RIYADH: Qatar is making an attempt to push the merits of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, while the US is investing in carbon removal technology to help it achieve zero emissions.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Gazprom confirms stable natural gas supply to Europe, and Japan’s Toyota is allocating a significant budget to produce electric vehicle parts in India, in line with its carbon neutrality goals.
Looking at the bigger picture:
RIYADH: Illicit trade makes up 17-25 percent of the tobacco market in Saudi Arabia, posing a danger to public health and resulting in billions of lost revenue for the government, said a top executive at Philip Morris International.
“The illicit tobacco trade is a source of funding for organized crime networks to fund illicit activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and even terrorist activity in some areas,” Philippe Van Gils, the regional head of illicit trade prevention for the Middle East at Philip Morris International, told Arab News.
“It’s a big problem. Billions are going into the pockets of illicit organizations instead of the governments where the latter could use the money for development and other purposes,” Van Gils said.
In terms of public health, the situation isn’t any better. Illicit traders often sell counterfeit tobacco products that may have the logo of a well-known brand but are fake products that “don’t respect any sort of sanitary standards in manufacturing or shipping,” he said.
Van Gils said that action must be taken to address this issue in three key areas: awareness, collaboration, and technology.
He stressed the importance of building awareness of the issue in the private sector and among consumers.
“I think the private sector must raise awareness to governments and consumers regarding the issue. At the end of the day, we are fighting this issue to protect consumers,” he said.
Van Gils also said that collaboration is crucial due to the magnitude of the problem, “no one can fix this issue alone; it requires a public-private partnership,” he said.
He further said that the private sector could address this issue using technology and better controls on their supply chain operations.
“It’s about knowing your customers, monitoring the volume of products you sell to ensure it responds to legitimate demand and leveraging technology to track your product down the supply chain,” he said.
On the government side, Van Gils said it’s about “putting effective regulations in place and ensuring enforcement of those regulations.”
However, he admitted one of the challenges is helping authorities identify illicit products from genuine ones.
He said Philip Morris International held several training sessions this year, including for the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, to curb the menace.
Van Gils said that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated illicit trade on the dark web.
“Due to the pandemic, everything went more digital, and illicit traders benefited from that,” he said.
He said the solution is to reduce illicit tobacco while promoting better alternatives, specifically heated tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.
“Our position is that if you don’t smoke, don’t start. But if you can’t quit, switch to better alternatives that are now available thanks to technological advancements,” added Van Gils.
DUBAI: When thinking of Dubai, images of the iconic Atlantis resort on the Palm Jumeirah or the Bab Al Shams resort, nestled in the desert, quickly come to mind. These emblems of Dubai’s tourism ambitions are set to grow. Kerzner International, the owner of Atlantis Resorts and Residences and ultra-luxury One&Only Resorts worldwide, is building its portfolio with the launch of Rare Finds. The latter is a diverse collection of new luxury resorts in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Under this new vertical, Kerzner has taken over the management of Bab Al Shams, Dubai’s quintessential desert resort, previously owned by Meydan. The resort will temporarily close for an extensive renovation between May 2022 and early 2023, reopening as part of Rare Finds. Two upcoming new openings are – Atlantis, The Royal Resort & Residences, and One&Only One Za’abeel.
Kerzner has taken over the manage- ment of Bab Al Shams, Dubai’s quintessential desert resort, previously owned by Meydan. The resort will temporar- ily close for an extensive renovation from now till early 2023, reopening as part of Rare Finds.
“Following two years of uncertainty, the introduction of the Rare Finds vertical marks the brand’s continued growth and expansion within the region,” said Philippe Zuber, chief executive officer of Kerzner International, in an interview with Arab News. “In the past couple of years, we have all gone through periods of prolonged isolation which have made guests value genuine human connection more than ever. From our observations, there is a rise in demand for new experiences and forging connections has remained at the forefront of travelers’ needs.”
