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Orascom inks deal with Thomas Cook for Egypt hotels

Orascom Development Holding (ODH) has signed a deal with leading holiday company Thomas Cook to develop two hotels in Egypt next year.

Thomas Cook will open a 100-room waterfront Casa Cook hotel - its award-winning boutique brand - in a prestigious area of the Red Sea development. In addition, the holiday company will open a Cook’s Club hotel in the heart of El Gouna – one of 10 to open next year across its core destinations.

Enric Noguer, chief of Thomas Cook Hotels & Resorts, said: “With the opening of these two hotels Thomas Cook will offer year-round holidays in our Casa Cook and Cook’s Club brands. This continues strong momentum for our hotels and resorts business as we expand our portfolio around the world. El Gouna is a popular destination and our two new hotels will offer alternative holidays to people looking for high-quality contemporary design and laidback service with a great bar and restaurant at the heart.

"We are excited about the partnership with Thomas Cook and we welcome the fact that El Gouna will be the first home to Thomas Cook's newest hotel brands in the Middle East," said Khaled Bichara, CEO of Orascom Development. "We are confident that Casa Cook and Cook’s Club will fit perfectly to the offer at El Gouna and the group's hotel portfolio,” Bichara added.

ODH is a leading developer of fully integrated holiday destinations that include hotels, private villas and apartments, leisure facilities such as golf courses, marinas and supporting infrastructure. Its diversified portfolio includes operations in 10 destinations; five in Egypt (El Gouna, Taba Heights, Fayoum Makadi, and Harram City), The Cove in the UAE, Jebel Sifah and Hawana Salalah in Oman, Luštica Bay in Montenegro and Andermatt in Switzerland. The group operates a total of 33 hotels with 7,113 rooms and controls approximately 104 million sq m of land. - TradeArabia News Service


Education ministry to replace 1,000 expatriates with national manpower

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Education’s administrative sector is currently finalizing lists including the names of 1,000 expat employees who will be replaced by citizens during the current academic year 2018-2019, said informed sources. The sources explained that the employees due to be terminated by the end of June 2019 include 300 teachers, 100 social workers and 600 service staff (office boys). The sources added the education sector has targeted the 300 teachers according to the subjects they teach, due to the abundance of Kuwaiti teachers of the same subjects to replace them.

Property taxes

The secretariat of the Jordanian capital Amman announced that Kuwaitis’ real estate, apartments and lands are exempted from fines on property taxes till the end of the year. In this regard, the secretariat’s financial affairs manager Samer Yaseen said that the opportunity is open for all owners, including Kuwaitis, to benefit from the exemption provided they pay the tax in full, noting that the exemption during the first quarter of 2019 will drop to only 50 percent.


2,799 expatriates terminated in first year of replacement plan

KUWAIT: An informed source at the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said results of the first year of implementation of the government’s the replacement plan resulted in terminating the contracts of 2,799 expatriates from various ministries and state departments. These results were to evaluate the first year of the plan in implementation of the CSC decision, Al-Anbaa reported yesterday, quoting the source. He revealed that the education ministry topped the list of ministries in implementing this policy by terminating 1,507 expats during the first year – 54 percent of the total of 2,799. The awqaf and Islamic affairs ministry was second by terminating 436 expats at 16 percent.

The source said the replacement plan requires the termination of 41,741 expats who are still at work, adding that the number of expats in ministries varies, as there are 31,171 expats in the education ministry and the number goes down gradually until it ends with four expats at the secretariat general of the awqaf ministry. The oil ministry is 100 percent ‘Kuwaitized’ as no expats are working there.

The number of non-Kuwaitis working in the government whose contracts ended on July 1, 2018 in implementation of the replacement policy 2017/2018 are as follows: Education Ministry: 1,507; Awqaf Ministry: 436; Health Ministry: 273; Ministry of Electric Water: 158, Interior Ministry: 155; Justice Ministry: 62; Council of Ministers: 50; Public Works Ministry: 40; Information Ministry: 35; Civil Service Commission: 20; Social Affairs Ministry: 14; Finance Ministry: 11; Foreign Ministry: 11; Defense Ministry: 6; Higher Education Ministry: 4; Services Ministry: 3; Fatwa and Legislation Department: 3; National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters : 2; State Ministry for Youth: 2; Central Statistical Bureau: 2; General Secretariat of Supreme Council for Planning and Development: 2; General Customs Department: 2; Commerce and Industry Ministry: 1.

