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Al Habtoor's new Egypt office nearing completion

Al Habtoor Group (AHG), an international business conglomerate based in the UAE, has announced that it is in the final stages of completing the preparations to open its office in Cairo, Egypt.

The Cairene headquarters, located in the Heliopolis suburb, is being planned for launch by the year-end and will act as a liaison office between AHG's Emirati and international operations, and Egypt.

One of its primary tasks will also be to find local opportunities befitting the group's diversified portfolio.

Founding Chairman Khalaf Al Habtoor said: "Despite the world economic situation, Egypt is an important market to be in, with tremendous possibilities due to the reforms implemented by the Egyptian Government, and the infrastructural expansions taking place."

"I have been exploring the opportunities in Egypt for some time, and I am keen on being present there. We are in the process of studying a few prospects at present, which we will announce in due course.," he stated.

AHG already has presence in the US, Austria, Hungary, the UK and Lebanon. With this opening, Egypt will become the sixth destination for the Group to operate in, outside the UAE.

AHG, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020, has interests in the hospitality, automotive, real estate, and education sectors.- TradeArabia News Service


Egypt to import coaches for Cairo Monorail project, starting July 2021

Staring July 2021 Egypt will import coaches for its Cairo Monorail project, the Minister of Transport Kamel al-Wazir announced Sunday.

The new monorail will connect the New Administrative Capital with the corridors of Mohammed Ben Zayed, Street 90, al-Musher Tantawy, Nasr City's seventh district, the Cairo International Stadium, and Youssef Abass Street.

During his tour of the project's projected paths, al-Wazir explained that a consortium made up of Bombardier Transportation, Orascom Construction, and Arab Contractors will design, construct, operate, and maintain the project's 22 stations, which will total a length of 54 kilometers.

The consortium has already completed 80 percent of the project's design and 90 percent of its soil work, while concrete structure work is underway.

The sixth of October City line will involve 11 stations at a length of 42 kilometers.

The two lines will cost three billion euros at a total length of 96 kilometers.


Ericsson's Egypt hub ships first cognitive software

Ericsson's Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Analytics Hub in Egypt has achieved a key milestone by shipping its first cognitive software to be used by Ericsson customers worldwide to design and optimize networks.

The hub focuses on research and development (R&D) in AI and Automation, leveraging cutting-edge technologies to create data-driven, intelligent and robust systems for automation, evolution and growth.

The hub emphasizes Ericsson's commitment towards the local Egyptian market and aims to develop local talent in advanced technology areas of Artificial Intelligence and software. It employs data scientists, engineers, AI/machine learning (ML) architects, and software developers, with potential for additional positions in the future.

Eva Andren, Vice President and Head of Managed Services at Ericsson Middle East and Africa said: "We are excited to reach this milestone and deliver a top-notch technological innovation through our local talent in Egypt. Our AI & Analytics Hub both leverages and collaborates with our customers in order to collectively drive industrialization of new opportunities while enabling access to world-class talent from which we can recruit."

The AI & Analytics Hub has accelerated the execution of Ericsson's focused strategy in Egypt by using AI and automation technologies to create data-driven, intelligent products and services. Ericsson's Cognitive Network Design and Optimization Software enables service providers to boost customer experience, increase revenues, optimize CAPEX spend, enhance OPEX efficiency and reduce carbon footprint.

Sameh Shoukry, Country Manager at Ericsson Egypt said: "Ericsson's AI & Analytics Hub is a step forward in helping telcos find the right blueprint for business transformation. Establishing such a hub in Egypt reaffirms the county's pioneering position and unique capabilities as a regional leader in ICT services." - TradeArabia News Service


Egypt's GAFI to grant foreign investors 5-year residency visas

The Board of Directors for Egypt's General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) approved on Thursday new regulations aimed at retaining foreign investment in the country, most notably a law entitling investors to obtain residency for five consecutive years, with the option to renew for similar periods throughout their projects.

GAFI, Egypt's chief governmental authority involved in regulating and attracting investment in the country, said that this decision seeks to improve Egypt's investment climate and attract more investors from abroad.

According to GAFI CEO Mohamed Abdel Wahab, the new controls will activate the Investment Law, which permits investors to secure residency depending on the nature of their business, the number of workers employed, the size of their capital, and the location of their work activity.

The new guidelines are expected to stimulate serious foreign investment in the country, Wahab said.

The board's approval comes as part of the authority's efforts to provide Egypt's workforce with more job opportunities and secure foreign investment in sectors targeted by the state for economic development.