Aside from the revamped Bab Al Shams, Kerzner is set to launch the new addition to the Atlantis opening at the end of this year. The Royal will offer 231 ultra-luxury residences, alongside 17 restaurants and bars, five of which will be helmed by Michelin-starred chefs. Kerzner’s current portfolio has three properties: Atlantis the Palm, One&Only Royal Mirage, and One&Only The Palm. Kerzner will continue to strategically grow the Rare Finds Portfolio, carefully curating a selection of unique properties in the coming years.
The elite hospitality brand attracts customers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
“The US, UK, and GCC are all very strong source markets for our brand internationally and consistently in our top three year on year,” said Zuber.
He added that top source markets for Atlantis, The Palm for 2021, specifically, included the UK, the UAE, and Russia in terms of both, room nights and revenue, with a mix of EU countries following closely behind.
The focus will be on wellness and luxury, which are high in demand, according to consumer travel preferences observed by Zuber’s team. He predicts that wellness getaways and retreats worldwide will boom to the tune of $919 billion by the end of this year. This is in line with a detailed McKinsey & Co. report released in April 2021: The consultancy valued the global wellness market at more than $1.5 trillion with annual growth of five to 10 percent.
“Amongst the GCC audience, the majority of our resorts and destinations continue to see consistent interest and arrivals from affluent travelers in the region,” he said. “Despite recent global challenges, guests continue to seek a luxury escape, whether for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, an ultimate wellness retreat, or a dreamy island escape.”
The brand also has Saudi Arabia on its radar. Zuber said that there is “tremendous opportunity in Saudi Arabia in the coming years across Kerzner’s brands, including the possibility for an Atlantis or Atlantis, The Royal.”
“This aligns with our growth and expansion plans regionally across the GCC, and we are definitely in discussions on exciting prospects within the Kingdom,” he added. “We are recognized as disruptors in our field, redefining luxury hospitality with Kerzner International’s new openings and will continue to set benchmarks in the regional hospitality industry.”
As borders reopen and regular travel assumes a new normal, Zuber is “confident of a travel resurgence.”
“With a wide portfolio of resorts located in the world’s most unique locales, our key markets have been destination-dependent over the last two years,” he said. “However,” he added, “we are now witnessing an increase of international travelers returning to our resorts.”
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the 116th Executive Council of the UN World Tourism Organization on June 7-8 in Jeddah, with around 180 participants worldwide.
The two-day event will deliberate on all necessary measures to implement the council’s decisions and recommendations to support the sector.
The Executive Council’s session will be held on the first day of the event, followed by a thematic session called Tourism Futures — New Governance and Advocacy on the second day.
Although it took a severe hit after the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector proved to be resilient, with international tourist arrivals in some regions starting to equal and even exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to the UNWTO.
The council will determine the potential drive to sustain the industry in a post-pandemic era by exploring challenges and opportunities that govern global communication.
To address these concerns, the thematic session will contain two distinct tracks. The first is called “Towards a New Tourism Governance: Lessons Learned for a Resilient Future,” which will include tourism ministers from across the world and high-level representatives of international organizations.
The second session, “Raising Tourism’s Visibility,” will aim to boost political and public recognition of the sector in a discussion led by the ministers and leading figures from online and broadcast media, marketing and business.
The thematic session opens a debate to think big and reimagine what the tourism sector needs in governance, funding and advocacy.
Proving its importance, UNWTO sees the tourism sector as one of the most critical aspects of economic growth and an essential pillar for development.
Findings of a survey, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Ministry, found Saudis to be the most optimistic on the prospect of taking either a holiday or business trip abroad in the next six months, reflecting strong performance of the Saudi economy.
The Future of Tourism Survey explored attitudes to travel and the expectations of consumers in 11 countries around the world.
Almost 14,000 people were polled, across China, the US, the UK, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.
