Global hospitality leaders eye investment opportunities at Abu Dhabi summit

Hosted at the Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, the agenda for the three-day event includes contributions from more than 150 speakers in the form of panel discussions, one-on-one interviews, roundtables, innovation pitches, and student-led sessions. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 September 2023
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Global hospitality leaders eye investment opportunities at Abu Dhabi summit

  • Key industry players from over 50 countries convene at the Future Hospitality Summit from Sept. 25-27

RIYADH: The global hospitality sector is set to witness a significant influx of investment as key industry players from over 50 countries convene at the Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi from Sept. 25-27.

Centered around the theme “Focus on Investment,” the event will serve as a catalyst for change, facilitating interactions among over 1,000 hospitality leaders through debates, dialogues, initiatives, and announcements.

Hosted at the Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, the agenda for the three-day event includes contributions from more than 150 speakers in the form of panel discussions, one-on-one interviews, roundtables, innovation pitches, and student-led sessions.

In an interview with Arab News, Jonathan Worsley, chairman of the organizing company The Bench, said that participants can expect a myriad of networking opportunities and receptions throughout the course of the summit.

“From our tried and tested FHS business card exchange and networking receptions to early morning runs, yoga classes, culinary tours, and golf, there are countless experiences available to connect and network for our delegates,” he said.

“As the region’s leading tourism and hospitality summit, we look forward to three action-packed days of discussion, debate, and dealmaking,” he added. 

Worsley told Arab News that the event would explore a diverse array of topics such as the role of environmental, social, and corporate governance, the effects of the current geopolitical landscape on investment opportunities, and the incorporation of technology in the sector.

“Technology will once again be at the forefront of the FHS program with leaders discussing the future of the hospitality and travel tech stack. One of the sessions I am personally very excited about is the presentation by Cenk Sidar, CEO and co-founder of Enquire AI, who will share key insights on the power of artificial intelligence and how it is transforming business decision-making,” Worsley said.

He also highlighted a panel discussion to be led by Marco S. Rentsch, partner at PwC Middle East’s Global Consulting Hospitality and Tourism Center of Excellence. The session will explore the ongoing digital transformation within the hospitality sector and examine best practices and strategies across various industries.

“This panel discussion will cover topics such as how technology can improve operating processes, how data can be monetized and used to optimize the guest experience, and how technology can support meeting ESG goals in the sector,” Worsley said.

“In the lead up to FHS, I spoke with Tatiana Labaki, head of hotel and tourism advisory at TONOMUS NEOM, who is one of the panelists in this session, and she mentioned that as technology is seen as an enabler of an optimal, frictionless, and seamless guest experience we should always start our understanding from the guest journey,” he said.

“She also believes that technology will support the key hospitality verticals, including the guest experience, top-line revenue, and operational/cost efficiencies,” he added.

Worsley believes that fostering entrepreneurship is essential for driving technological adoption and enabling innovation in the hospitality sector. “FHS is proud to act as a springboard for promising startups in the industry,” he added. 

With Yas Island, Miral has showcased that by bringing together world-class attrac-tions, including award-winning theme parks, and a vast portfolio of leisure and hospitality offerings.

Jonathan Brown, chief portfolio officer of Miral

“At The Bench, we’re passionate about helping entrepreneurs position their startups for success and to accelerate their growth, and again this year, we will be hosting the FHS Startup Den in which 11 finalists will be pitching to a senior panel of judges. These startups are tech platforms that are transforming the industry,” he stated.

The event will also highlight the importance of sustainability within the hospitality industry. Worsley noted that given that 2023 is the UAE’s Year of Sustainability and with COP28 scheduled to take place in Dubai, the FHS will bring an unprecedented focus on sustainability issues.

He added that the event will host the finals of the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge, a global competition for students.

“We also look forward to working with our partners Fresh on Table again this year to bring local produce to the food and beverage experience at FHS and to promote local businesses and sustainability in the hospitality sector,” he said.

“Fresh on Table is a digital marketplace that promotes locally sourced food by bringing buyers and local sellers together. Through our partnership with Fresh on Table last year, we were able to save 288 kilos of carbon emissions and 44,168 food miles by sourcing local produce for the conference menu,” he added. 

FASTFACT

Centered around the theme ‘Focus on Investment,’ the event will serve as a catalyst for change, facilitating interactions among over 1,000 hospitality leaders through debates, dialogues, initiatives, and announcements.

He further elaborated that Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island will contribute to the event’s focus on sustainability by aiding FHS in becoming carbon-neutral through Hilton’s award-winning sustainability measurement program, LightStay.