In the last five years, Egypt has undertaken a number of economic reforms to repair and stabilize its economy while improving Egyptians' quality of life.

The reforms include projects in public health and social services, sustainability and waste management campaigns, and new regulations to improve the country's business environment.


Vestas wins 252 MW EPC order in Egypt

The New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) has placed a 252 MW order with Vestas, a leading provider of sustainable energy solutions, for the Gulf of Suez 1 wind project in Gulf of Suez, Egypt.

Vestas has developed a solution that comprises the supply and installation of 70 V105-3.45 MW wind turbines in 3.6 MW Power Optimised Mode and a three-year Active Output Management 4000 (AOM 4000) service agreement, capable of maximising the project's annual energy production, while meeting the local tip-height restriction and the national grid code requirements.

Leveraging Vestas' experience from more than 4 GW of turnkey projects across the globe, Vestas will also manage the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) side of the project, which includes related civil and electrical works and the substation for the connection to the national grid.

"Building on our 40 years of experience and our leadership in the renewable energy sector, we are proud to be back in Egypt and continue our work there to help transform its energy infrastructure into a reliable system of clean power supply," said Muhamed Bou-Zeid, General Manager of Vestas Mena.

"Our wide portfolio of solutions and services can help NREA ensure price stability and security of energy supply over time, and in turn, demand less reliance on fossil-fuel based energy sources".

The project's annual production is expected to reach 1027 GWh of clean energy and according to NREA save around 560,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. It will be jointly financed by the European Investment Bank, KfW, Agence Française de Développement and the European Commission.

Vestas was one of the first contributors to the development of Egypt's wind energy infrastructure with the installation of 123 Vestas wind turbines in Hurghada and Zafarana in 2004. Vestas currently has more than 1.5 GW of installed or under construction capacity in the Mena region including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Senegal, and Cape Verde. With a growing number of renewable energy projects planned or underway and with ambitious renewable energy targets in nearly all countries, the region is now seen to be a significant and promising player in the global energy transition.

The Gulf of Suez 1 wind project is planned to be fully operational in 2023. - TradeArabia News Service


New and improved website launched by Oman Air

Oman Air has unveiled its new and improved website, which has been updated to enhance the overall user experience.

The new website now makes it effortless to create journeys and learn more about the many appealing destinations in Oman. As well as informing on special offers and travel-related news, the website's content has been expanded and refined to provide improved information in more than four languages including Arabic and English, about Oman Air's activities, updates and more.

Boasting a fresh design and user interface, the upgraded website offers simplified access to flight options and payment alternatives, along with state-of-the-art security. Mobile users can make the most of an experience which is fully optimised for Apple and Android devices, allowing for seamless mobile browsing.


New dress code for visitors in malls, public places

Muscat: People entering malls in Muscat wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts could face fines of up to OMR 300, and jail terms of up to three months, as part of new rules drawn up for people to dress modestly while in public.

The rules, which apply to both men and women, were drawn up by the city's Municipal Committee, and submitted to the Municipal Council, which will submit it to the Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court for approval.

Speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman, Qais bin Mohammed Al Ma'shari, the chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the Municipal Council in the Governorate of Muscat, said, "The terms of dressing modestly have not been specified in great detail, but must include covering the body from the shoulder to below the knee.

"This clothing must not also violate the terms of modesty by ensuring it properly covers the required parts of the body, should not be revealing, and not having any sensitive drawings or illustrations on them," he added. "Wearing a veil, however, is not included in the concept of dressing modestly, because of the multiculturalism, ideologies, and religious tolerance in the Sultanate."

"The rules will be the same for residents in the country, as they are for Omanis," explained Al Ma'shari. "We need to make sure that the clothes worn do not breach the etiquettes of modesty. Therefore, this decision will include everyone without discrimination. As part of this decision, males and females will not be allowed to wear shorts above the knee, as well as sleeveless shirts that expose the chest and shoulders."

The rules requiring people to dress modestly were drafted after the municipal committees in the capital, as well as mall managers and shop owners received many complaints from members of the public about people not following proper dress codes.

According to Article 294 of the Omani Penal Code, which was issued by Royal Decree 7/2018, those who appear in public places in a manner that violates public decency, and is inconsistent with the traditions and customs of society, will face punishment by imprisonment of a period of between one and three months, and/or a fine ranging from OMR100 to OMR300.

"We relied on the Omani Penal Code with regards to imposing penalties for those found violating these rules," he said. "The penal code states that ministries do not have special legislation on this subject, as the matter relates to public morals."