According to Central Service Commission (CSC) statistics, the total number of unemployed citizens is 13,523 – 3,540 males (26.18 percent) and 9,983 females (73.82 percent), reported Al-Anbaa daily, noting that 45.66 percent have been jobless for over 12 months, while only 10.31 percent have been unemployed for 6 to 12 months, which strongly indicates a drop in unemployment compared to previous years.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hind Al-Sabeeh told Al-Qabas daily that the total number of citizens working for the private sector and receiving national labor support allowances is 59,802 until last September.

Sabeeh added that according to the Manpower and Government Restructuring Program, citizens working for the private sector include 8,716 managers, 3,059 heads of departments, 2,562 supervisors, 2,310 secretaries, 415 mandoubs (representatives), 218 in safety and security, 205 storekeepers, 167 mechanics, 165 electricians, 155 light vehicle drivers, 128 security guards, 78 cashiers, 62 electrical technicians, 38 hairdressers, 31 maintenance technicians and 20 operators.


Automated system to prevent visa trafficking

KUWAIT: The Public Authority for Manpower’s deputy director for human resources and financial affairs Sultan Al-Shaalani said the authority is exerting unprecedented efforts to fight marginal labor, and in this regard, it recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Egypt to recruit Egyptians through automated electronic transactions between both countries. Shaalani added that the e-linkage system, due to be used by the beginning of 2019, will help recruit only skilled and qualified labor as well as help fight visa trafficking.


Kuwait's plan to reduce expats 'to impact economic growth'

Kuwait's plan to cut expat numbers by 1.5 million over the next seven years will impact economic growth, according to new research.

Dr Paul Wetterwald, chief economist for Indosuez Wealth Management, the global wealth management division of Crédit Agricole, said it will be "almost impossible" to achieve the replacement of such a large number of foreign workers with Kuwaiti ones in a timescale less than a generation.

Like its oil producing peers, Kuwait is trying to build a more diversified economy but is also willing to favour its national workforce.

"This 'demographic management' will not go without impacting growth. After all, growth is the combination of population growth and productivity," said Wetterwald in a new research note.

The plan by the government aims to limit the number of foreigners in Kuwait to 25 percent of the population, meaning at least 600,000 Indians and 300,000 Egyptians will be among those reduced as they constitute the largest expat communities.

However, it does not explain the fate of 120,000 Bedouins or stateless people, nor does it specify whether the cuts will include 650,000 domestic helpers.

He added that the postponement of the implementation of a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) until 2021 will hit government revenues.

"This will represent a lack of revenues for the Kuwaiti government against a framework of a generous welfare state including fuel, electricity, and water subsidies and the large economic role of the public sector," he said, adding: "Clearly this loss of non-oil revenues will be compounded by the recent fall in oil prices. It illustrates that the rhythm of reforms has somewhat stalled."

That being said, the country still has one of the lowest fiscal breakeven oil prices, and the ratio of public debt-to-GDP is around 20 percent.

Forex reserves amounted to $34.2 billion as of September 2018, whereas external debt totalled $59.6 billion, or 50 percent of GDP, the research note said.

It also noted that the recent strength in the US dollar and the US Fed’s tightening is less of a worry for the Kuwaiti central bank, as the Kuwait dinar is pegged to a basket of currencies and not to the US dollar alone.


Tamdeen working on giant tennis complex in Kuwait

Tamdeen Group, a leading mixed-use property developer in Kuwait, said work was in full swing at its ambitious Shaikh Jaber Al Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah International Tennis Complex, which aims to position the country as a preferred international tennis destination in the region.

With a built-up area of 263,430 sq m, the project will be the first multi-facility and services complex for tennis in Kuwait, housing the main headquarters of the Kuwait Tennis Federation and 18 courts, including the main tennis stadium covered court with more than 5,000 seats, and has a secondary open court with 1,500 seats.

Tamdeen said Shaikh Jaber Al Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah International Tennis Complex was one of the country's pioneering and significant public-private partnership projects and the biggest sports project in value and size under the Kuwait Public Authority for Sport since its establishment.