“As part of this initiative, we will be measuring and analyzing the environmental impact of FHS 2023 using their proprietary LightStay Meeting Impact Calculator. Once the event is completed, the CO2 emissions will be offset by procuring carbon offset credits from Hilton’s partners — the South Pole Group,” he added.

In an interview with Arab News, Jonathan Brown, chief portfolio officer of the host sponsor Miral, stated that high-level business events such as the FHS play a key role in accelerating diversification and economic development.

“With Yas Island, Miral has showcased that by bringing together world-class attractions, including award-winning theme parks, and a vast portfolio of leisure and hospitality offerings, we can deliver a one-stop destination that provides unique and memorable experiences for our guests and business travelers from across the world,” Brown said.

“We are looking forward to welcoming industry leaders to explore the exceptional experiences this remarkable island has to offer. We encourage guests to take the opportunity to witness first-hand the remarkable offerings that make Yas Island a preferred destination for hospitality and leisure,” he added.

“To further enhance their experience, across the three days there will be a variety of networking activities hosted across the island, including a welcome reception at the Cafe del Mar Beach Club at Yas Bay Waterfront, a networking event at the luxurious Saadiyat Rotana Resort on Saadiyat Island and a closing party at Lock, Stock and Barrel on Yas Bay Waterfront as well,” Brown added.


China’s used vehicle exports rise exponentially

Updated 03 March 2024
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China’s used vehicle exports rise exponentially

  • Efforts have been made to streamline export procedures and enhance the used car export industrial framework, signaling the untapped potential within this sector

RIYADH: China has recorded a significant rise in the export of used cars over the last five years, a report in the People’s Daily Online showed.

According to the report, since the inception of a pilot program in 2019 aimed at exporting used automobiles, the number of vehicles dispatched from China witness a rise of over 250 percent in 2022 reaching 69,000 units, a substantial increase from approximately 15,000 units in the previous year. A substantial portion of these exports consists of new energy vehicles with Tianjin municipality, located in North China, being one of the pioneering cities for such exports. 

Enterprises within Tianjin’s Dongjiang bonded zone successfully exported a variety of vehicles, including engineering and commercial vehicles, alongside traditional and new energy passenger cars. Currently, NEVs constitute over 70 percent of the zone’s total used car exports.

The market for China’s used cars has expanded globally, reaching more than 140 countries, as highlighted at the 2023 annual conference of China’s automotive distribution industry. The primary destinations include five Central Asian countries, several African nations, and parts of Southeast Asia. Additionally, Russia has emerged as a key market since 2022.

The Russian market has shown consistent growth, with the European market also gaining momentum amid an energy crisis, leading to a significant increase in exports to both Western and Eastern Europe.

Efforts have been made to streamline export procedures and enhance the used car export industrial framework, signaling the untapped potential within this sector. With 435 million motor vehicles reported on China’s roads in 2023, the need for new markets is evident due to the vast vehicle population and the rapid turnover of cars.

Policy support has played a critical role in the expansion of used car exports. In July 2023, measures to boost automobile consumption were introduced, including incentives for exporting used cars that meet specific quality standards. Subsequent guidelines and support measures were announced, culminating in a notice issued on Feb. 7 to expand used car export operations nationwide.


Number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia hits 4,656

Updated 03 March 2024
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Number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia hits 4,656

RIYADH: The total number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia has reached 4,656 with the addition of 85 new firms in the sector in February, official data showed.

The National Center for Non-Profit Sector also revealed that the total number of volunteers in 2024 reached more than 113,000 across various fields.

The center disclosed that the sector recorded more than 4 million volunteer hours and over 43,000 volunteering prospects.

The surge aligns with the center’s aim to organize, activate, and expand the role of nonprofit sector organizations in different fields.

Moreover, the growth in number confirms NCNPS endeavors to work on integrating government efforts in providing licensing services to these organizations, financial, administrative, and technical supervision of the sector, and increasing coordination and support.

The center also said warnings were issued to 11 civil society entities in 2024. Furthermore, it said one entity was directed to dismiss its board of directors, and two others were instructed to reconstitute their respective board of directors temporarily.

It also urged nonprofit organizations to increase collaboration with the center and compliance with the rules and regulations to ensure increased contribution to the Kingdom’s growth.

In June, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi lauded the Kingdom’s nonprofit sector for its work toward the realization of Saudi Vision 2030 goals.

Al-Rajhi said that the nonprofit sector played a significant role in national development, creating “sustainable impacts” and establishing robust partnerships with community institutions and individuals through the implementation of “many outstanding projects”, SPA said at the time.

