Skift Take

If being paid $100,000 for two months is not reason enough, American actor Kevin Hart lists out the reasons why he thinks being hired as Yas Island's ambassador is the "best job in the world."

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

Middle East Travel Roundup

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American comedian and actor Kevin Hart is a man on a mission as he is looking to hire an ambassador for Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. Hart, who was appointed Yas Island’s first-ever chief island officer in May, announced the job opening on social media on Monday, calling it the “world’s best job.” The salary being offered for the two-month role is $100,000. Anyone aged 21 years or above can apply for the job, the last date for receiving entries is January 23. “No CV, previous experience or cover letter needed, just your video up to 60 seconds (videos over 60 seconds will be disqualified),” the website mentioned. Once hired, the ambassador will take part in a variety of tourism activities for Yas Island while being put up at the W Abu Dhabi for 60 days. Yas Island has also made all the video applications public in its website.

Citizens of Saudi Arabia can now rent out their residential units to tourists for a fee, according to a report on Saudi Gazette citing the kingdom’s newly approved bylaws. The new rules also lay down that a private tourist hospitality facility — which could be an apartment, townhouse, or a villa – must be part of a property that has been designated as either for residential or agricultural use. According to the bylaw, a maximum of three permits could be issued to one person per property. The ministry has also listed out several laws to ensure that the rights of tourists are protected while staying at such rented properties. One such rule mentions that after chekcing in a tourist cannot be forced to vacate the residential unit, in the presence of competent authorities. The rules also lay down that advertising for a property under the new bylaws must only be done by providers of travel and tourism services.

Airlines in the Middle East saw an 84.6 percent traffic rise in November compared to November 2021, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). November capacity increased 45.4 percent versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 16.5 percentage points to 77.7 percent. As air passenger recovery continued in November, global traffic in November 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers) rose 41.3 percent compared to November 2021. “Traffic results in November reinforce that consumers are thoroughly enjoying the freedom to travel. Unfortunately, the reactions to China’s reopening of international travel in January reminds us that many governments are still playing science politics when it comes to Covid-19 and travel,” said Willie Walsh, director general of IATA.

In 2022, Dubai welcomed over 23.7 million passengers to the emirate registering an 89 percent increase in passenger traffic compared to the previous year. Of the 23.7 million arrivals, 21.8 million arrived through airports, 1.6 million crossed the Hatta Border Crossing with Oman, and 242,700 passengers used sea ports. On December 31 alone, Dubai received over 107,082 passengers, with 95,445 travelers arriving through Dubai Airports, 6,527 arriving via Hatta Border Crossing, and 5,010 passengers arriving through its marine ports. While Dubai hasn’t yet made the 2022 tourism arrival figures public, the emirate recently announced that it hosted 12.8 million overnight international visitors in the first 11 months of 2022, almost 4 million short of 2019’s 16.73 million overnight visitors.

Airbnb in partnership with Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism has announced the launch of a one-stop-shop for aspiring remote workers. Those looking to live and work in Dubai can look to use the hub to find inspiration for local long-term listings as well as information on entry requirements and visa policies. Calling Dubai a hub for remote workers, Velma Corcoran, regional lead for Middle East and Africa at Airbnb, said, “As this trend continues to accelerate, we want to work together to make it easier for people to enjoy the newfound flexibility to work and travel, and help the city harness the economic benefits of this new type of tourism.”

Accor has appointed Duncan O’Rourke to be the managing director of Middle East, Africa, Turkey and Asia Pacific for the premium, mid-range and economy division. O’Rourke was earlier CEO of Accor’s Northern Europe operations. From January 1, Accor’s operations are now based on two distinct divisions — a premium, midscale and economy division, and a luxury and lifestyle division, both supported by a group management committee and a global shared platform. Mark Willis, who was earlier Accor’s CEO for the Middle East, Africa, India and Turkey has now been appointed as the CEO of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. 

Saudi Arabia has now included the Diriyah tourism project as the fifth giga-project in the portfolio of the Public Investment Fund — the country’s sovereign wealth fund. The other four giga-projects are NEOM, Red Sea, Qiddiya and ROSHN. Established by a royal order in 2017, Diriyah Gate Development Authority will continue its regulatory and supervisory role for Diriyah, which includes Turaif district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Calling giga-projects crucial, the Public Investment Fund said that these projects have the ability to create new economic ecosystems that drive economic growth and diversification in the kingdom. Diriyah Project aligns with Public Investment Fund’s strategy to focus on unlocking the capabilities of promising sectors, including tourism and culture, to support Saudi Arabia’s position as a top tourism and cultural destination, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) inaugurated its new SAUDIA Operations building at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah recently. The state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology is set to serve as a key enabler of the Saudi Aviation Strategy, under the kingdom’s broader National Transport and Logistics Strategy. The new building will also support SAUDIA in its efforts to make the Jeddah airport a global hub. Built by Saudi Airlines Real Estate Development Company over an area of 50,000 square meters, the two-storey building can accommodate more than 1,100 employees. The mini terminal, complete with AI-powered self-boarding kiosks and five luggage carousels, houses 15 meeting rooms for pre-flight cabin crew briefings. It is the largest center of its kind in the Middle East and the 12th largest globally.