Through this partnership, Tamdeen Group is demonstrating its vision and commitment to innovative design, construction, and excellence in operation and maintenance.

The venue will be home to the biggest international tennis academy in the Middle East in co-ordination with the Kuwait Tennis Federation, giving Kuwaitis access to world-class facilities and coaches as tennis continues to gain popularity as one of the world’s most significant sports, said the statement from Tamdeen Group.

In addition, the complex boasts eight covered courts and eight open courts, all of which are equipped with cutting-edge facilities while maintaining captivating architectural design. The complex also includes a five-star hotel and an exclusive selected array of retail shops.

The 18 tennis courts will be equipped with a world-class facilities and technology. The courts’ surfaces are made from ProCushion acrylic, the latest in the tennis world and are favoured by athletes, in addition to the state-of-the-art soundproofing technology and the adjustable and fixed seats in the stands designed by world renowned Sir Norman Foster and made by Figueras, it added.

Connected to 360 Mall, one of the most popular malls in Kuwait, the upcoming tennis complex will benefit from visitors turnout, which is forecasted to exceed 11 million visitors per year.

The complex will drive awareness of tennis and healthy living among Kuwaiti youths and drawing a new generation of fans to the sport, said a top official.

"This major development embodies the capabilities of Tamdeen Group in realising its goals in leading the development of mixed-use projects in Kuwait that meet the aspirations of Kuwaiti society as a whole, a society whose wise leadership views sports as a means for progress," remarked Group Chairman Mohammed Jassim Khalid Al Marzouq.

"In cooperation with the Public Authority for Sport and Kuwait Tennis Federation, we will work together to develop and support young sport talents in the country by providing the facilities and training for talented tennis players in Kuwait," stated Al Marzouq.

"Through this tennis complex, we will provide a fertile sports environment for training Kuwaiti athletes to excel in international sports. Today we have reached advanced stages in building this creative sports monument, which will put Kuwait and its championships on the international sports map," he added.- TradeArabia News Service


RTA to issue redesigned vehicle number plates from 1st January, 2019

The Roads and Transport Authority, RTA, has announced that - effective from the 1st January, 2019 - it will start issuing the new generation of the redesigned vehicle number plates at the time of registration renewal and the processing of plate-replacement transactions.

RTA said that as of July 2019, it will start the mandatory issuance of the new plates to vehicles registered in the name of public and private organisations. In January 2020, RTA will start the mandatory issuance of plates for vehicles registered in the names of individuals. From now and up to January 2020, the replacement of vehicle plates for individual car owners will be elective. The changing of licensing plates involves a one-time cost ranging from AED35 for the short plate to AED50 for the long plate.

The introduction of the new generation of vehicle plates is part of RTA’s efforts to standardise the design of vehicle plates in Dubai in line with the newly designed plates featuring three elements: Dubai brand, number and code. The move is also consistent with RTA’s preparations for issuing dual code plates, especially as the stock of single-code plates is nearing exhaustion.


Flydubai launches new routes to Europe

Dubai-based airline flydubai has announced the start of flights to Budapest in Hungary and Naples in Italy. flydubai will operate up to five flights a week to Naples from 04 June 2019 becoming the first UAE carrier to offer direct flights. Daily flights to Budapest will start on 27 June 2019 and will be in addition to the current service offered by Emirates.

Emirates will codeshare on both routes and further illustrates the strength of the partnership which aims to provide more options for travel to passengers. Both routes will operate from Terminal 3 at Dubai International (DXB).

Commenting on the launch, Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer of flydubai, said: “We are delighted to be launching flights to Budapest and Naples. These destinations provide our passengers with more choice on our network while reaffirming our commitment to the vision set by us to create free flows of tourism and strengthen direct airlinks with the UAE.”

Naples is one of the largest cities in Italy and is home to a wealth of cultural attractions, great food and the beautiful Amalfi coastline. Budapest, which is situated on both banks of the Danube river, combines impressive architecture with numerous museums, galleries and its famous thermal baths.

“Budapest and Naples are important centres for commerce, trade and industry and are incredibly popular leisure destinations, especially during the summer,” said Jeyhun Efendi, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations and E-commerce for flydubai.

“Making these destinations more accessible to travellers looking for new places to explore will undoubtedly stimulate traffic flows and tourism. These new routes provide those in Hungary and Italy with the opportunity to explore Dubai and beyond on our network.”

