Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Etihad CEO Poached by Saudi Arabia’s New Airline: Reports

3 days ago

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas has agreed to join RIA — Saudi Arabia’s newest airline, according to reports.

It had been earlier reported that RIA, the multi-billion-dollar international carrier, had approached Douglas for the top job. Douglas has apparently agreed and other senior Etihad executives may follow him, according to Arabian Business.

Global consulting firm Korn Ferry has been tasked with the job to find a replacement for Douglas, the publication added quoting sources.

The head hunting firm is said to be in preliminary talks with three senior aviation names for the top job at Etihad, even though employment offers haven’t yet been made, according to Bloomberg.   

Douglas has been leading Etihad since 2018. He had also served as the CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company and Abu Dhabi Ports Company, prior to which he was the chief operating officer and group chief executive designate of UK’s largest privately-owned construction company Laing O’Rourke.

Under Douglas’ leadership, Etihad had reported a record-breaking core operating profit of $296 million for the first half of 2022, despite fuel costs increasing by almost 60 percent compared to the same period in 2021.

“Etihad is emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever, with a world-class fleet, an unmatched customer proposition and sustainability woven into every fibre of our business,” Douglas had said while announcing the financial results.

As Saudi Arabia pivots from its oil-based economy, the tourism sector has been a strong focus for the country that was closed to tourists till 2019.

The introduction of tourist visas in September 2019, was followed by the introduction of electronic tourist visas this month for residents of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

With an ambitious goal to reach 100 million tourists per year by 2030, the kingdom has been hard working to expanding its international air connectivity. 

Riyadh-based RIA will be the second airline for the kingdom, national carrier Saudia operates from Jeddah. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has reportedly invested $30 billion to get the airline off the ground. 

Tourism

Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund to Pick 30 Percent Stake in Almosafer

1 week ago

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has proposed to acquire a 30 percent stake in Riyadh-based travel firm Almosafer — a subsidiary of Seera Group — for $412 million.

As part of the pact, Seera’s destination management company — Discover Saudi and its Hajj and Umrah travel operator — Mawasim will fall under Almosafer.

The Seera Group, in a statement to the Saudi Stock Exchange where it is listed, stated that the capital infusion would be used to scale its inbound, outbound, religious and domestic tourism operations.

The company said this would help to strengthen its credentials as a “national champion of travel and tourism services in Saudi Arabia.”

Almosafer recorded the best quarter in its history for consumer travel bookings for the quarter ending June 30, 2022 exceeding pre-pandemic levels in June 2019 by 27 percent.

The travel company reported a 89 percent growth in gross booking value to $346 million in the second quarter, up from $240 million in the second quarter of 2021. Almosafer’s consumer travel unit achieved its highest ever quarterly gross booking value registering an increase of 175 percent compared to the same period last year.

The company had mentioned in its earnings that Almosafer’s consumer travel segment is on track to achieve $1 billion gross booking value by the end of 2022. 

The Public Investment Fund plays a pivotal role in realizing Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation program, as it strategises to diversify the national economy and reduce the reliance on oil.

As it seeks to diversify is portfolio, the Public Investment Fund, which manages around $620 billion in assets, had earlier invested $464 million in Google’s parent company Alphabet, around $474 million in Microsoft, $507 million in Zoom and $373 million in Booking Holdings.

Last month, the sovereign wealth fund along with the London-based Cain International announced an investment of $900 million in the Swiss hospitality brand — Aman Group.

Airlines

Saudi Arabia’s New Airline Will be Called RIA — Reports

3 weeks ago

Saudi Arabia’s government plans to call its new multi-billion-dollar international airline RIA, according to reports.

The plan is for it to be a premium global superconnector, like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, as the kingdom continues its ambitious Vision 2030 tourism plan.

It wants to increase the number of air routes from about 100 to 250.

RIA will become Saudi’s second national carrier, based out of Riyadh, with Saudia, which operates from Jeddah, focusing on religious traffic bringing pilgrims to the country’s holy sites, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Budget carriers Flynas and Flyadeal would then concentrate on low-cost domestic and regional travel and near-international routes. It remains unclear if any of the three existing airlines would feed traffic to the new airline.

The kingdom has been working on the launch for the past 12 months, with the new venture backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the report added.

Saudi Arabia is also making it easier for millions of tourists to enter the kingdom by streamlining and relaxing its visa options for residents from multiple countries. Overall the country wants to target 30 million international transit passengers by 2030, compared to under 4 million currently.

Europe’s Wizz Air will also land in Saudi Arabia this December.

