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)
Short Url
Updated 24 September 2023

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. 


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.

Saudi cybersecurity body releases toolkit to fortify digital infrastructure

Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi cybersecurity body releases toolkit to fortify digital infrastructure

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Cybersecurity Authority has released its second package of cybersecurity tools in a strategic initiative to fortify the Kingdom’s digital infrastructure.

This comprehensive suite of tools is designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity measures across various sectors, aligning with the Kingdom’s efforts to combat evolving threats and boost digital readiness.

The newly released toolkit includes a range of templates and procedures for developing robust cybersecurity policies and standards, according to a statement issued by the authority.

Available in both Arabic and English, it caters to a wide spectrum of entities in the government and private sectors.

This initiative reflects the authority’s commitment to establishing and governing cybersecurity policies, frameworks, standards, and guidelines in Saudi Arabia.

Developed through an extensive study of various policies and best practices in the cybersecurity domain, the toolkit encompasses critical topics such as malware protection, risk management, email and network security, web application protection, and data security.

It also covers security aspects of user and mobile devices, industrial control systems, social media, and virtual environments.

The authority emphasizes that these implements aim to ensure a safer cyber environment for all stakeholders in the Kingdom.

The availability of the toolkit on the authority’s website ensures easy access and widespread adoption.

As the national reference in cybersecurity holds significant importance, the authority’s primary objective is to protect the region’s vital interests, national security, and critical infrastructures.

Saudi Arabia’s cybersecurity reforms have been rapidly growing with the hosting of the Global Cybersecurity Forum last month in Riyadh.

Furthermore, the NCA announced its second cybersecurity accelerator program in October to boost entrepreneurship, investment, and innovation in the sector.

The program provided more than SR6.5 million ($1.7 million) to support expanding companies and over 500 hours of guidance and direction.

These initiatives coincide with the Kingdom’s position as one of the global leaders in cybersecurity.

In June, Saudi Arabia secured second place in the Global Cybersecurity Index in the World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2023 by the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development.

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rises to close at 11,219

Updated 03 December 2023

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rises to close at 11,219

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Sunday, gaining 41.54 points, or 0.37 percent, to close at 11,219.02.  

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR4.13 billion ($1.10 billion) as 148 of the listed stocks advanced, while 71 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu slipped 391.54 points, or 1.55 percent, to close at 24,844.08. This comes as 29 of the listed stocks advanced, while as much as 25 retreated.  

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index also rose 3.86 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 1,445.89.  

The best-performing stock of the day was Middle East Healthcare Co. The company’s share price surged 9.95 percent to SR86.20.  

Other top performers included Naqi Water Co. as well as Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., whose share prices soared by 6.34 percent and 6.03 percent, to stand at SR78.80 and SR17.24 respectively.  

In addition to this, other top performers included Arab Sea Information System Co. and Saudi Co. for Hardware.  

The worst performer was Development Works Food Co., whose share price dropped by 5.64 percent to SR130.40.  

Other poor performers were Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance as well as Naseej International Trading Co., whose share prices dropped by 5.26 percent and 3.03 percent to stand at SR162.00 and SR54.40, respectively.  

Moreover, other worst performers also included Saudi Automotive Services Co. and Arabian Cement Co.  

On the announcements front, the Saudi Exchange has announced the trading suspension on Dur Hospitality Co.’s shares starting Dec. 3 to commence delisting procedures of the company’s shares.  

According to a statement from Tadawul, this decision follows the firm’s announcement of the extraordinary general meeting’s approval of the offer submitted by Taiba Investments Co. to acquire shares of Dur Hospitality Co. from shareholders through a securities exchange offer.  

On another note, Methanol Chemicals Co. has announced the issuance of the Ministry of Energy’s approval to allocate the required feedstock for manufacturing methyl diethanolamine, choline chloride dimethyl disulfide, and n-methyl pyrrolidone. 

A bourse filing has disclosed that all the targeted products will be the first of their kind in the region. Furthermore, these innovative products are anticipated to find applications in critical and strategic industries in the Kingdom, including but not limited to oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and construction materials, among others.  

Moreover, Taiba Investments Co. has announced the results of the extraordinary general assembly meeting which included the increase of the firm’s capital remotely utilizing contemporary technology using the Tadawulaty platform.  

Meanwhile, Abdulaziz and Mansour Ibrahim Al-Babtain Co. has announced the signing of an agreement with Nestle Saudi Arabia.   

According to a Tadawul statement, the agreement will come into force from the date of its signature and expire on Dec. 31. However, it will be automatically extended upon the expiry of the period. 

UNIDO expert highlights crucial steps for hydrogen economy transition at COP28

Updated 03 December 2023

UNIDO expert highlights crucial steps for hydrogen economy transition at COP28

DUBAI: Partnerships between the private and public sectors are required to address hydrogen development infrastructure, according to a UN Industrial Development Organization expert.

Eunji Park emphasized in a panel discussion titled “Connecting the Dots for the Hydrogen Economy” by King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center on the sidelines of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference key factors for a successful global transition to a hydrogen-based economy.

She highlighted the impact of policies like the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, encouraging industries in developing countries to shift toward cleaner industrial processes.