To offer passengers more comfort and an enhanced travel experience, flydubai will operate the new routes on the brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8.


Dubai Health Authority inaugurates smart pharmacy at Latifa Hospital

The Dubai Health Authority, DHA, inaugurated a smart pharmacy with a robot for dispensing and prescribing medication in Latifa Hospital, on Monday.

This is the first-of-its-kind smart pharmacy in the Middle East and a fourth of its kind in the DHA, as the authority launched two smart pharmacies at Rashid Hospital and one in Dubai Hospital earlier this year.

The robot in Latifa Hospital can store up to 35,000 medicines and dispenses around nine prescriptions in less than one minute. The robot dispenses the prescribed medication with a click of a bottom based on a barcode, minimising any human error.

Humaid Al Qatami, Director General of the DHA, while inaugurating the smart pharmacy, said that adopting a fully integrated smart system for its pharmaceutical transactions in DHA hospitals and health centres reduces the chances of mistakes when dispensing medication and reduces waiting time hence achieving customer satisfaction Dr. Ali Al Sayed, Director of the Pharmaceutical Services Department of DHA, said the robot dispensing process will be paper free as the robot will store the prescription as soon as the doctor documents it electronically.

He added that depending on the robot to dispense the medication, would allow the pharmacist to focus on giving the customers the correct instruction on how to take the medication.


Careem and RTA launch joint venture in Dubai

Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority has formed a company with ride-hailing app Careem.

The new company, which will start operating from April 2019, will allow users to book one of the RTA’s 10,843 taxis via an online app.

The name and logo of the new company will be released in the coming months.

Mattar Al Tayer, director general of the RTA, said the partnership would bring together the public and private sectors to create the best possible service for the people of Dubai.

“We have been working on this project for the past year which is the first of its kind worldwide between a government transport authority and a private entity specialising in the taxi e-hail business,” he said.

“The e-hail model has become the most effective tool in matching supply with demand and offers clients a smooth experience when it comes to obtaining taxis.”

He said the new company would allow customers to have more options via a single app rather than having to use different apps for separate companies.

“This will raise the efficiency of taxis in Dubai through the enhancement of accessibility to vehicles via online booking and reduces the expected waiting time for vehicles,” he said.

“It will also allow clients to make direct online payments via the app and share the ride with others.”

The RTA previously announced a partnership with Careem that allowed clients to book vehicles online, but Sunday's announcement goes one step further, according to Mr Al Tayer.

“That was just for limousine hire — this will give users full access to the RTA’s taxi fleet of 10,843 cars,” he said.

Mr Al Tayer said standard RTA taxi prices would apply to the new scheme.

The joint venture came about after the RTA invited “five of the big e-hail taxi companies operating in the global market” to submit tenders for the project.

Mudassir Sheikha, managing director of Careem, said: “Entering into this exciting public-private partnership with the RTA will allow us to use that technology to make Dubai’s sophisticated transportation infrastructure even more accessible and convenient.”

“Combining our technology capability with the RTA’s vast industry knowledge will help to build a platform that delivers broader choice, optimum customer experience and reliable, safe transportation for everyone.”


Dubai's Viva City starts work on world's largest sports mall

Dubai-based firm Viva City said construction work has started on its ambitious Sport Society, which is poised to become the largest sports mall in the world once it is completed in the first quarter of 2020.

The Sport Society project is being developed at Mirdif Dubai by Khansaheb Civil Engineering, which is utilising a fully-integrated building information modelling (BIM) model to manage and co-ordinate all elements of the design and ensure the construction works are fully coordinated.

The scale and scope of the construction work is significant and includes the pouring of almost 60,000 cu m of structural concrete besides reinforcement with over 9,000 tonnes of steel over six floors (including both basements and roof) which will be formed using over 160,000 sq m of formwork.

It also includes the erection of nine structural steel trusses, each weighing around 70 tonnes (each truss will be erected to a maximum height of approximately 30 m above the ground in one lift using a crawler crane).

Viva City's head of design, Edgar Bove said: "The project’s construction work is progressing according to schedule and within the allocated budget, thanks to the efficient operations of Khansaheb Civil Engineering, the company commissioned to carry out the construction works."

"The world-class building is well under way and on programme due to the depth of Khansaheb’s experience, innovation and expertise in building such key retail projects," he stated.