"The committee's recommendations have been submitted to the Municipal Council for its next meeting in October 2020," added Al Ma'shari. "After this, the council will submit this to the Minister of the Diwan of the Royal Court, and once approved, it will be considered a law, and those affected by it are addressed accordingly."

To provide more clarity over these regulations, representatives from the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Social Development, and commercial establishments in the Sultanate were consulted.

They stressed the necessity to legalise the rules that have been drawn up, and to spread awareness among the public, on the revised dress code in the form of media such as information boards and leaflets.


Oman: 5% VAT to come into force within 180 days

The Value Added Tax (VAT) will be imposed in the Sultanate within 180 days from the date of publication of Royal Decree No. 121/2020 in the Official Gazette. By then, Oman will join 160 other countries in the world that impose the VAT.

This tax will be imposed on most goods and services (with the exemption of a specific set of goods and services) rendered to consumers at outlets throughout the Sultanate. It will also be imposed on imports of goods to the Sultanate, except the ones exempted by law.

The business sector will serve as a collector of tax in the Sultanate and it will only bear the cost of imposing the VAT, collecting it, claiming it and adhering to it as per the law and bylaw. Taxpayer establishments will add the VAT on taxable goods and services, while the end consumer of goods and services will bear the VAT cost.

The business sector is required to register for VAT. To meet the target, its establishments have to operate a competent system of accountancy and billing, besides maintaining accurate accounting registers.

The impact of VAT on cost of life is expected to be limited, since Oman implements the lowest rate of such tax whose effect on goods and services will almost be imperceptible.

The list of goods and services exempted from the VAT includes healthcare, education, financial services, basic foodstuffs and supplies for the disabled, among other items and services.

As per the VAT Law, the business sector has to explain the rate of value of this tax to be borne by the consumer against the procurement of goods and services at business outlets.

It has to provide necessary information that help the consumer select certain goods and services. The regulations require that the VAT shall be stated in a business establishment's bills.


COVID-19: Penalties for public gatherings in Oman

Minister of Health Dr. Ahmed Al Saeedi mentioned during a press conference held by the Supreme Committee that weddings and funerals were still taking place in spite of the restrictions on public gatherings.

The Minister indicated beauty salons that help in readying the attendees as well as restaurants that prepare meals for weddings are also acting in violation of the rules.

The penalty for attending such gatherings is RO 100 per person with a further fine of RO 1,500 slapped on the one that called for the gathering. The Minister also urged the public to report about gatherings and any violations of the COVID-19 restrictions and rules, for the benefit of all and said that it is a national duty of citizens and residents.

He also informed that the Ministry is in talks with various international agencies and companies for the supply of vaccine. The decline of recovery rate is due to non-compliance of precautionary measures, Dr Saeedi said. The authorities that are monitoring the commercial activities have been asked to close some due to their non-compliance, the list of which will be announced soon, the Minister said.

Dr. Saeedi drove home the point that the complete closure is at a very high economic cost, and HM's directives intends at safeguarding people's lives that reigns higher than anything else.


Oman announces evening lockdown to curb coronavirus spread

Oman is set to go into complete lockdown from 8pm to 5am from Sunday evening through until Saturday, October 24, according to the sultanate's state-run news agency.

The curfew, which applies to public movement and commercial outlets, will be imposed by the Royal Oman Police (ROP).

Beaches will also be locked, with regular inspections carried out by the police to ensure that the ban on movement is being adhered to.

There have been a total of 105,890 cases of coronavirus in Oman since the onset of the pandemic, with 1,761 new cases confirmed on Sunday. A further 29 deaths were reported on Sunday, with the country's death toll standing at 1,038.

According to the report, cases exempt from the lockdown period include emergency vehicles (electricity, water, telecom), consumer item supply vehicles, fish transport vehicles, oil and gas tankers and trucks carrying containers with the purpose of import and export to and from the sultanate's ports and official checkpoints provided only the driver will be onboard.

Similar permission will also be given to vehicles of medical crew, health workers at the field hospital in the old airport's premises and arrival and departure passengers via official exits points provided they show their tickets, as well as patients going to hospitals and health centres.

The report said: "This will be done with the purpose of maintaining security and safety and implementing the decisions of the Supreme Committee on prohibiting family and social gatherings of all sorts, particularly in beaches during the day, and ensuring the closure of all public places and commercial outlets.

"The ROP will monitor adherence to preventive measures against the spread of the virus. Its patrols will monitor public places, with support from the Police Aviation and the use of drones to inspect the public and ambush offenders."


