Russia resumes flights to Egyptian resorts after 6 years

Visitors from Russia arrive in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurgada on August 9, 2021 on the first Russian tourist flight since the October 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner. (AFP)
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Updated 09 August 2021

Russia resumes flights to Egyptian resorts after 6 years

  • EgyptAir flight MS724 took off from Moscow with 300 tourists today
  • The Airbus A300-330 landed in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada

CAIRO: Russia resumed flights to Egyptian Red Sea resorts on Monday, ending a ban that had lasted almost six years following the bombing of a Russian airliner that killed all 224 people onboard.
The local branch of the Daesh group said it downed the plane over Sinai in October 2015, shortly after the aircraft took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. At the time, Russian officials insisted that security procedures at Egyptian airports were insufficient.
Early on Monday morning, EgyptAir flight MS724 took off from Moscow with 300 tourists. Hours later, the Airbus A300-330 landed in Hurghada, a popular Red Sea destination, Egypt’s national carrier said in a statement.
The Russian plane was welcomed by a ceremonial “water salute” on touchdown and Russian tourists, most of them wearing facemasks, were greeted with flowers and balloons upon disembarking.
The statement said EgyptAir would operate seven flights from the Russian capital to Hurghada and Sham el-Sheikh, on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The first EgyptAir flight from Moscow to Sharm el-Sheikh was scheduled for Tuesday, it said.
Egypt’s envoy to Russia, Ihab Nasr, told a local TV station on Sunday that there would be 20 direct flights between Moscow and the two Red Sea resorts every week, and that Egyptian and Russian officials were discussing additional flights.
The Russian state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, has cleared eight Russian airlines to operate flights to Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh from 43 cities across Russia. However, the list does not include St. Petersburg, the destination of the doomed Russian airliner downed over Sinai.
For now, Rossiya, a subsidiary of the Russia’s state-owned flagship carrier Aeroflot, appears to be the only Russian airline with scheduled flights to the two Egyptian Red Sea resorts from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Its flight FV5361 landed in Hurghada early on Monday afternoon with more than 500 Russian tourists on board. Around two hours later, Rossiya’s flight FV5633 landed in Sharm el-Sheikh, carrying over 500 tourists.
Other Russian airlines cleared to operate flights from Moscow to Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh — such as Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda and S7 Airlines, Russia’s largest privately owned carrier — have no flights scheduled for the coming days, according to their websites.
The development comes a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his order suspending the flights after the 2015 disaster.
Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April 2018 after Egyptian officials beefed up security at Cairo’s international airport, but talks about restoring direct air travel to Red Sea resorts had dragged on. In 2016, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi finally said the downing of the Russian airliner was a “terrorist attack.”
Russia’s ambassador to Egypt, Georgy Borizenko, said the decision to resume flights was not an easy one for Moscow.
“However, we ascertained that in recent years Egypt’s airports and resorts have dramatically increased security measures. Therefore, we expect that Russian tourists, who remember the traditional Egyptian hospitality well and miss the Red Sea very much, will have a safe and comfortable stay,” Borizenko was quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Britain, another major source of visitors to Egypt which had also suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of the bombing, lifted its restrictions in October 2019.
The 2015 attack was a serious blow to Egypt’s vital tourism industry, which was also affected by the unrest following its 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Egyptian authorities have since spent millions of dollars upgrading security at the country’s airports, hoping to get Moscow to change its mind.
The resumption of flights will be key for Egypt’s tourism sector, which was dealt another blow by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year. Authorities have kept looser restrictions in Red Sea towns, trying to attract foreign visitors. But they have mandated vaccinations for workers in the tourism sector in Red Sea resorts, though a vaccination campaign has been slow elsewhere in Egypt. All foreign visitors, however, have to show a negative PCR test and wear facemasks.
Prior to the ban, Russians were the top visitors to Egypt, numbering about 3 million tourists in 2014.
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Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

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IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat

Updated 05 December 2021

IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat



WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender’s chief said at the Reuters Next conference on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic.
Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the conference.
Much remains unknown about omicron. Researchers said it could have picked up genetic material from another virus, perhaps one that causes the common cold, which would allow it to more easily evade human immune system defenses.
Georgieva said the fund is also looking at all of its research processes in order to ensure the its data integrity in the wake of a data-rigging scandal at the World Bank.
“Is there something more that can be done, and we are looking at all the processes — are they sufficiently up to date with what others are doing?” Georgieva said.