Bove pointed out that the process of building the world's largest sports mall faces many challenges, especially as the project is designed to be an architectural icon that will deliver a unique experience combining shopping, entertainment and sports activities.

Steve Flint, the group general manager of Khansaheb Civil Engineering, said: "The Sport Society project win underlines the reputation that Khansaheb holds for timely delivery of complex major projects that demand a high quality finished product and our experience and track record in the delivery of key retail projects that have challenging completion schedules."

Co-ordination installation and full integration of a world-class arena entertainment system includes theatrical lighting to create dramatic ambience during events; huge LED screens throughout the development which will broadcast local and international entertainment and sports news besides full NHL regulation size ice rink cooled to -5 degrees centigrade at floor level during the scorching Dubai summers.

"We are dealing with the challenging delivery period which will be achieved by using cutting-edge, time-saving and modern construction techniques," added Flint.- TradeArabia News Service


Jumeirah opens its first luxury 'eco-conscious' resort

Jumeirah Group, a global luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding, has announced the opening of Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, the group’s first luxury “eco-conscious” Resort.

The resort overlooks 400-m of mesmerising sand dunes and provides a luxurious, family-friendly and environmentally-sensitive holiday destination, just 10 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi city centre.

Saadiyat Island is undergoing a remarkable transformation into a world-class leisure, culturally connected and residential destination.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, also located on the island, opened last year to international acclaim and has since received over a million visitors. It will be joined by the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, making the island a hub for global culture, arts and entertainment.

The resort is only 10 minutes away from Yas Island, famous for hosting the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Mall (the second largest mall in the UAE) and a variety of world-class theme parks including Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World and the recently opened Warner Bros. World.

Located on 9 km of white sand beach on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, the resort offers each guest a front-row seat to breathtakingly beautiful scenery and undisturbed wildlife including hawksbill turtles, dugongs, humpback and bottlenose dolphins, flamingos and gazelles.

CEO José Silva said: “We are proud to bring Jumeirah to Saadiyat Island and to open our second luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi. The opening is a significant landmark in achieving our strategic expansion goals worldwide and is our sixth Jumeirah hotel to open this year."

"We are confident that Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort will further enhance Abu Dhabi as a distinct and diverse tourist destination, and we look forward to welcoming guests from the local community as well as international travellers. We anticipate it will be a very popular and welcome addition to Saadiyat,” he added.

The hotel comprises 293 beautifully designed modern, sunlit rooms that overlook the open ocean, six panoramic suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies, plus eight private two-, three- and four-bedroom villas with their own private pools. It also includes three outdoor infinity pools, a kids' pool and the very first Bodyism Wellness Centre in the UAE.

The spa is the resort’s lavish 2,700-sq-m haven of tranquillity and quiet sophistication. It features a grand Moroccan hammam, 15 treatment rooms with male and female facilities that include saunas, hydrotherapy pools, steam rooms, salt rooms, experience showers and a traditional Arabic rasul room. Guests staying in one of the four Spa Villas can enjoy pampering experiences in the privacy on their own room.

The resort offers a variety of restaurants and lounges with a diverse, yet refined array of culinary options, serving up everything from sophisticated Middle Eastern cuisine to relaxed poolside dining.

Guests can savour traditional Arabic flavours at Levantine-inspired Tean, take long poolside lunches with refreshing drinks at the pool bar and dine al fresco at Mare Mare which serves the finest of Italian cuisine.

White, the resort's chic all-day dining restaurant, offers local and international dishes alongside live cooking stations for a remarkable dining experience.

For guests looking for a more authentic experience, Majlis Saadiyat offers the warmth of Arab hospitality and a premium selection of refreshments, tea, coffee and delicious pastries.

Golf aficionados will enjoy the close proximity to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, the Arabian Gulf’s first beachfront course. The 18 hole course, designed by revered golfer Gary Player, harnesses the stunning natural beauty of Saadiyat Island to create an unrivalled sporting experience made all the more rewarding by spectacular views of crystal blue waters fringed by pristine white sand.

“This resort is a place like no other. Located next to one of the most spectacular beaches in the Arabian Gulf, every aspect of the resort's design has been influenced by the beauty of this location,” said Linda Griffin, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort general manager.