Embassies issue warning as Dh315 a week fines introduced for expired UAE visas

Embassies on Sunday urged their citizens to ensure their UAE residency visas were valid, because the grace period to renew had ended.

Officials said some people with expired visas had ignored the amnesty and stayed on in hope of finding a job.

Indian officials, who represent the largest expat population, said they were on hand to help with repatriation flights for those who found themselves in trouble and had not come forward.

Residents of all nationalities whose visas expired between March 1 and July 11 had until Saturday to renew them. This would include residents who lost their jobs during that period.

Those who did not will start to rack up daily fines from Monday, October 12.

Staying in the country on an expired residency visa would lead to a Dh25 a day fine, with a further daily Dh20 penalty for failing to renew their Emirates ID, costing a total of Dh315 per week. An extra Dh250 is paid when they leave the country.

There is a separate system for those on expired tourist visas, who are hit with Dh200 for the first day, and Dh100 a day after that.

Kofi Mumuni, from the Ghanaian consulate in Dubai, said the majority of its residents took advantage of the amnesty and have left for their home country.

But some chose to stay in the hope of finding work.

"In our case, most of the people who were left jobless due to Covid-19 have returned home," he said.

"There are a few that have overstayed and not made use of the amnesty in the hope that the job market will change and they will find new employment.

"We have not had any people present to the embassy looking for help to return home since the last repatriation flight in August.

"In our experience, people choose to stay in the country, even if on an expired visa, because it is a better reality than returning home where there is little work."

The grace period was brought in to ensure people who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic were not burdened with visa fines.

Neeraj Agrawal, a spokesman at the Indian consulate in Dubai, said people need to follow the law.

"We'd like to advise our community members to regularise their visas and residency status," he said.

"If not, they should leave the country.


Dubai Sports City, Dubailand suffer biggest rental drops as tenants chase options

Dubai: With rents continuing to drop, landlords in Dubai and Sharjah are bringing forward apartment renewal negotiations to try and retain their tenants - even before they start looking around at options elsewhere.

"Landlords, especially in Sharjah, are going out of their way to commit existing tenants to new rental terms even if there are two to three months still left on the current lease," said a real estate agent. "These days, having their apartment go for months without a tenant is the biggest fear gripping landlords. By bringing forward their rental renewals, they stand a better chance of convincing existing tenants to stay on."

In Dubai, rents in some of the most affordable locations are seeing sharp declines, according to the latest update from Core, the property services firm. Dubai Sports City and Dubailand ae the worst affected, seeing declines of 20 per cent and 18 per cent during July to September compared with a year ago.

A combination of tenants moving out due to changes in their job situation and more new homes going for rent are the main factors in the steep declines. (And the least hit are Downtown and the homes on the Palm, where rents are down only by 6- and 9 per cent, according to Core states.)

Forced to agree

In the majority of new leases, rents are seeing a downward revision by more than 10 per cent. Or, landlords have managed to keep the same rents. but by agreeing to throw in one or two months of free living for the tenant.

"This has led many tenants to remain in their current premises as they have been able to achieve rental savings while avoiding uncertainty, hassles and additional moving costs," said Prathyusha Gurrapu, Head of Research at Core.

Pandemic imposed changes

Tenant choices have also been influenced by the COVID-19 attack and the lifestyle changes this has forced on them. If given a choice and with funds available, many tenants would prefer to move into homes with just that little bit more of space, both indoor and on the out.

It may explain why rents for villas in Dubai are dropping at a slower pace than those on apartments. But keep a close tab on costs - "We have seen a section of tenants upgrade to bigger units or move from apartments to villas," said Gurrapu. "Nonetheless, most of these upgraders are paying lower than previous rents with very few going above their past rental outflows.

"It is also interesting to note that moving from apartments to villas may at the outset offer lower rents. But villas may involve hidden costs such as higher DEWA and maintenance charges that offset savings - a factor tenants should account for during relocations."


Door-to-door Covid-19 testing expanded to densely populated areas in Abu Dhabi

Medical teams are visiting various areas of Abu Dhabi in a renewed and expanded testing campaign to identify potential Covid-19 cases.

Frontline heroes are conducting tests in densely populated areas of the emirate, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said on Twitter.

The free tests are being carried out in coordination with the Department of Health (DoH) - Abu Dhabi, Seha, the Abu Dhabi Police and volunteers.

Captain Dr Aisha Al Maamari, field coordinator from the Abu Dhabi Police, said they are currently in Shakbout City to screen as many people as possible. Mass screening in Abu Dhabi started in April targeting industrial areas, including Musaffah. Door-to-door tests were also carried out in highly populated residential areas of the emirate.