Tourism

Saudi Arabia’s New Visa Rules Could Open Up Travel for Millions of Visitors

4 weeks ago

Saudi Arabia is making it easier for millions of tourists to enter the Kingdom by streamlining and relaxing its visa options for residents from multiple countries, effective September 1.

Residents from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates —the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries— can now apply for electronic tourist visas (eVisas), according to the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia. 

Residents of the UK, US, and EU can now apply for a visa on arrival. In addition, holders of a v​​alid tourist or business visa to the UK, U.S. or the Schengen area countries will be able to apply for a visa on arrival, provided that the other visa has been used at least once to enter the issuing country. 

Furthermore, potential visitors who meet Saudi Arabia’s visa requirements no longer have to report to their country’s embassy before entering Saudi Arabia. 

“Through harnessing digital innovation and streamlining the traveller journey, Saudi Arabia is welcoming more and more visitors from all corners of the globe,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb.

The new visa rules is another step the Kingdom is taking toward achieving its ambitious goal of becoming a top global leisure destination. The Saudi government intends to invest $1 trillion in the tourism sector over the next 10 years. 

“The facilitation of a tourist visa for millions of GCC residents and the visa on arrival extension supports our ambition to welcome 100 million visitors a year by 2030, to the world’s biggest new leisure tourism destination,” said Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin.

To achieve its ambitions, the Kingdom has been hard working to expanding its international air connectivity. Its goal is to increase the number of direct international flights from 99 to 250 and become a leading Middle Eastern aviation hub. To get there, Saudi Arabia has offered financial incentives to airlines, expanded existing airports, launched a new airline, invested millions and slashed airport fees.

Airlines

Wizz Air Unveils Major Saudi Arabia Expansion

1 month ago

European discounter Wizz Air will land in Saudi Arabia this December with a major expansion under the kingdom’s push to dramatically expand visitor numbers by the end of the decade.

Wizz plans to launch 20 nonstop routes to Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh from 11 European gateways, including its Budapest base, Rome and Vienna, between December and April, the airline unveiled Thursday. Its first nonstop flights, between Milan and Jeddah, begin December 3.

Wizz Air
(Wizz Air)

“Saudi Arabia is one of the most exciting countries in the world for aviation portraying an eclectic mix of travel opportunities with unmissable destinations, countless exciting attractions, and a thriving cultural scene,” Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi said. “I see the Kingdom as a long-term strategic market for Wizz Air where we will continue to innovate and carry the flag of low cost flying for the benefit of Saudi residents and visitors as well as the country’s diversifying economy.”

The expansion is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan that aims to boost visitor numbers to 100 million by the end of the decade. The kingdom plans to invest as much as $1 trillion in the initiative. Part of the plan includes offering airlines financial incentives and subsidies to add flights to Saudi Arabia.

Wizz signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabian authorities about potential air service in May.

Airlines

Dubai Airport Now Expects Full Recovery a Year Earlier — By 2023

1 month ago

Dubai International Airport expects passenger traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, a year earlier than its CEO Paul Griffiths’ prediction of hoping to regain pre-Covid traffic levels by 2024.

As air travel gets back to normal, Dubai Airport witnessed a half-yearly traffic of 27.9 million passengers this year, just 1.2 million shy of its total annual traffic last year.

Based on the strong first half, the airport has readjusted its annual forecast for 2022 to 62.4 million passengers, compared to its earlier estimate of 58.3 million.

The airport managed to hit 27.9 million for the first six months of 2022 despite a significant reduction in capacity following a 45-day shutdown of its northern runway in May-June for maintenance.

India was the top destination country for Dubai Airport with traffic for the first half reaching 4 million passengers. Saudi Arabia came in second with 2 million passengers, while United Kingdom came a close third with 1.9 million passengers.

Calling the airport’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19 spectacular, CEO Griffiths said, “We knew at the start of the pandemic that the dramatic downturn would be followed by an equally dramatic upturn, so we were well prepared for it and using all of the business data at our disposal were able to predict the start of the recovery.”

Speaking to the media, Griffiths also mentioned that Dubai has a lot to gain from the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup in Qatar this year — the first to be held in the Middle East.

Qatar Airways had earlier said that fellow Gulf Arab airlines would be operating daily shuttle flights to Qatar during the world cup, which would help ease pressure on Doha, which has been struggling with limited accommodation facilities for the world cup, and allow neighbouring Gulf states to benefit from the event.

Hotels

Aman Hotels Now Valued at $3 Billion After $900 Million Fresh Investment

1 month ago

Aman Group has received a $900 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International, the London-based privately-held real estate investment firm.