Jumeirah has partnered with Dubai-based water treatment company Trust Your Water to offer guests locally-sourced filtered still and sparkling water in reusable bottles that can be refilled at the resort’s water stations. The resort has also eliminated the use of plastic straws, favouring straws made from recycled material instead.

“Our commitment to protecting the natural sand dunes and sea around this hotel means that we are also continuously trying to minimise the impact that guests have on this environment by bringing in our own environmentally-friendly solutions and working with partners who are dedicated to employing sustainable, ethical practices in their businesses,” said Griffin. - TradeArabia News Service


Dollar opens new counter at Dubai airport's Terminal 1

Dollar, one of the fastest growing car rental companies in the region, has announced the opening of a new branch at Dubai International Airport Terminal 1.

The new counter features seating area for passengers, a new concept introduced to other counters currently found inside Terminal 1. The new concept will provide a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere to a significant number of arriving and departing passengers who are waiting for their rented cars or those returning the vehicles.

Marwan Al Mulla, general manager of Dollar’s UAE and Oman branches, said: “The demand on car rental at the Dubai International Airport has significantly increased especially that we are in the tourism and festive seasons. Our short-term goal by opening a new counter at Terminal 1 is to attend to this demand while our long-term goal is to enhance the experience of our customers, ensuring comfort, convenience and personalised service. Car rental counters at the airport are one of the first destinations that visitors encounter when they enter UAE, so we have to offer them the best car renting experience by offering innovative solutions and quick response.”

Dollar covers UAE with branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah. Dubai alone has 16 branches, three of them serving round the clock at Dubai International Airport Terminals 1,2 and 3. - TradeArabia News Service


Carrefour launches its webstore in Jordan

Majid Al Futtaim, a leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East, Africa and Asia recently announced the launch of Carrefour’s new online store in Jordan.

The store will serve all the Jordanian provinces except for Aqaba. The webstore can be accessed at Carrefourjordan.com.

The ecommerce platform offers customers a wide range of products; such, as furniture, electronics, TVs, mobile phones, cleaning products and baby-related products at the same value found instore. Moreover, the same promotions in the stores will be applied on the items sold online.

Aimed at increasing Carrefour’s digital footprint in Jordan, the webstore also provides next-day delivery and after-sales support. The delivery service will be free of charge until the end of 2018.

Alain Enjalbert, country manager of Carrefour Jordan, stated: “The launch of the webstore in Jordan is part of our ongoing efforts to grow our omnichannel business in response to shifting consumer preferences. Customers are offered the same superior shopping experience that they have come to expect from our brick and mortar locations from the comfort of their homes. Our aim is to create great moments for everyone every day and are eager for customers to start using the service.”

Carrefour is one of the largest hypermarket and supermarket chains in the world. The brand was launched in the region in 1995 by Majid Al Futtaim, which is the exclusive franchisee to operate Carrefour in 38 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. – TradeArabia News Service


200% increase of medical exam fees for expats in Oman

The cost of medical exams for expats in Oman will go up by 200% starting February, according to a new decree announced by the Ministry of Health.

Expats and their families will need to pay $78 (OMR30) instead of $26 (OMR10) for their medical exams when applying for a residency. They will also need to pay $5 (OMR2) or a medication exam certificate and sick leave issued from abroad.

Similarly, Omanis who marry abroad are obliged to pay $52 (OMR20) for their medical exam.

The move is the latest in a series of changes in line with the country’s Omanisation plan, which is aimed at reducing the number of working expats in Oman to provide more jobs for locals.

This month, Oman said its expat visa ban, which currently limits expat jobs across 87 professions, could be extended as per local job market needs. The six-month ban will expire at the end of January 2019, but may be extended for another half year.

The decision will depend on the success of providing job opportunities to locals in the 87 professions.

Since February 2018, Ministry of Manpower provided 25,000 jobs to young Omanis. Over 40,000 Omanis were also given jobs in private sector companies as part of the government’s Omanisation policy.

Oman currently has over two million expats living and working in Oman, of which 1.8 million are employed.

Indians remain the country’s largest expat segment with 664,227 workers, followed by Bangladesh at 663,618 and Pakistan at 219,901.