The cooperation between partners for a common goal has helped achieve the mission quickly and efficiently, said Mansour Salem Al Qubaisi from the Ambulatory Health Services at Seha.

Frontliner Captain Ali Alfarsi, from the Abu Dhabi Police, added: "We are here to protect the field workers and everyone else and let them know that we are here to help them."

Emirates Foundation provided volunteers for the mission, said Hassan Al Ali, a foundation employee. "Volunteers have been with us for five to six months and we are still working with the same enthusiasm. Volunteers' families constantly encouraged us, regardless of how long their sons and daughters were required to stay away from home."

Abdullah Al Hamed, chairman of DoH - Abu Dhabi, had earlier said the emirate had set a solid example in fighting this pandemic and ongoing tests were an essential element to flatten the curve and curb the spread of the virus.

The UAE has become the first country in the world where the number of Covid-19 tests conducted has exceeded its population (among countries with a population of more than one million). The country has conducted 10.8 million tests since the start of the pandemic, with 136,430 daily tests at present, according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

The ministry had stressed its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.


Dubai approves new building code, construction standards

Dubai Executive Council has approved the new 'Dubai Building Code' that outlines a revised set of construction rules and standards for the emirate.

The Dubai Building Code creates a unified set of standards for construction that promotes sustainable development and innovation in building design.

It will enhance Dubai's international investment attractiveness and promote diversification of projects in the emirate's construction sector.

The new code, which seeks to reduce construction costs by streamlining building rules, has been developed according to the highest international standards, said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council while chairing the council meeting.

By creating a one-stop-shop for obtaining approval from Dubai's licensing agencies and departments, the code will ease procedures for consultants, contractors, developers, investors and owners.

By standardising building requirements, the code will also speed up the completion of the design phase of construction projects. Investors can ensure compliance with all design requirements without checking with various departments individually, he stated.

The Dubai Executive Council meeting was attended by Dubai Deputy Ruler and First Deputy Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and other senior officials.- TradeArabia News Service


Dubai's Museum of the Future marks key construction milestone

Dubai's Museum of the Future has achieved a major construction milestone with the attachment of the last component to its facade, in the final preparations for completing the future landmark which embodies the UAE's unique urban achievements, reported state news agency Wam.

Located in the Emirates Towers area near Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, the 30,000-sq-m and 77-m-high iconic building has an instantly recognisable shape, epitomised by its futuristic stainless steel façade with illuminated glazed Arabic calligraphy.

Seven floors of exhibition space will showcase innovative and futuristic concepts, services, and products for the future of cities.

Along with the Emirates Towers, the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Dubai World Trade Centre, the magnificent structure adds to the emirate's distinguished track record of architectural masterpieces, it stated.

The Museum of the Future is a global monument of urban excellence and a quintessential Emirati contribution to delivering a brighter future, remarked HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

He was speaking at a ceremony to mark the attachment of the final piece to the facade of the Museum of the Future.

"These represents an innovation-driven area that will drive sustainability and advance the development process, he added, noting that the museum has already gained global fame even before its opening thanks to its one-of-a-kind design, he stated.

Sheikh Mohammed pointed out that the Museum of the Future represents a global architectural and engineering icon that would be harnessed to build human miracles capable of using the museum to shape a better future.

"We are not after architectural wonders, but we rather seek to unleash human potential to create a better future that abounds in miracles and testifies to the remarkable achievements made by the UAE. Dubai will continue to deliver architectural masterpieces as the world continues to be in progress for those who know exactly what they want," he added.

The museum, which stands encased in stainless steel adorned with Arabic calligraphy, will upon completion represent a showplace for a new era - a centre of creativity and hope where the visitor can see, touch and shape the country's shared future.

Combining elements of exhibition, immersive theater and themed attraction, the Museum of the Future invites its visitors to look beyond the present and take their place within possible worlds to come.

"A universal architectural icon, the Museum of the Future combines between our authentic Arab culture and far-reaching ambitions. It is a global engineering icon, but speaks the Arabic language," he added.

"The Museum of the Future will bespeak urban excellence upon its completion,"

Sheikh Mohammed affirmed while being shown around the progress of work at the landmark's facade.

He was briefed by the team of the Dubai Future Foundation, the body in charge of the project, on the key design techniques, architectural styles and state-of-the-art solutions wielded in accomplishing the cultural landmark which is set to be the one of the most beautiful architectures in the world.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai affirmed that Dubai and the UAE will continue on the path of creativity in various fields thanks to the talent and determination to lead in the field of creating the future.