The transaction now values the Swiss hospitality brand at $3 billion, said Cain in a press statement.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction pipeline of new Aman and Janu-branded properties, and support the acquisition and development of additional sites, a release from Cain stated.

Calling the investment in line with Public Investment Fund’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally, Turqi Alnowaiser, deputy governor and head of international investments division, said in a tweet, “Our investment in Aman Group reflects our belief in the current potential of the hospitality and tourism industry, both internationally and in Saudi Arabia.”

Aman Group has 34 hotels in 20 countries, including 12 branded residences, and another nine properties under development, including in Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Earlier this month, Aman opened its New York hotel and private residences in Manhattan, touted to be the most expensive hotel in the city, according to Bloomberg. The hospitality brand is set to expand further in the U.S. with Aman Miami Beach set to open in 2024, followed by Aman Beverly Hills in 2026.

As the hospitality landscape continues to evolve, Cain expects to see a growing desire for travellers and investors alike to prioritize experiences supported by preeminent brands like Aman, said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Cain International.

“This investment represents a unique opportunity to further enhance this portfolio of unrivalled destinations,” Goldstein said.

In June, Cain announced Aman as the flagship operator of One Beverly Hills, the 17.5-acre mixed-use urban resort it is developing in Beverly Hills.

“My long-term strategic vision has been to continue to grow the Aman brand in key markets, all with Aman Branded Residences, as well as creating an ultra-luxury ecosystem which offers the complete Aman lifestyle,” said Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group.

Hotels

Saudi Arabia Taps New $400 Million Fund to Help Build Ennismore Branded Lifestyle Hotels

2 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s tourism development fund said it would help invest in the building of lifestyle hotels in the kingdom through a new hotel investment fund worth $400 million (1.5 billion Saudi riyals) that Al Rajhi Capital will manage.

Ennismore, a lifestyle hospitality joint venture with Accor, will pinpoint locations, provide financing options, and lead the development and operation of these projects, which will create about 2,000 hotel rooms.

Ennismore didn’t specify which of its 14 brands — which includes 25hours, The Hoxton, Delano, Gleneagles, Mama Shelter, Mondrian, Morgans Originals, and 21c Museum Hotel — will appear in the kingdom.

Saudi’s tourism development fund (TDF), created in 2020, has $4 billion to drive tourism growth in the kingdom.

Ennismore was founded by co-CEO Sharan Pasricha, who will be speaking at Skift Global Forum in New York.

Airlines

Saudi Arabia to Slash Airport Fees to Compete With Rival Hubs

2 months ago

After offering financial incentives to carriers to fly “unprofitable” routes, Saudi Arabia is now luring airlines by cutting airport charges by as much as 35 percent in its bid to compete with the world’s biggest airline hubs, most of which happen to be in the Middle East region.

Airport charges at three major airports — Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam — would be reduced by anywhere between 10 percent and 35 percent, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said. The decreased airport charges would be coming into force later this year.

To maximize growth, airports in the kingdom would be further allowed to reduce charges below the announced caps, the civil aviation authority announced at the Farnborough Air Show. 

In its pivot from oil to diversify into other sectors, Saudi Arabia is looking at tourism in a big way to bolster the country’s economy and then there’s the ambitious goal to attract 100 million tourists by 2030.

This development comes days after Saudi’s civil aviation authority also announced the decision to open the nation’s airspace to all commercial carriers that meet the country’s civil aviation authority’s overflying requirements.

Under the decision, Saudi airspace is now open to flights operated through Israel and by Israeli carriers, a decision which complements Saudi’s efforts to consolidate its position as a global hub. 

US President Joe Biden called the decision “the first tangible step in the path of what I hope will eventually be a broader normalization of relations.” 

Cruises

Saudi Fund in Talks to Buy Seabourn Ultra-Luxury Cruise Line: Report

4 months ago

That’s according to a report in CNBC: in a very interesting move symptomatic of Saudi’s super-sized ambitions in the travel sector, Carnival cruises is in early talks to sell its Seabourn ultra-luxury cruise brand to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Unclear so far if this is full sale of cruise line, or part-investment into Carnival.

According to Maritime Executive, Saudi’s sovereign-wealth fund acquired its first investment in Carnival in the spring of 2020 buying over 43.5 million shares of Carnival stock, about 8.2 percent of the shares outstanding, according to a filing with SEC. In its most recent filing, the fund reports it has increased the investment in Carnival to 50.8 million shares as well as $40 million in Carnival’s notes. 

Seabourn has a seven ship luxury fleet, including two new expedition ships either in operation or about to be. It has a large slice of the American luxury market – a big attraction for the Saudis, according to Cruise Passenger.

Filters

Tags

saudi-arabia

Clear Filters