Swiss-Belhotel International to manage new property in Bahrain

Mazen M. Araiqat, Managing Director, Arab Architects; Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International; Mr. Abdulhameed Mohamed Hasan Dawani, Chairman, HRR Properties W.L.L.; and Jawad Bader, Vice Chairman, HRR Properties W.L.L.

Bahrain HRR Properties has appointed Swiss-Belhotel International to manage one of its properties in Manama.

The Indonesia-based hotel chain will manage Swiss-Belsuites Admiral Juffair in Bahrain, the brand’s first introduction to the Gulf region, which is scheduled to open by mid-2019.

Featuring a total of 174 rooms (including studios, 1- 2- and 3-bedroom suites and three penthouses), the new hotel is located at the start of the American Alley facing the US navy base.

“We have a strong presence in Bahrain and this latest addition to our portfolio will further strengthen our offering in the kingdom,” said Gavin M. Faull, chairman and president of Swiss-Belhotel International.

Laurent A. Voivenel, senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, added, “Bahrain is a leading business and leisure hub and, therefore, a significant market for us.”

Swiss-Belhotel International currently manages a portfolio of more than 145 hotels, resorts and projects across the world, including four in the Gulf – in Bahrain, Qatar and Sharjah. It was awarded Indonesia's Leading Global Hotel Chain for six consecutive years.


Gulf Air launches new app for iOS, Android smartphones

Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, has launched a new mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones, allowing users to manage their Gulf Air trips and book flights, check-in online, pre-select seats, monitor flight status, buy Falcon Gold lounge access and excess baggage – all on the go.

The new app, which is available in the Apple Store and Google Play, will be a one-stop-shop for Gulf Air passengers to access a number of facilities and services conveniently from their handhelds wherever they are. The app is designed to be a user-friendly platform with easy steps to perform common travellers’ needs through various personal devices.

Gulf Air’s chief commercial officer Vincent Coste said: “In this day and age, the importance of technology is at its highest as customers are becoming more and more tech-savvy and we are happy to cater for their needs with the launch of our mobile app. We invite our passengers to download the app and interact with its multi functions. We will continue to develop and add more features in the future to provide a smooth and seamless travel experience for everyone." - TradeArabia News Service


World’s first female only trampoline park opens in Riyadh

The world’s first female-only trampoline park has opened its doors in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An indoor adrenaline pumping venue, packed with activities, Bounce Rawdah for ladies and children (boys under the age of 10), is the perfect place to have fun, get active, or just hang out.

The largest trampoline venue in Riyadh, at 3,500-sq-m, Bounce is located in Rawdah on the main East/West Khurais Road. The venue is packed with over 80 interconnected trampolines, a dodgeball arena, slam dunk, super tramp, cliff Jump and huge inflatable airbags.

It also houses the high-energy X-Park Freestyle Playground (think Ninja Warrior, with Zip Lines, Bouldering walls and the Spider Climb). It caters for all capabilities and has been an enormous hit with customers of all ages in Bounce venues around the world.

Mashael Attieh, managing partner of Bounce Saudi Arabia, said: “After the successful opening of Bounce Jeddah, we are thrilled to bring the world’s first female-only trampoline park to Riyadh.

“The response we received in Jeddah has been tremendous with thousands of families enjoying this new way to have fun and stay active. Now it’s Riyadh’s turn to experience the awesomeness of Bounce.”

Jumping on a trampoline is a low-impact workout with many health benefits and is often promoted as one of the most effective forms of exercise. NASA believes jumping on a trampoline is one of the most efficient and effective forms of exercise and studies have found that 10 minutes of jumping on a trampoline burns the same number of calories as 30 minutes of running.

Doran Davies, CEO of Bounce Middle East, said: “Bounce sets the standard in family entertainment and we are looking forward to welcoming guests in our brand-new venue as we continue to provide the kingdom with the ultimate ‘healthy and fun’ entertainment experience.

“With the opening of Bounce in Riyadh, we will provide ladies of all ages and abilities with one of the newest and most popular entertainment options in the market, as well as a unique training ground for many sports.

"We are excited to build a relationship with the community of Riyadh while providing opportunities for families and friends to come together and enjoy unlimited amounts of fun!"