"Today we stand before one of the most innovative buildings in the world. A testament to Dubai and the UAE's leadership in creative design, engineering, and architectural uniqueness," he stated.

"We are creating the future and developing future strategies that will mark the industry of the future. Our goal is to adopt new models for future governments by bringing about a comprehensive change in the system of governments, relying on our young national cadres who are able to take responsibility and turn challenges into opportunities," he added.


Dubai announces new travel protocols

Dubai has announced a new set of travel protocols for Emiratis, residents, tourists and transit passengers travelling into and out of the emirate.

This follows directives from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as Ruler of Dubai.

The revisions to the protocols aim to ease hassles for passengers and exempt citizens from additional procedures without compromising the precautionary measures to ensure the safety of passengers, said a Wam news agency report.

Under these directives, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced a new set of travel protocols.

The guidelines under the revised protocols are:

* Emiratis returning to Dubai from overseas are not required to do PCR test prior to departure, regardless of the country they are coming from and the time spent there. They will only be required to conduct a PCR test on arrival in Dubai;

* All residents and inbound tourists will have to undergo a PCR test prior to departure for Dubai;

* Transit passengers from some countries are required to conduct a PCR test prior to departure for Dubai. The pre-travel test is also mandatory for transit passengers if their destination country requires them to do so;

* Emiratis, residents and tourists travelling overseas from Dubai are only required to undergo a PCR test prior to departure if their destination country requires a pre-travel negative test certificate;

The Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management said the new travel protocols are part of a regular process of revising and optimising precautionary measures based on the latest local, regional and international developments.


Thousands of Saudi expats lose jobs as unemployment spikes in coronavirus crisis

Saudi Arabia is expected to see a gradual improvement in its unemployment rate over the coming months as the kingdom opens up its economy and continues lifting restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, analysts have said.

However, the country may not be able to rely on annual dividends of almost $75 billion from state oil company Saudi Aramco to plug its budget deficit beyond next year unless crude prices increase, they added.

Jadwa Investment said jobs prospects are likely to improve in the Saudi market after the unemployment rate jumped to 15.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020, up from 11.8 percent in Q1, mainly due to the impact of the pandemic.

The General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) said the number of expats in the labour market declined by 19,000, on a net basis, in Q2, as lockdowns forced many out of work.

At the same time, GaStat data showed that the number of new private sector expat work visas issued in Q2 totalled 32,000, significantly lower than the 342,000 issued during Q1.

"Despite this, the data also shows that 97 percent of issued visas were unused, whilst the remaining 3 percent were cancelled. This comes as no surprise considering that pandemic induced travel restrictions were also imposed during the quarter," Jadwa noted.

Jadwa added that on a sectorial basis, most sectors saw a decline in the number of both Saudi and expat workers in Q2, with the highest number of losses in the private sector seen in education, wholesale and retail and professional activities, similar to trends observed on an international level.

Labour force participation was up significantly in Q2 to 48.8 percent, versus 46.2 percent in Q1, with a sizeable rise in female participation being observed, analysts added. Jadwa said: "Looking ahead into H2 2020, we expect the opening up of the economy, and continued lifting of restrictions related to the pandemic, to improve jobs prospects in the local market.Overall, we expect to see a gradual improvement in Saudi unemployment rate during H2, with the extension of Saned scheme, as well as other initiatives by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), all playing their part in this improvement going forward."

Separately, Moody's Investors Service said on Friday that Saudi Arabia may not be able to rely on annual dividends of almost $75 billion from state oil company Saudi Aramco beyond next year unless crude prices increase.


Fakieh Hospitality launches new leisure project in Jeddah

Saudi-based Fakieh Hospitality and Leisure Group has launched its premium Al Nawras Island development in Jeddah.

The project extends along Al Nawras Island with a 200-m-long and 25-m-wide walkway in both directions, overlooking many restaurants, cafes, as well as entertainment and artistic centres, reported the Saudi Gazette.

The Fakieh Hospitality and Leisure Group is developing the project as part of the Cities Humanization Initiative of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

This initiative is aimed to contribute to improving the quality of life in Jeddah governorate by raising the per capita share of green spaces and recreational areas in addition to increasing the number of sports practitioners.

Jeddah Mayor Saleh Al Turki launched the recreational project, which includes walkaways and also a women-only beach.

The idea of the project has been changed from hotel chalets that are operated by an international company, to a project and a tourist destination targeting all waterfront visitors including people of the city and visitors of Jeddah, where Nawras Island will be linked to the waterfront, stated the report.