Startup of the Week: YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

Updated 05 December 2021

Startup of the Week: YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

YouGotaGift is the region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards. It is an end-to-end digital platform that connects prepaid cards from top retail brands to consumers and businesses. 
Its prepaid cards are completely digital, meaning customers can buy them online and have them delivered instantly by email or SMS. 
It works with over 700 retail brands, reaches over 5 million users and serves over 2,000 corporates.  
YouGotaGift was originally founded in 2013 in the UAE by CEO, Husain Makiya, Marketeer Abed Bibi, and Honeybee Tech Ventures (incubator), and further backed by a major regional VC, namely MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners).
It began operating in Saudi Arabia in 2014, with its first significant banking client in the Kingdom. It is now operating across the Gulf Cooperation Council and beyond with multiple offices across the region. “Our consumer business offers our global users the convenience to send personalized e-gift cards to celebrate friends, family, and colleagues,” Makiya told Arab News. “As a fully registered Saudi company, we have massively expanded our business in the Kingdom and greatly scaled up our team on the ground over the last 18 months, spearheaded by Fawziah Al-Hoshan, as general manager,” he added.
Al-Hoshan is a Saudi woman with a decade-long career in business and HR with Saudi corporates and multinationals, including Olayan Group and Pepsico. Makiya said the Kingdom is witnessing tremendous economic growth and the emerging talent pool is highly energized to engage in new roles and career opportunities offered by such companies as YouGotaGift. 
He said YouGotAGift is the first to bring this category of gift cards to the Kingdom. “Our collection of gift cards were first incorporated by National Commercial Bank for their loyalty program LAK,” he said. “It was a pivotal move toward adding a digital redemption process for customers who were used to traditional physical products or gift cards as a reward for their loyalty toward a program.” Since then, it has integrated with over 800 businesses in the Kingdom to digitize their rewards and incentives programs for both employees and customers.
“With Saudi Vision 2030 well on its way, tremendous efforts from the government to push digitization in every aspect of life has also contributed to a ‘never-before’ level of interest for e-gift cards amongst consumers,” he said. He said corporates and individual customers have both identified various ways to use these cards over the last 18 months; from traditional incentives and rewards to sending Eidiya or just helping the ones in need during the pandemic. “It’s a clear sign that they’re here to stay,” he said. Makiya said the global gift card business is expected to cross $2 trillion by 2027. 
“In our part of the world, we expect the this market alone to reach $1.2 billion by 2024, of which at least $700 million
will be attributed by the Kingdom,” he said. “For businesses and government entities, e-gift cards are the No.1 most in-demand method to reward their employees and customers, and the adoption rate of these cards in the Kingdom outweighs that of the entire region driven by the digital transformation of Vision 2030,”
he added.
YouGotAGift is actively recruiting marketeers, business developers and product managers to join their team ([email protected]).


Logistics sector key pillar of economic diversification plan, says Saudi minister

Updated 05 December 2021

Logistics sector key pillar of economic diversification plan, says Saudi minister

RIYADH: The transport and logistics sector represents one of the key pillars of the Kingdom’s economic diversification strategy, said Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser.
The minister highlighted the opportunities available in this sector in the Kingdom at the recent International Investment Summit held in Dhaka.
Al-Jasser said the Kingdom’s transport and logistics sector is undergoing rapid transformation. He highlighted the Kingdom’s National Transport and Logistics Strategy at the event, which was attended by investment companies and experts in the field.
Saudi Arabia expects its new transport and logistics strategy to generate SR550 billion ($150 billion) in investments by 2030 in areas such as public transport, railways, and airports expansion and development.
The government would provide 35 percent of the needed investments, and the rest would come from private investors. The strategy would have multiple benefits on economic activities because it would connect many sectors, such as Hajj and tourism, as well as industries.
A host of projects are planned to help achieve the strategy’s economic and social goals, including the launch of a second national airline, along with improved governance to enhance the work of the organizations involved. The new strategy also seeks to improve the capabilities of the Kingdom’s air cargo sector by doubling its capacity to more than 4.5 million tons. It includes a land bridge project that will span more than 1,300 km and connect the Kingdom’s ports on the coast of the Arabian Gulf with those on the Red Sea coast. It will have the capacity to transport more than 3 million passengers and 50 million tons of freight annually, opening up new opportunities in the areas it passes through.
Al-Jasser also visited the Chittagong Port, Bangladesh’s largest port, and held meetings with key officials to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in the sector.
Saudi investment
Saudi company Engineering Dimensions will invest $1.75 billion in Bangladesh, a Bangladesh official was quoted as saying by the local media.
Sirajul Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, said the Saudi company will jointly invest in two companies in the country.
Engineering Dimension has already invested in power generator production and a large scale cement factory.
Local media quoted Al-Jasser as saying many public and private companies of Saudi Arabia were keen to invest in Bangladesh in infrastructure development, power, port, energy and renewable energy sectors.