Al-Rajhi, who is also chairman of the National Center for Non-Profit Sector, noted at the time that the expedited incorporation process for nonprofit organizations — which takes no more than four days, as opposed to 18 months previously — is “one of the most remarkable accomplishments” in the country’s recent history.


Saudi Arabia extends voluntary oil cut of 1m barrels per day until mid-2024

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend oil supply cuts through June as part of a bid to stabilize prices. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia extends voluntary oil cut of 1m barrels per day until mid-2024

  • OPEC+ has implemented a series of output cuts since late 2022 to support the market
  • Saudi Arabia’s output will remain at around 9 million bpd

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend oil supply cuts through June as part of a bid to prop up prices.

An Energy Ministry source announced Riyadh “will extend its voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day, which was implemented in July 2023, until the end of the second quarter of 2024,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The decision was taken in coordination with other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, to ensure stability of the global crude markets.

With the extension in the production cuts, Saudi Arabia’s output will remain at around 9 million bpd.

The cuts would be reversed gradually according to market conditions, the SPA said.

Russia will cut oil production and exports by an additional 471,000 bpd in the second quarter, in coordination with some OPEC+ participating countries, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

OPEC+ in November agreed to voluntary cuts totaling about 2.2 million bpd for the first quarter, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

OPEC+ members announce the cuts individually. Kuwait said it would cut its oil output by 135,000 bpd through June, while Algeria will curb its output by 51,000 bpd and Oman will reduce output by 42,000 bpd.

OPEC+ has implemented a series of output cuts since late 2022 to support the market.


Innovative minds descend on Riyadh to explore opportunities in tech sector

Updated 03 March 2024
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Innovative minds descend on Riyadh to explore opportunities in tech sector

  • Saudi Arabia is emerging globally as a priority economy, says Tahaluf CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is gearing up for LEAP 2024, the world’s most-attended tech event, from March 4 to 7 at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center in Malham.

The pre-event gathering on Feb 28 announced this year’s theme as “Into New Worlds,” which encompasses new opportunities, technologies, and capabilities in the tech sector.

The event is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Tahaluf Co., the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at.

CEO of Tahaluf Michael Champion told Arab News: “Into New Worlds showcases how technology can bring new horizons to different industries and create new opportunities, much of which we once thought unachievable.”

With artificial intelligence at the heart of LEAP, speakers will discuss its applications and impact, along with other innovations and emerging technologies across the four-day event.

LEAP 2024 will cover various topics across multiple stages, including the investor stage and main stage, with discussions on educational tech, retail tech, and fintech, as well as health tech, the fourth industrial revolution, future energy, and smart cities.

FASTFACTS

  • Over 600 startups and 172,000 people are expected to attend the conference, alongside more than 1,800 global tech exhibitors.
  • The event will feature over 1,000 international and local companies in the technology sector and more than 1,000 expert speakers from 180 countries.
  • LEAP 2024 will cover various topics across multiple stages, including the investor stage and main stage.
  • Discussions will be held on educational tech, retail tech, and fintech, as well as health tech, the fourth industrial revolution, future energy, and smart cities.

Over 600 startups and 172,000 people are expected to attend the conference, alongside more than 1,800 global tech exhibitors, such as Google, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as Dell, Cisco, and Avaya.

SAP, ServiceNow, and Amazon Web Services will also be represented, alongside IBM, Alibaba, and Huawei.

The event will feature over 1,000 international and local companies in the technology sector and more than 1,000 expert speakers from 180 countries, and to accommodate this the 2024 venue is 170 percent larger than last year’s.

Saudi Arabia’s Vice Minister of Communications and Information Technology Haitham Al-Ohali is looking forward to welcoming thought leaders, influencers, investors, and innovators worldwide to LEAP.

“This edition arrives at a time when variables are accelerating, and generative artificial intelligence is a critical turning point at the economic and social levels,” said Al-Ohali.

Champion told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is emerging globally as a priority economy. For many, traveling to Riyadh will unveil a new world for them.

“We’re getting 70,000 registrations from abroad — business tourists, many of whom have never traveled to the Kingdom before,” said the CEO.

He said attendees can meet with key decision-makers through LEAP and create new partnerships.

Among the most prominent speakers and experts are Vice President & former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane; CEO and President of Ericsson Borje Ekholm; and Chairman and CEO of IBM Arvind Krishna.

Other global figures include Government Chief Data Officer at the Republic of Estonia Ott Velsberg; Chief AI Officer at Schneider Electric Philippe Rambach; President and CEO of Nokia Pekka Lundmark; and Martin Vilig, co-founder of Bolt.