There will also be a cinema hall, a marina for boats and a private beach for women, in addition to a health club and a games area, it added.


Saudisation: Expats to be replaced in high-profile telecom sector

Saudi Arabia aims to replace expats with citizens in more than 30 specialisations across telecom-related jobs, the kingdom's Ministry of Human Resources and Social development has said.

The targeted jobs include telecom engineers, computer and network engineers, software development specialists, technical support staff, and business analysis and software programmers.

The plan to Saudise telecom jobs comes under an agreement the Ministry concluded last year with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf), and the Council of Saudi Chambers. It builds on a host of initiatives aimed at grooming nationals and allowing them to work in the field. The exact numbers of foreign employees in the Saudi telecoms sector are not known.


MEA domestic travel to keep pace through peak season

Although travel restrictions continue to be relaxed, domestic travel in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) remains more popular than international travel, and is the trend expected to continue through the region's peak season, a report said.

Airlines across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are beginning to expand their flight networks and in some cases, open for service for the first time in months, added the report "Covid-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Middle East and Africa" from Sojern, a provider of data-driven digital travel marketing solutions.

Oman is set to reopen its borders later in October and Bahrain has reopened for international tourists. Saudi Arabia partially lifted its suspension on international flights from September 15 and the kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport for Saudi citizens "after January 1 2021", with dates to be announced in December. It has also been announced that a total of 43 countries will be granted permission to enter Jordan for tourism.

These countries will be classified into three categories (red, yellow and green) with varying restrictions. Although travel is opening up across the region, the UAE has issued an updated list of fines for offenders of Covid-19 safety measures, having reported its highest daily rise in infections in September.

The Dubai government's recently announced "Retire in Dubai" scheme will likely positively impact domestic travel. The increase in retired expatriates will provide a larger pool of people with time on their hands to explore the local areas.

"As we now head into the peak season of travel in the UAE, we continue to see a strong trend towards domestic searches and bookings, leading the way with an uplift of 101% year-over-year (YoY) on searches and 21% YoY on bookings from the week commencing September 28," the report said.

"We also see an upward trend in international traveller intent and confidence in the UAE, with searches and bookings showing an upward tick standing at -51% and -69% YoY respectively, as cases continue to remain comparatively lower compared to what can be observed in other parts of the globe."

International travel intent also on the rise within the UAE

Sojern's Real-Time Covid-19 Dashboard continues to display an upward trend in travel intent from all origins to the UAE, the report said.

The main exception to this pattern is a dip in intent was recorded in mid-August as a result of summer holidays coming to an end, students getting ready to return back to school, and summer promotions of staycations coming to a close. Levels of intent have since started to improve which may partly be attributed to the seasonal improvement in weather in the UAE as the end of the year approaches.

Future travel intent to the UAE most notable from India, Russia and Saudi Arabia

Increases in travel intent over the past few weeks can mostly be attributed to India, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Promotions have been running in these particular markets which have subsequently led to the increases in inbound search volumes to the UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As restrictions in travel to the Emirates continue to change, these trends are expected to shift accordingly.

Travel in 2021 for the UAE

While forward looking international flight intent continues to remain down YoY, some positive signs are seen in 2021. Taking inbound flight searches for future departure dates from Italy as an example, there is a strong trajectory upwards as we head into the peak season for the UAE as the weather begins to cool, becoming more desirable for international tourists. Inbound searches from Italy to the UAE in August 2021 currently stand at -27% YoY. Inbound searches from India and the US also show signs of growth throughout 2021.

However, the volumes currently infer that travellers in these origins are searching for trips with a shorter lead time, up by 24% YoY in October 2020 for India and down just 57% YoY in October 2020 for the US.

Sojern expects international search volumes to continue increasing as the situation around the pandemic stabilises, bringing more certainty and confidence in the way in which travellers can move more freely.

The Middle East and Africa continue to show positive signs of domestic recovery, and international travel is picking up. Peaks in travel intent from Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia have had an impact in the growing increase in travel to the region from global origins, and Italian travellers are keen to travel to the UAE in the second half of 2021. - TradeArabia News Service


Bahrain suspends travel to Covid-risk destinations

Bahrain has temporarily suspended travel to destinations which can adversely affect national efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), a senior official said.

Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Affairs at the Ministry of Telecommunications Mohammed Thamer Al-Kaabi said the temporary suspension had been recommended by the National Taskforce for Combating Covid-19 to protect citizens and residents' health and safety, said a Bahrain News Agency report.

The report did not mention the names of the destinations affected.


