and OQ Gas Networks have attracted new investors and boosted market liquidity, with OQ considering IPOs for two more subsidiaries this year, according to Bloomberg. 

This upward trend underscores investor confidence in MSX’s growth potential, supported by Oman Investment Authority’s plans to offer additional companies for public subscription in the coming years.  

The OIA reported a 7.4 percent year-on-year increase in Oman’s sovereign wealth fund assets, reaching 19.24 billion rials in 2023, with a 9.95 percent return on investment, as disclosed in a statement on X. 

This performance underscores the authority’s pivotal role in fostering economic growth and stability in the Middle Eastern country.  

The robust results also reflect the OIA’s strategic investment approach and effective management of its diverse portfolio, in line with its mandate to manage national funds and assets, build financial reserves, and advance targeted economic sectors through government policies. 

At a media briefing in Muscat earlier this month, the authority affirmed its commitment to contributing over 6 billion rials annually to the state’s general budget from 2016 through 2023.  

The statement further outlined the OIA’s plans to geographically diversify its new foreign and local investments across various sectors, while facilitating technology transfer and modern techniques to bolster targeted local industries. 

Looking ahead, MSX aims to strengthen its regulatory framework, expand investor outreach initiatives, and cultivate an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth, the Oman News Agency reported.  

By enhancing its reputation as a gateway for international investment and adhering to global best practices in financial markets, MSX aims to maintain its position as a leading choice for investors interested in opportunities in Oman’s dynamic capital market, it added.