Foreigners working legally in Abu Dhabi can now purchase freehold properties located in specifically designated investment zones in the city.
Previously, expats were only allowed to purchase leasehold properties, with the change widely believed to have been brought in to stimulate the property market. For a decade or more, neighboring Dubai has granted non-GCC nationals the right to buy freehold homes, making the Emirate’s Real Estate market one of the world’s most vibrant.
Hard hit by the 2008 financial crash, the property sector in Abu Dhabi has been slow to recover and it's hoped the new rule will improve market conditions. A number of the designated investment zones are already being developed by Aldar Properties, the largest commercial developer in the Emirate and mainly state-owned.
Its CEO, AbubakerSeddiq al Khoori, told the media that attracting overseas investors as well as expats working in the emirate was expected to deliver great benefits to the UAE in general as well as to the city. Expat professionals in Abu Dhabi consider the move as positive, but have reservations about the complications and strict requirements of freehold property rights.
Gated community freehold homes come with attached conditions such as making sure any changes made fit in with the general style of the development. Freehold properties on individual plots may have even more conditions applied.
Dubai brings in compulsory health insurance for expats
Expats, locals and visitors to Dubai must now have compulsory medical insurance, with the new law taking effect immediately.
The move is expected to push up the cost of health insurance in the emirate, although it’s expected that private companies employing expats will bear the cost. The scheme will be phased in over a three year period, and its introduction ends years of speculation about its application to expats.
Mandatory health insurance will place a strain on local hospitals, as those previously uninsured and unable to afford medical care will seek treatment. Local small businesses such as coffee shops and hair salons will be forced to increase their prices in order to cover the extra cost.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid, has approved the new law, which basically requires all employers to cover employees and their spouses against heath care costs. Expat workers and other foreign nationals constitute 90 per cent of the Emirate’s population, and many have claimed that local people are suffering from a shortage of hospital beds.
Foreign companies in Dubai consider the move is somewhat ironic in its sudden implementation as, in 2008, another scheme was on the cards but was cancelled due to the financial crash. The model to be used differs considerably from its predecessor in that it does not dictate cover levels or the format of the product.
Meanwhile, a major international insurer has launched an international health insurance product which covers travelers across borders, making it easier to move between countries whilst staying insured. It’s designed to appeal to business travelers, although the USA and the Caribbean countries are excluded.
Dubai has been placed third on the list of the world’s 20 most dynamic cities following the Expo 2020 win with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) referring the emirate to being an "elite city that wields clear economic might on the global stage."
The first City Momentum Index (CMI), released by the global consultancy, named San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Wuhan at the forefront of cities that demonstrate the combination of strong short term socio-economic and commercial real estate momentum and longer term foundations for success, stating commercial real estate was no longer just a consequence of a city’s success but a driver of it.
Dubai was "bouncing back" following a deep slump in its economy and real estate market since the global financial crisis, JLL said.
"Property prices are rising, but growth appears to be on a sounder footing than in the pre-crash years of 2006-2008, underpinned by the city’s strong global connectivity and its status as the service hub for the MENASCA region, as well as its position as a preferred staging point for an increasingly dynamic Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Furthermore, winning the bid to host Expo 2020 has given the city renewed confidence and momentum," the report added.
Last week, Dubai Land Department said the total value of real estate transactions rose by 53 per cent to Dh236 billion in 2013 compared to Dh154 billion in 2012.
Knight Frank said in its December report that Dubai's real estate market is expected to be the world's top performer in 2014, with prices expected to rise by 10 to 15 per cent. DLD Director-General Sultan Butti bin Mejren has predicted a 35 to 40 per cent increase in prices this year.
Jeremy Kelly, Director, Global Research, JLL, said in a statement: "City momentum is about far more than just raw GDP growth. The true foundation of highly dynamic cities emerges from such factors as speed of innovation and creation of cutting-edge businesses along with new building construction, property price movement and investment in real estate from cross-border investors and corporations.”
The CMI offers a uniquely comprehensive perspective that identifies the signals of change and characteristics of city momentum. By focusing on the features of a city that are likely to underpin future performance, the CMI stands apart from the standard historic performance upon which most indices are based.
It is such measures of dynamism in infrastructure, connectivity and innovation that we believe will be steering many investment and location decisions in the future, though investors and corporates should note that high momentum can pose both risk and opportunity.