Emirates to restart flights to five more European cities

Dubai-based Emirates airline has announced it will resume flights to five more cities in Europe, expanding its European network to 31 destinations, and offering customers around the world convenient connections via Dubai.

The five destinations are: Budapest (from October 21), Bologna (November 1), Dusseldorf (November 1), Hamburg (November 1) and Lyon (November 4).

The addition of these destinations takes Emirates' global network to 99 destinations, as the airline continues to gradually meet travel demand, while always prioritising the health and safety of its customers, crew and communities, the airline said.

Flights to/from Budapest and Lyon will operate twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays while flights to/from Bologna, Dusseldorf and Hamburg will operate twice a week on Fridays and Sundays.

All flights to the five cities will be operated by the Boeing 777- 300ER, providing robust cargo capacity on each flight. Tickets can be booked on emirates.com, the Emirates App, Emirates sales offices, via travel agents as well as online travel agents.

Customers can stop over or travel to Dubai as the city has re-opened for international business and leisure visitors.

Flexibility and assurance: Emirates' booking policies offer customers flexibility and confidence to plan their travel. Customers who purchase an Emirates ticket for travel on or before March 31, 2021,?can enjoy generous rebooking terms and options, if they have to change their travel plans. Customers have options to change their travel dates, extend their ticket validity for 2 years, or convert their ticket into a travel voucher to use against any future flight-related purchase for themselves or their family and friends. - TradeArabia News Service


Morocco eases travel curbs on international visitors

The Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO) has confirmed that the national border regulations have been relaxed to international visitors to travel to the country.

As of now, travellers of visa-exempt countries can enter the country on presenting a negative Covid-19 PCR test where the results are dated no more than 72 hours before departure. They no longer need serological tests.

Passengers must also present either an invitation from a Moroccan company or a confirmed accommodation booking for the duration of their stay.

Morocco is a geographical and cultural crossroad, which has managed to preserve its authenticity for centuries while opening up to the world. Morocco is also characterized by its huge diversity in landscapes and climate, along with a 3500 km coastline, full of white sandy beaches, it said.


Morocco Inaugurates New Alstom Production Unit in Fez

Morocco's Minister of Industry, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, chaired on Wednesday the inauguration ceremony of manufacturing company Alstom's new site in Fez.

The new production unit is intended for the manufacture and assembly of electric cables and distribution boards.

Covering an area of 3.4 hectares, the project had a total cost of MAD 48 million ($5.21 million). It is located in the "Ex-COTEF" industrial zone of Fez.

The factory currently employs about 400 people. It aims to create 350 additional direct jobs by 2023, according to Alstom.

Elalamy visited the various workshops in the new industrial unit. The Governor of the Fez-Meknes region and the Fez prefecture, Said Zniber, the President of Fez-Meknes, Mohand Laenser, and the Mayor of Fez, Idriss Azami Al Idrissi, accompanied the minister during his visit.

"This investment gives a new breath of life into the Ex-COTEF industrial zone, which will be a catalyst for the revival of regional economic activity," Elalamy said.

The new Alstom site will create new jobs, offering the local skilled workforce the opportunity to contribute to the Fez-Meknes region's development, he added.

Alstom consolidates position in Morocco

Meanwhile, the President of Alstom Maroc, Nourddine Rhalmi, said the new production unit in Fez is "proof of Alstom's industrial expansion in Morocco."

The project's "contemporary design will allow the city to become part of a new positive memory, for a future that we already know is promising," he continued.

According to the head of Alstom in Morocco, the company intends to develop "a strong network" of local suppliers and help local talents "to hone their skills."

Before the official inauguration ceremony, the Alstom site in Fez has already contributed to more than 20 railway projects around the world, Rhalmi said.

In the future, the company intends to launch several socio-economic initiatives in the Fez-Meknes region.

Present in Morocco for nearly 100 years, Alstom counts more than 500 employees in the country. Some of the company's major local projects are the tramway vehicles in Rabat and Casablanca, as well as the high-speed trains operating between Casablanca and Tangier.


Qatar enforces mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for arrivals

Qatar has said that mandatory quarantine is in place until further notice for all passengers arriving in the emirate, citing a spike in global COVID-19 infections.

A state supreme committee for tackling crises in the country has said that the global virus infection rates are still high, prompting the mandatory quarantine for all arrivals in Qatar, the news agency QNA reported.

The panel added that the Health Ministry will update a list of low-risk countries. Social gatherings have been found as the main reason for the spread of the new coronavirus in Qatar, according to the committee.

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