Bounce Rawdah features a café for those looking for a more chilled experience and it can also cater for special occasions like birthday parties, with three private rooms and party packages available. - TradeArabia


New Jeddah airport operator ‘by second half of 2019’

JEDDAH: A new private-sector operator of Jeddah airport will be appointed by the second half of next year, an aviation official confirmed to Arab News.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in February said it had terminated an agreement to allow a consortium consisting of Singapore’s Changi Airports International and Saudi Naval Support Company to manage King Abdul Aziz International Airport.

Abdul Hakim Al-Bader, assistant to the GACA president for safety, security and transport, said that a new operator would be appointed next year following the official inauguration of the new airport terminal.

The terminal opened earlier this year, but as a “soft launch” with a limited number of flights.

“We wish to appoint the managing private company by the first half of 2019, but it is most likely to happen in the second half of the year,” Al-Bader said.

Saudi Arabia earlier announced plans for a massive $300 billion privatization of state assets, including a potential sale of a stake in Saudi Aramco worth as much as $100 billion.

The deal with Jeddah’s airport would not involve an outright sale of the facility, but allow a private-sector firm or consortium to invest in the airport as a partnership.

“The process of privatization has already started, but I do not think that the airport will be privatized during the first half. However, the inauguration of the airport will be complete during the first half and an operator (from the private sector) will be selected in the second half of 2019,” Al-Bader said.

“The privatization of the airport does not mean selling it to the private sector, but only opening the door for the private sector to invest in the airport and operate it.”

Passenger traffic at King Abdul Aziz International Airport reached a record 34 million in 2017, a 9.4 percent increase on 2016.


Saudi Arabia sticking with expat fees for now, says minister’

Saudi Arabia will keep its policy of imposing fees on foreign workers despite complaints from businesses

The expatriate levies were introduced last year as part of an effort to generate non-oil revenue and encourage companies to hire Saudi nationals.

Saudi Arabia will keep its policy of imposing fees on foreign workers despite complaints from businesses but is open to reconsidering them if there’s an economic need, Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al Tuwaijri said.

“We got mixed feedback so far on the expat fees,” Tuwaijri said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Riyadh. “The position today is business as usual - we are sticking to our position.”

The expatriate levies were introduced last year as part of an effort to generate non-oil revenue and encourage companies to hire Saudi nationals, both key goals of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to overhaul the largest Arab economy and prepare it for a time after oil.

But the charges proved painful for a private sector already struggling to adapt to rapid policy changes and have yet to make a dent in Saudi unemployment, which is at its highest level in more than a decade.

Tuwaijri said the government was “willing to look at some of these fees” if there’s a specific sector or industry that would benefit from a change and it would help meet broader goals, such as promoting the balance of payments or creating jobs for Saudis.

The world’s largest crude exporter is trying to strike a balance between boosting a lackluster economy and implementing fiscal and economic reforms. After contracting 0.9 percent in 2017, the economy is expected to grow 2.3 percent this year and 2.6 percent next, according to the government, which announced an expansionary budget on Tuesday.

The kingdom is planning a stimulus package next year that is both “financial and regulatory,” Tuwaijri said. It’s also pushing ahead with a privatization drive after plans to sell stakes in state assets got off to a slow start.

The kingdom expects to privatize seven companies in the first quarter of 2019 and 19 in total next year, Tuwaijri said,

“We have identified five sectors where we studied the private sector appetite for those and it’s there,” he said.

Saudi Arabia unveiled a major privatization program in 2016. Tuwaijri has previously said the government expected to raise some $200 billion in the next few years through the sales. The minister did not say which companies would be first in line.

Foreign direct investment is expected to reach 13 billion riyals this year, a 110 percent increase on 2017, when numbers plummeted, according to a presentation at a budget conference.

“Our focus is on the local private sector because we think we have a huge potential to grow regionally, and some of them even globally,” Tuwaijri said. “But we also have determined strategic partnership criteria for some nations, and we’re in active dialogue with those nations to bring in their private sector.”

Saudi Arabia remains attractive, he said, despite the global outcry that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October.

“If you look the opportunities themselves in Saudi Arabia, they’re still valid, very competitive and appealing,” Tuwaijri said.

Asked about delays in government payments to private sector contractors, which companies have continued to complain about, Tuwaijri said the finance ministry had paid more than 99 percent of its dues on time this year.

“We do realize we are dealing with residuals from the past,” he said, adding that other delays are due to disputes. “We are pushing for everybody to be paid and move on.”

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