The study also showed that travelers call for a change in tourism as the sector shows recovery from pandemic repercussions, with 44 percent of respondents wanting greater harmonization of health protocols and the use of technology to ease travel.
While 34 percent called for greater sustainability to the sector and 33 percent called for greater financial protections for travelers, according to a statement.
“The Future of Tourism Survey shows that the public want us to learn the lessons of the pandemic and to make changes that put health, sustainability, and the better use of technology, at the heart of future tourism,” said Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
The survey found that travelers’ attitudes have changed following the pandemic, with 55 percent of respondents now more likely to travel domestically.
The declining enthusiasm for travel over the next six month is attributed to economic uncertainty and rising prices.
By aligning vision, leadership and resources we have been able to create a new model for tourism.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi tourism minister
The biggest impact has been seen on business travel, as 18 percent of respondents consider themselves likely or very likely to travel internationally for business.
However, 42 percent of respondents said that they are either likely or very likely to travel internationally for a holiday.
Most recently, Saudi Arabia advanced 10 ranks to 33rd globally in the Travel and Tourism Development Index released by the World Economic Forum.
“Saudi Arabia is a brand-new tourism destination. We opened our doors to international tourism just before the pandemic, and because of that we are willing and able to think and act in new and different ways,” Al-Khateeb said.
“By aligning vision, leadership and resources we have been able to create a new model for tourism which is more resilient and more sustainable by design,” the minister added.
Tourism plays a crucial role in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification.
As a result, Saudi authorities plan to invest up to $200 billion and welcome 100 million visitors by 2030. Vision 2030 aims to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to gross domestic product to 10 percent.
Part of the Kingdom’s strategy involves job creation and the construction of additional tourism facilities, including hotels.
JEDDAH: In a bid to encourage non-oil exports in the country, Saudi Export-Import Bank, also known as Saudi EXIM, has planned to boost its annual financing to SR26 billion ($7 billion) by 2026.
As part of its strategic five-year plan designed to run from 2022 to 2026, the bank will facilitate Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports to reach global markets by closing financing gaps and reducing export risks.
“Having a strategic direction is essential to ensure a comprehensive plan to reach our objectives in supporting Saudi exports,” Saad Alkhalb, CEO of Saudi EXIM, told Arab News.
The strategy focuses on key performance indicators that will identify process gaps that can affect compliance and measure the progress of export companies.
It will develop an economic impact model that will include service development policies, local and international outreach programs, cooperation framework for commercial banks and other financial institutions.
According to Akhalb, the industrial sector remains the most important beneficiary under the strategy, with industries such as steel, petrochemicals, and plastics requiring a lot of financing.
“We are already seeing the impact because we have been applying it on a short-term basis. Now we have a long-term plan until 2026,” he added.
The bank recently signed a cooperation agreement with UK Export Finance to help the UK and Saudi businesses secure export contracts.
The agreement provides a general framework that will enable the two agencies to combine their financial support to help the UK and Saudi businesses secure international deals.
The partnership will support the exports from the Kingdom by opening doors for suppliers from the region to contribute to international projects.
“Saudi Arabia is diversifying its exports capability intensely as part of Vision 2030 strategy. The two countries are already working closely together to strengthen trade ties to support the export growth,” said Akhalb.
Saudi EXIM also approved loans worth over SR5.5 billion during the first quarter of 2022 to boost Saudi exports and help diversify the national economy.
Established in Feb. 2020, the bank provides export financing, guarantees, credit insurance and other services to bolster confidence in foraying into new markets.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet has approved the establishment of Health Holding Co. and charter of the National Health Insurance Center.
The decision will raise the effectiveness of the health system, Saudi Press Agency quoted the Kingdom’s health minister as saying.
Fahd Al-Jalajel indicated that the decision will help the ministry’s in its plans to transform the Kingdom’s health sector. The ministry’s strategy aims at promoting community health, prevention, early detection of diseases and health risks, and raising the level of quality and efficiency of services.