Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations
Sustainable practices are proving expensive to implement, the Bain & Co. report said.
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Updated 13 May 2024
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Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

RIYADH: Middle Eastern airports are prioritizing sustainability, eco-friendly infrastructure and renewable energy to combat climate challenges, a recent study showed. 

In its latest report, Bain & Co., a management consulting firm, also underscored the rising demand for seamless and personalized travel experiences driven by evolving passenger expectations. 

To address this, regional airports are also heavily investing in digital solutions that offer real-time communication and integrated mobility platforms. 

Discussing the growing emphasis on sustainability initiatives among the region’s airports, Akram Alami, Middle East head of utilities, aviation, and sustainability & responsibility practices at Bain & Co., said: “They aim to reduce their environmental impact through efforts like achieving carbon-neutral certification, designing eco-friendly infrastructure, and adopting renewable energy.” 

He added: “These initiatives are part of a broader strategy to address climate change and meet passenger expectations for more sustainable travel options.”  

The report also highlighted that airports in the region face several obstacles while implementing these sustainable practices, including high expenses for renewable technologies and regulatory issues. 

“Key challenges include high initial costs for green technologies, regulatory constraints, and the need for stakeholder alignment. Technological limitations and the need to integrate sustainability into existing infrastructure without disrupting operations also pose significant challenges,” noted Ilya Yamshchikov, associate partner at Bain & Co. Middle East.  

The report stated that other factors driving the growth of airports in the region include the adoption of technology and the commitment to meeting passenger expectations. 

Moreover, digital biometric screening and contactless services are streamlining security and boarding processes, it added. 

The US-based firm further pointed out that airports are also leveraging technologies like computed tomography baggage scanners and body scanners to expedite security checks without compromising safety. 

“These trends are expected to continue shaping the development of airports, leading to more efficient and passenger-centric facilities. They will significantly transform airline operations and the overall travel experience, making air travel more accessible, enjoyable and sustainable for future generations,” said Mauro Anastasi, partner and a member of the Aviation practice at Bain & Co.  

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Airports Co. partnered with Cognizant to bolster its digital capabilities in finance, human resources, procurement, and planning, with the goal of enhancing traveler experience. 

Moreover, in November 2023, Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, stated that the Kingdom is working to finalize a comprehensive systematic plan to address environmental sustainability in the aviation sector. 

In terms of passenger expectations, a report released by GACA in April revealed that all airports in Saudi Arabia that received passenger complaints in March resolved them on time. 


Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy
Updated 21 sec ago
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Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

RIYADH: A SR60 million ($15.9 million) deal has been signed between food company Almarai and marketing logistics firm 30Export to boost the former’s foreign trade prospects.

The agreement, overseen by Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef and Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, the CEO of Saudi Export Development Authority, was signed by Abdullah Al-Bader, CEO of Almarai Co. and Ali Al-Malki, 30Export.

According to a statement by Thamer Al-Mishrafi, the spokesman of SEDA, this memorandum of understanding will empower the brand in international markets.

This comes as SEDA aims activate all its efforts and capabilities to explore available means of support in order to enhance the penetration of national products and services into targeted global markets.

The project also increases Saudi Arabia’s import-export capacity by improving its connectivity with international trade routes, aliginng with Vision 2030 goal.

The effort aims to diversify national income sources and increase the share of non-oil Saudi exports to at least 50 percent of total gross domestic product by 2030

It also comes as part of the Export Housing initiative launched by SEDA last year, which enables licensed export houses to facilitate the export of high-quality national products to international markets.

These export houses, licensed and qualified by SEDA, play a crucial role as commercial intermediaries, offering a range of services across the export value chain.

“This effort aims to assist local factories in accessing global markets, thereby facilitating the export movement and enhancing the reach of national goods and services to targeted international markets,” Al-Mishrafi said in a statement on X.

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports saw an annual rise of 3.3 percent in the first quarter of 2024, fueled by an increase in the value of re-exports.

According to the General Authority for Statistics, while national non-oil exports experienced a slight dip of 5.2 percent, the value of re-expored goods surged by 31.5 percent during the same period.

In October last year, SEDA and Saudi Post, also known as SPL, signed an agreement to promote the “Made in Saudi” brand across various channels locally and internationally.

The collaboration agreement was rolled out within the framework of the National Strategy for Transport and Logistics and the National Strategy for Industry.

Both parties also introduced joint services to support the national economy’s transformational goals in light of the Saudi Vision 2030.


Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower
Updated 4 min 48 sec ago
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Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

DUBAI: The Trump Organization on Thursday announced a deal to partner with a Saudi developer to build a high-rise tower in the UAE business hub of Dubai, its latest project in the Gulf.
Trump Tower Dubai will target “the Dubai luxury market,” real estate developer Dar Global said in a press release, adding that the location and design would be unveiled by the end of the year.
The development will include a Trump hotel and branded residential units, said Dar Global, the international subsidiary of Saudi developer Dar Al-Arkan.
The announcement came a little over two weeks after Dar Global announced a separate deal with the Trump Organization to build a high-rise tower in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.
It is also developing a Trump hotel and luxury villas in the capital of neighboring Oman, with completion expected in 2028, according to the firm’s website.
Former President Donald Trump entrusted the management of his real estate empire to his sons after taking office in 2017, although he held onto his shares in the Trump Organization.
His foreign business dealings prompted critics to sound the alarm about possible conflicts of interest, including in a 2022 Congressional report that found the foreign governments of six countries — the UAE among them — spent more than $750,000 at a Trump-owned hotel in Washington while trying to influence his administration in 2017 and 2018.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential election, cultivated close ties with Arab Gulf states during his term, choosing Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip.
“We are proud to expand our presence in the region further through the launch of our iconic Trump Tower Dubai,” Eric Trump, the former president’s son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said in a statement.


UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data
Updated 6 min 1 sec ago
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UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

RIYADH: Investor confidence in UAE’s energy startups surged as they secured $30 million in the first half of 2024, surpassing the $24 million raised throughout 2023, an analysis showed.

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency revealed that companies in energy storage and batteries received the largest share of total financing, accounting for approximately 33.3 percent, followed by solar energy firms at 25 percent.

This increase in funding for startups in the renewable energy sector highlights the UAE’s efforts to accelerate its energy transition journey, aligning with its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The IEA report revealed that UAE wind energy firms accounted for 8.3 percent of the overall financing received in the first half of this year, while companies operating in other renewable and clean energy technologies collectively made up the remaining 33.3 percent.

The report also noted that the total number of startup companies operating in the UAE’s energy sector reached about 54 by the end of 2023.

Of these, 21 companies are in the renewable sector, followed by 12 firms in energy storage and batteries.

The IEA added that nine startups in the UAE are working in the energy efficiency industry, while another 12 are operating in other energy-related sectors.

Beyond energy initiatives, UAE startups are also focusing on developing technologies to tackle critical challenges such as water security.

In May, Airwater Co., an air-to-water technology firm, announced a strategic investment from Abu Dhabi-based venture capital firm Tau Capital, for an undisclosed amount, indicating sustained investor interest in innovative solutions from the region.

The investment will enable Airwater Co. to expand its manufacturing, infrastructure, and distribution capabilities, with a particular focus on scaling large-scale commercial and industrial atmospheric water generation facilities, as stated in a press release.

Bill Murray, managing director of Tau Capital, stated: “Airwater Co.’s tech-focused approach to water security exemplifies the type of transformative innovation which we at Tau Capital believe is essential for sustainable global development.”

This followed another investment in December 2023, when UAE-based Zeroe secured seed funding from the VOYAGERS ClimateTech Fund, bringing the total raised to $2.3 million.

The funding was aimed at enabling Zeroe to expedite the development of its AI-integrated SaaS platform, which optimizes carbon emission calculations, aiding companies in their transition to net-zero in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, according to a press release.

“We’re excited to be VOYAGERS’ second investment in the region, and we believe this investment confirms our push to be a leading solution in supporting organizations to measure emissions and access sustainable finance,” said Farouk Jivani, co-founder and CEO of Zeroe, in a statement release at that time.

Overall, the UAE was the top-funded ecosystem in the region in the first half of 2024, with 91 startups raising $455.5 million across different sectors, according to a report by Wamda released in July.

In terms of the energy sector, the IEA report noted that US startups received a total funding of $2.29 billion in the first half of this year, closely followed by China at $1.98 billion during the same period.

France received $633 million in funding for startups in the first six months of this year, while companies in India were financed with $248 million.

The IEA revealed that its analysis is based on data from Crunchbase, which references about 3.5 million startups worldwide, including 72,000 energy-related companies.


Lilium agrees deal to supply electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to Saudia

Lilium agrees deal to supply electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to Saudia
Updated 19 min 58 sec ago
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Lilium agrees deal to supply electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to Saudia

Lilium agrees deal to supply electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to Saudia
  • Saudia will receive the first vehicle in 2026

MUNICH: German aerospace company Lilium NV is making its debut in Saudi Arabia with a groundbreaking deal to supply up to 100 electric vertical take-off and landing jets to Saudia, the Kingdom’s first national carrier.

The formalization of this agreement comes after a framework deal was initially arranged in late 2022, making Saudia the first airline in the region to invest in sustainable air mobility.

The Saudia Group and the German developer of fully electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have entered into an agreement to purchase 50 confirmed Lilium Jets, with an option for an additional 50 aircraft. 

Thursday’s signing ceremony took place at the German firm’s headquarters in Munich, attended by Arab News and key industry stakeholders.

CEO of Lilium, Klaus Roewe, underscored in his speech the significance of this partnership, stating: “It (the deal) signals a transformation and a readiness to shape the future.”

In an interview with Arab News on the sideline of the event, he described Saudia as a very important customer because it’s a “very high-ranking, high-class airline, a very demanding airline.”

Roewe added: “On the other side, it’s also representing a country which we believe is the perfect mirror of what Lilium wants to do, because Lilium is definitively the most advanced, the most innovative product.” 

The CEO went on to say that Saudi Arabia’s ambitions for its tourism and aviation sectors as outlined by the Vision 2030 economic diversification plan show a focus on sustainability and innovation.