Champion said: “These are massive, global companies and their CEOs are all coming to this event, and I believe this is a real testimony to how important people are seeing Saudi Arabia now as a change-maker when it comes to technology and investments.”

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha said that the third LEAP event will strengthen Saudi Arabia’s position as a hub for innovation and technology, attracting investment to this region.

There will be multiple memorandums of understanding signing stations all over the exhibition to facilitate agreements and deals.

“During LEAP, we announce billions of dollars of projects and significant MoU signings because we take seriously the need to use the event as a platform for business deals to happen,” said Champion.

The 2023 edition of the event saw more than $11 billion worth of deals and agreements reached, and its estimated 172,000 attendees helped cement LEAP as the biggest tech conference in the world.

The event will feature 10 stages discussing various aspects of technology, including health, education, and e-commerce. Among the 10, the main stage sessions will be aired live on LEAP 2024 social media platforms.

LEAP will host the investor stage, where the world’s top investors will discuss innovative investment opportunities. This stage will also address topics such as the intersection of technology with government policies and innovation, and successful financing strategies.

It will also feature the Startup Stage, where expert speakers such as Blossom Accelerator CEO and founder Emon Shakoor, Raiven Capital founding partner Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Adaverse founding partner Vincent Li will discuss startup growth and innovation.

The Rocket Fuel Pitch competition returns for Saudi and foreign startups, with prizes exceeding $1 million. Categories include the LEAP Award, worth $250,000 for the most outstanding startup across the whole competition; the Shooting Star Award, which allocates $150,000 for the early-stage startup beginning its journey; and the Aviatrix Award, which will see $150,000 given to the most innovative startup pioneered by women founders.

The Technology for Humanity Award will also come with a prize of $150,000, this time for the startup that best embodies the “tech for humanity” spirit of LEAP, while another $150,000 is given to the winner of the Into New Worlds Award for the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space,

The final $150,000 prize is part of the Artificial Intelligence Award for the startup that presents the most exciting, ground-breaking use of AI.

Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones CEO Muteb Al-Qani said that they are keen to present a special experience to the visitors, as we will gather top speakers and tech experts from around the world.

“This event has been created to empower technology globally; therefore, the upcoming edition brings together the largest tech companies, startups, and investors, all under one roof, which has the potential to lead to numerous investments and launches,” he said.


Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,555 

Updated 03 March 2024
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Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,555 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, losing 75.66 points, or 0.60 percent, to close at 12,555.20. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.19 billion ($2.18 billion) as 82 of the stocks advanced, while 134 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 559.57 points, or 2.12 percent, to close at 26,962.39. This comes as 32 of the stocks advanced, while as many as 31 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 14.06 points, or 0.87 percent, to close at 1,609.62. 

The best-performing stock of the day was Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance. The company’s share price surged 9.92 percent to SR93.10.  

Other top performers included Saudi Steel Pipe Co. as well as Middle East Pharmaceutical Industries Co.

Conversely, Mobile Telecommunication Co. Saudi Arabia, also known as Zain KSA, experienced the most significant decline, with its share price dropping by 6.31 percent to SR13.96. Other underperformers in the market were Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co. and Hail Cement Co. 

On the announcements front, Arabian Centres Co. has reported the successful completion of the offering of $500 million worth of US dollar-denominated Shariah-compliant sukuk. 

According to a statement from Tadawul, the company anticipates that the issuance will be credit-neutral. The proceeds from the issuance are intended for the refinancing of its 2019 sukuk, set to mature in November 2024. 

With a maturity of five years, the total number of sukuk stands at 2,500 with a par value of $200,000 and a return of 9.5 percent.  

Moreover, Zain KSA has announced its annual consolidated financial results for the year ending Dec. 31.  

A bourse filing revealed that the firm’s net profit reached SR1.26 billion, reflecting a 130 percent surge compared to the same period in 2022.  

The rise is primarily attributed to the company achieving its highest-ever revenues, totaling SR9.9 billion in 2023, marking an 8.9 percent growth compared to 2022. This surge in revenue resulted in a 7 percent increase in the cost of revenue. 

In addition to this, gross profit increased by 10 percent, representing SR541 million, as a result of the growth in the high-margin segments. 

Furthermore, Saudi Real Estate Co. also announced its annual financial results for the year 2023. According to a Tadawul statement, the company’s net profit hit SR67.6 million in the period ending on Dec. 31, down 38.82 percent in comparison to 2022 figures.  

The drop is mainly attributed to an increase in financial charges by SR96 million due to the significant rise in interest rates as well as a climb in net losses in one of the subsidiaries due to the recording of extraordinary losses of SR46 million in one of its projects.