Park said: “Only 10 percent of the projects are presented for local offtake, so in order to solve infrastructure challenges in line with the scale of financing, we really need to ensure that public-private partnerships address more basic infrastructure to be in place for hydrogen development.”

The expert also called for the proximity of renewable energy sources to industrial clusters, advocating on-site installations for maximum efficiency. Park underscored the need for more hydrogen transport pipelines to facilitate widespread adoption.

In addressing a critical gap, she emphasized the urgency for more skills development, citing deficiencies in current international assistance schemes.

“We need more skills development and technical capacity building within the countries. This is something that is currently lacking in the international assistance schemes, so more opportunities for upskilling sufficient knowledge,” she said.

Park added: “I think these are the elements that need to be closely addressed within the public-private partnerships.”

On the topic of upskilling and reskilling, she emphasized the need for a just transition, recognizing the challenge of shifting fossil fuel-based economies without job losses.

Park stressed the importance of a systemic approach to ensure inclusivity in the transition process.

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity. The production of green hydrogen causes significantly lower emissions than the production of gray hydrogen, which is derived from fossil fuels.

As COP28 progresses, experts like Park continue to play a pivotal role in shaping discussions and strategies for a sustainable and inclusive hydrogen economy.

Saudi budget airline flynas launches first direct flight from Jeddah to Brussels

Updated 03 December 2023

Saudi budget airline flynas launches first direct flight from Jeddah to Brussels

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budget airline flynas announced on Sunday the inauguration of its first direct flight connecting Jeddah with Brussels.

This move marks a major milestone in flynas’ European expansion, establishing it as the first Saudi national airline to provide direct connectivity between the Kingdom and the heart of the EU, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency. 

The new route, part of flynas’ growing portfolio of international destinations, is a strategic component of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program. 

This program is a key initiative in line with the National Tourism Strategy, aiming to increase the Kingdom’s global connectivity. 

The strategy aims to draw 150 million tourists and expand Saudi Arabia’s international flight destinations to over 250 by 2030. 

The launch, signifying the strengthening of Saudi-Belgian relations, was attended by key dignitaries, including Pascal Gregoire, the Belgian ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 

The celebratory event at the Brussels Airport was graced by the deputy ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Mohammed Moanes, along with representatives from flynas and prominent figures from the travel and tourism sector. 

The Air Connectivity Program, initiated in 2021, is crucial to the Kingdom’s tourism growth. 

It focuses on enhancing Saudi Arabia’s global air links by developing existing and potential flight paths, thereby positioning the region as a leading global tourist destination. 

The program operates as the executive arm of the National Tourism and Aviation Strategies, aiming to foster collaboration and partnerships across public and private sectors in tourism and aviation. 

This route expansion by flynas signifies a step in Saudi Arabia’s aviation capabilities and aligns with the broader vision of diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and enhancing its global standing as a key player in international travel and tourism. 

On Dec. 2, the airline also inaugurated six destinations and routes, including two domestic flights to Abha and Tabuk and four in the international category — to Dubai, Amman, Istanbul and Ankara — to be operated alongside the other four existing destinations from Madinah to Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Cairo. 

Global air transport event kicks off in Riyadh

Updated 03 December 2023

Global air transport event kicks off in Riyadh

RIYADH: Representatives from over 100 countries and multinational organizations will assemble in Riyadh for the 15th International Conference on Air Services Negotiations, focusing on enhancing aviation for improved global transport. 

Beginning Dec. 3, the five-day event will attract over 700 civil aviation experts and specialists.   

The ICAN2023 Conference, recognized as the foremost international event in its category, is dedicated to aligning with the swift advancements in the global air transport industry, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency.   

Negotiations and discussions between delegations from different nations are set to take place on both bilateral and multilateral fronts. Moreover, the participants are expected to actively support the establishment of connections between regulatory bodies, air operators, and other relevant service providers.  

The conference will also see the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser and Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation President Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej. 

Ibtisam Al-Shehri, spokesperson for the GACA, mentioned to state TV Al-Ekhbariya that the Kingdom is hosting ICAN for the second time. She added that this edition is the largest yet, with five ministers and 34 heads of global aviation authorities participating in the event.   

The conference, coinciding with World Civil Aviation Day on its last day, will also highlight investment opportunities available in the Kingdom through the country’s National Aviation Strategy. The strategy aims to enhance the capabilities of the Kingdom’s civil aviation sector, positioning it as the leading sector in the Middle East by 2023 in alignment with the Saudi Vision 2023.

The event also aligns with the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Transport and Logistics, aiming to enhance Saudi Arabia’s air connectivity from 99 destinations to over 250 across 29 airports. Furthermore, the strategy seeks to triple annual passenger traffic to reach 330 million. Launched in 2021 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the strategy additionally aims to double the capacity of the air cargo sector to over 4.5 million tons. 

The event is organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency that facilitates cooperation among 193 countries, allowing them to share their skies for mutual benefit. 

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to global aviation is further underscored by its election to the membership of the ICAO Council for the period 2023-2024-2025. This decision was reached during the 41st General Assembly of the organization held in Montreal, Canada.  

The Kingdom secured its re-election through a voting process involving the participation of all 193 member states of the UN, securing a position in the ICAO Council, which comprises 36 members.