The Emirates Group has recently signed the United Arab Emirates Gender Balance Council’s pledge to increase female representation in middle to senior management to 30 percent across the country by 2025. The pledge supports the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal number 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. With the signing of the pledge, the company plans a renewed focus on introducing more compliance measures to prevent bias in the hiring process, the company said in a statement. Emirates Group also looks to identify, develop and work on the succession of female leaders in the organization. The group has said it would review policies to prioritise gender equality in its practices and procedures and would frequently review gender pay status, to ensure fairness and prevent unconscious bias.

Emaar Hospitality has announced the opening of Address Grand Creek Harbour, the first five-star luxury hotel in the new waterfront destination — Dubai Creek Harbour. The 223-room hotel includes executive, panoramic and skyline suite options as well as a three-bedroom presidential suite. “Dubai Creek Harbour has been expanding at an incredible pace and will be a cornerstone of the city’s skyline for years to come,” said Mark Kirby, head of hospitality at Emaar Hospitality Group. “This hotel, with its design, ambiance, luxury, and amenities is a stunning addition to the city – right in the heart of a character-filled and visually spectacular location like Dubai Creek Harbour,” Kirby said.

Nasma Luxury Stays, a division of Al Tamimi Investments and a specialist in vacation rentals, forecasts accelerated growth in luxury home investments in Dubai in 2023 following stronger global interest in the market. Nasma expects considerable investments in Dubai’s high-end residential sector as unit prices are seen to surge 13.5 percent in 2023, which is reported to be the strongest growth globally as per the latest Knight Frank study. Calling 2022 a fantastic year for Nasma, Dani Tabbara, chief operating officer of Al Tamimi Investments, said the company has witnessed a surge in bookings from international visitors with the Qatar world cup providing a great boost to the increase in numbers. “Holiday homes serve to be the best alternative for tourists looking for private space, along with tailor-made facilities,” he said.

Marking its foray into the Middle East, Membership Collective Group opened its doors to a private-members’-club-meets-hotel The Ned Doha in Qatar on Monday. After London and New York, the Doha property would be the third Ned hotel and members’ club. Set over five floors overlooking the Arabian Gulf and Doha’s skyline, Ned Doha features 90 bedrooms and suites, seven public restaurants, a pool and club lounge, a health club with spa, salon, and fitness center, and a new 8,350 square feet event space for large-scale conferences, events, and receptions. Five years after launching The Ned in London, Gareth Banner, group managing director of The Ned, said, “We look forward to deliver a distinct experience to our guests and members, welcoming them to stay, connect, eat and have a good time.”

Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Island will also be home to real estate firm Lead Development’s latest project — The Souk. Announcing the launch of the project, Lead Developments called The Souk “a connecting hub for the six villages coming up on its mega project in Jubail Island.” The $2.72 billion Jubail Island will be home to a collection of six residential village estates located between Yas Island and Saadiyat Island. Nestled among natural beauty and rich biodiversity of the mangroves, the landmark community will offer residents every convenience and amenity, seamlessly blending sustainable living, luxury and wellness in an iconic new addition to Abu Dhabi’s real estate landscape, said a statement from Lead Development. The Souk’s prime location will also provide increased connectivity to other destinations on the island, such as Jubail Mangrove Park, Jubail Beach Club, and the Marina, it added. “The Souk will be a major destination that redefines the living experience for residents of the island,” said Mahmoud Dandashly, chief business officer of Lead Development.

Announcing its global recruitment campaign plan, Abu Dhabi state carrier Etihad Airways has said that it would be hiring candidates across cities worldwide throughout January. Following the surge in travel demand, Etihad is strengthening its connectivity to various destinations as a result of which the airline is looking to recruit additional crew. The Abu Dhabi carrier recently announced that it would be adding flights to Shanghai as travel demand to and from China grows. The airline will also be doubling its frequency to Bangkok as it announced that it would be providing a total of 14 weekly nonstop services to Bangkok from March 26. Besides Abu Dhabi, the airline will be carrying out its recruitment drive in Kuala Lumpur, Dublin, Bratislava, Istanbul and Madrid.

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Middle East Travel Roundup

Get the latest news from the Middle East in one easy-to-digest newsletter.

Tags: abu dhabi, accor, airbnb, china, coronavirus recovery, dubai, emirates air, etihad, iata, middle east, saudi arabia, saudia airlines

Photo credit: Kevin Hart is looking to hire an ambassador for Yas Island. Yas Island

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