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Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4

Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will start implementing the mandatory application of the first phase of e-invoicing “fatoorah” on Saturday Dec. 4, Argaam reported.

An e-invoice, according to regulations, is a tax invoice that is issued electronically by each taxpayer subject to value-added tax in the Kingdom

The first phase requirements consist of ensuring that there is a technical e-invoicing solution compatible with the relevant requirements. This means no handwritten invoices or invoices written through text editors or number analysis applications on computers.

A fine of SR5,000 ($1,332) will be applied for not issuing and saving the invoices electronically.

The fine for not including the QR Code in the e-invoice and not reporting any malfunction in the issuing of the e-invoice to the authority starts with a warning. The fine for violating the deletion or modification of e-invoice starts from SR10,000.

The second phase of e-invoicing will be implemented in a phased manner, starting from January 1, 2023, to establish integration between e-systems of taxpayers and the authority’s regulations, Argaam said.


Twitter Founder Dorsey points to blockchain future with Square rebrand: crypto wrap

Updated 03 December 2021

Twitter Founder Dorsey points to blockchain future with Square rebrand: crypto wrap

  • Dorsey hints at future direction of company with reference to blockchain

LONDON: Just days after stepping down from his role as CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey is ringing the changes at Square, the other major company he founded, which has changed its name to Block.

While Dorsey is a renowned crypto enthusiast, the rebrand is not all about the blockchain, according to the company: “The name has many associated meanings for the company — building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome,” Square said in a statement.

The new name for the holding company, which comes into effect around Dec. 10, does not reflect any organizational changes within the business, and its subsidiaries – Square, peer-to-peer payment service Cash App, music streaming service Tidal and its bitcoin-focused financial services unit TBD54566975 – will keep their brands.

The move comes just over a month after another Silicon Valley stalwart, Facebook, changed its name to Meta, for similar reasons: Mark Zuckerberg no longer wanted the range of brands, including Instagram, WhatsApp and its virtual reality headset Meta Quest (formerly Oculus), to sit under the umbrella of another company in the stable. It also gave Zuckerberg an opportunity to position the company for what he sees as the future: the Metaverse.

Dorsey sees a future dominated by cryptocurrencies. The single hashtag on his Twitter bio reads #bitcoin and he has invested a sizeable chunk of Square’s cash in the biggest cryptocurrency.

Square bought $50 million of bitcoin even before the wave of institutional interest that propelled the digital currency’s price to record highs this year. In February, it further raised its wager and invested another $170 million in it.

Square has also been weighing the creation of a hardware wallet for bitcoin to make its custody more mainstream.

At a Miami conference in June, Dorsey told the thousands of attendees: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on bitcoin.”

Square has a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing bitcoin’s popularity globally. Even at Twitter, he began pushing the decentralization project, including creating a team to construct a decentralized social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

Twitter allows users to tip their favorite content creators with bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

While Dorsey and Zuckerberg may seem to have a lot in common as creators of two of the world’s leading social media platforms, they haven’t always seen eye to eye, and Dorsey was critical of Facebook’s rebrand.

Soon after Zuckerberg announced his Metaverse vision, a Twitter user noted that the concept was first coined by science-fiction write Neal Stephenson as a virtual world owned by corporations where end users were treated as citizens in a dystopian corporate dictatorship. When the user asked: “What if Neal was right?” Dorsey responded: “He was.”

Ouch.

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