The CMI assessed 111 cities worldwide with a weighted overall score based on 34 short-term and longer term variables.
Short-term socio-economic momentum variables included recent and projected changes in GDP and population, air passenger traffic, corporate headquarter presence and recent levels of foreign direct investment as a proportion of a city’s economy.
Short-term commercial real estate momentum variables included recent and projected percentage changes in office net absorption, office construction, office rents, shopping mall construction and retail rents, direct commercial real estate investment volumes and real estate transparency.
“IHG”InterContinental Hotels Group, a global lodging brand, has opened Holiday Inn Muscat Al Seeb in the heart of capital’s new business district on January 27th, 2014, making it the third IHG hotel in the city.
The hotel is located within ten minutes’ drive of Muscat International Airport and next to the new centres of business and government.
The hotel is also close to some of the capital’s most popular tourist attractions including Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the traditional souqs at Seeb and Muttrah and old Muscat.
The hotel has 185 rooms, each with a 32-inch LED TV, an iPod docking station and access to free Wi-Fi services. A workspace in the rooms offers a relaxing and spacious environment, with views over the outdoor pool and terrace area. The hotel’s ballroom, boardroom and meeting rooms offer flexible spaces for customised events and meetings, catering for up to 250 people.
The hotel features an all-day dining restaurant offering international cuisine and the Halwa Lounge Café offering a taste of Omani drinks and delicacies.
Additionally, Holiday Inn Muscat Al Seeb operates Holiday Inn Hotels and Resort’s ‘Kids Stay and Eat Free’ programme, making travelling with all the family easier to manage.
Holiday Inn Muscat Al Seeb marks the re-entry of the renowned brand to Oman. In 1977, Oman was the home of the first Holiday Inn property in the Middle East with Holiday Inn Resort Salalah, before the property was converted to Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah.
Pascal Gauvin, IHG’s chief operating officer, for India, Middle East and Africa said: “Oman played a key role in the launch of the Holiday Inn brand in the Middle East region so it is fantastic to be able to bring the brand back to a country where it has so much history."
“With tourist numbers to Oman on the increase we are confident that Holiday Inn Muscat Al Seeb will offer a comfortable and quality option for visitors to Muscat, and play a key role in the city’s future too.”
This hotel will become IHG’s sixth hotel in Oman, and joins two other IHG properties in the capital: InterContinental Muscat and Crowne Plaza Muscat. There are more than 1,200 Holiday Inn hotels around the world, with another 251 in the global pipeline, a statement said.
Qatar to welcome The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa in 2015
Marking the growth of the Westin brand in the Middle East, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has signed for The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa in Qatar, slated for 2015.
Located in the centre of Doha's Central Business District, the new addition is set to feature 372 well-appointed rooms. It will enjoy close proximity to the Museum of Islamic Art, Education City and the Al Mushreib rejuvenation project of Doha's downtown area, and will be a mere 15 minutes from Doha International Airport.
"We are pleased to be growing Starwood's presence in the Middle East, and Qatar specifically, as we sign our first Westin property in Doha," declared Michael Wale, president – Europe, Africa and Middle East, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, who added: "We see huge potential in Doha, particularly in the thriving Central Business District where the hotel will be situated."
The hotel site, comprising a total landscaped area of 49,000m², will feature a spa, three swimming pools and a choice of five F&B outlets as well as 10 meeting rooms. Guests will additionally be offered the Starwood Preferred Guest programme, offering members the ability to redeem awards.
The signing of The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa highlights the hotel company's expansion plans in the Middle East with further openings planned in Sharjah, UAE, and Erbil, Iraq.
Saudi Arabia's Taif, which has been nominated as the Arab Summer Resorts Capital for 2014, will host a range events including festivals, exhibitions, workshops, lectures, sporting tournaments and cultural events.
The events programme was approved recently by Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Makkah region, said a Saudi Press Agency report.
Taif is the first Arab city to win this title. The developmental projects in the city last year was estimated at more than SR16 billion ($4.26 billion), the report said.
Algeria is slowly becoming a more welcoming destination for expatriates. Both multinational and local businesses are investing in the capital, with large corporations such as PepsiCo, Lays and KPMG opening new branches. To make life of foreigners even more enjoyable, a large shopping center Bab ezzouarh as opened its doors for customers. The Mall has many boutiques, a hairdresser, bank and the first Hypermarket in Algeria.