“We believe it’s a perfect match between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lilium,” said Roewe.

Saudi Arabia will receive the first plane in 2026. 

The aircraft’s operations will be approved and conducted in accordance with the quality and safety standards of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and it will be operated and managed through Saudia Private Aviation.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, the director general of Saudia Group, expressed his enthusiasm for the milestone, saying: “Our partnership with Lilium supports the ambitious goal of Vision 2030 by transforming the future of aviation in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”

He added that starting in 2026, the arrival of the first Lilium Jet will help transport 330 million travelers, providing faster and more efficient connections that exceed industry standards and expectations. This development is set to play a crucial role in key areas such as hygiene, entertainment, and business travel.

The director general said that the group is committed to leading aviation innovation with this collaboration with Lilium being “just the beginning.”

He added: “We will continue to explore new heights, offering the best to our guests and positively impacting regional and global aviation.” 

The German ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Michael Kindsgrab, highlighted in his address the transformative potential of this collaboration in advancing decarbonization and sustainability goals under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

“One of the most important areas of this new cooperation is decarbonization and sustainability,” he said, adding: “This is truly a revolutionary concept, and we are very happy that Saudi Arabia, Saudia in this case, is at the forefront of launching this new technology.”

The ambassador said that this is a big event for Saudi Arabia and for Germany, with economic relations between two countries – with their shared focus on transformation, decarbonization and ecology – being some of the biggest common denominators in this relationship.

Roewe’s praised the collaboration between Lilium and Saudia, and said: “Our teams have been working together intensively after signing of the MoU in late 2022, and we received outstanding support and trust in the process for which we are enormously grateful and thank you for that.”

Saudia aims to integrate these electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft into its fleet, revolutionizing domestic air transport with efficient, zero-emission solutions. 

The Lilium Jets, designed for regional high-speed travel with zero CO2 emissions, align with Saudi Arabia’s focus on sustainability and innovation under Vision 2030.

Lilium has the capacity to produce up to 80 aircraft per year. The aircraft features a 14-meter-long wing and an 80-meter-long body, with a maximum flight altitude of 3,000 meters. 

It boasts an operating distance of up to 175 kilometers and can reach speeds of 300 kms per hour. The airplane’s battery is recharged, not swapped, requiring 30-40 minutes to reach 80 percent capacity. 

The German ambassador to the Kingdom further elaborated on the economic implications of the deal, stating: “Today, we open another chapter for green mobility and green energy. This is truly a revolutionary concept, and we’re very pleased that Saudi Arabia, represented by Saudia, is at the forefront of launching this new technology.”

Saudia’s commitment to leading aviation innovation through its collaboration with the German firm sets the stage for continued exploration and advancement in sustainable aviation. 

The airline will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of air transport in the Middle East and beyond, reaffirming its position as a global leader in the aviation industry.

With this strategic initiative, Saudia and Lilium are poised to set new standards for sustainable aviation, driving forward the vision of a greener and more interconnected world through cutting-edge technology and collaborative partnerships.


Saudi Arabia’s Tharwah to expand footprint with $13m proceeds from Nomu offering: CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Tharwah to expand footprint with $13m proceeds from Nomu offering: CEO
Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Tharwah to expand footprint with $13m proceeds from Nomu offering: CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Tharwah to expand footprint with $13m proceeds from Nomu offering: CEO

RIYADH: Saudi-based human resources firm Tharwah is planning to use the anticipated SR50 million ($13 million) raised from its Nomu listing to fund its expansion plans, according to its CEO.   

In an interview with CNBC, Abdullah Al-Zahrani explained that the company aims to allocate more than 80 percent of the proceeds to support its horizontal and vertical expansion in the Gulf region, noting that the company recently opened offices in the UAE and Egypt.  

This follows Tadawul’s statement released earlier this month, in which Value Capital Co., in its capacity as the financial adviser and lead manager on the potential offering of Tharwah, announced the firm’s intention to present 705,735 ordinary shares, representing 15 percent of its offerings. It was also revealed that the company’s shares would be listed on Nomu.  

This move falls in line with the firm’s goal to become a leading expert center in human capacity development by delivering best-in-class solutions that meet global standards while considering local understanding.  

Al-Zahrani said it also aligns well with Saudi Arabia’s promising consulting market and the company’s consistent approach to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.  

During the interview, the CEO said that the company implemented over 90 projects with government agencies and the private sector, which was worth an accumulated SR150 million during the last period.

Al-Zahrani added that since the beginning of 2024, the volume of existing contracts has reached 30, totaling SR90 million.  

It is anticipated that the company will grow by more than 20 percent this year.  

He also revealed that Tharwah’s market share has reached 7 percent in the human capital consulting sector and it is targetting to further boost it during the coming period, expecting revenues to reach SR90 million by the end of 2024.  

The CEO said that the coming period after listing will focus on growth, in addition to having a strategy for dividends after supporting the expansion plan and then reaching the balance stage that enables the company to make dividend distributions.  

Established in 2012, Tharwah is a Saudi firm specializing in Human Capital Advisory Services. Its goal is to enable clients to empower their human capital to achieve their strategic objectives.