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Mylerz eyes expansion as it raises $9.6m in funding round – Arab News

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RIYADH: Mylerz, a Cairo-based e-commerce startup, raised $9.6 million in an investment round led by private equity firm Lorax Capital Partners with participation from Egyptian digital payment giant, Fawry.
The company provides its partners with the ability to track sent out orders, change their destination, and generate insights on consumer behavior.
Mylerz will utilize its newly acquired fund to enter three markets in North Africa, expand across Egypt as well as achieve its goal as an end-to-end logistics provider.
RIYADH: A delegation headed by Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission Abdullah Al-Swaha visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during an official visit to the US, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
Al-Swaha arrived at the US space agency, where he was received by Assistant Director of the Kennedy Space Center Burton Summerfield, to discuss investment opportunities in establishing and managing space ports.
His visit to the US is to strengthen joint relations and exchange the best global expertise and practices in space exploration, technology and related industries, a statement said.
The visit also aims to discuss ways to enhance innovation and pioneering projects, and transfer and localize advanced technologies in the space sector.
The Saudi minister was briefed on NASA’S efforts and activities in space exploration and the current missions.
Al-Swaha was accompanied by Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, CEO of the Saudi Space Authority, and President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Dr. Mounir El-Desouky.
DUBAI: There is something reassuring about a hotel brand that has lasted and flourished for over 100 years. Besides weathering cataclysmic events during this period, the Hilton Group has endured the universal pandemic and emerged full of learning and strength.
“One of the reasons we have been in business for 103 years and doing that very well is anticipating trends and having great staff,” said Jochem-Jan Sleiffer, president, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, Hilton, in an interview with Arab News.
“I started my current role the year COVID-19 hit, and let’s say you get to know your team very well in a crisis. I got to see what people are made of, how they held hands to shoulder responsibility.” 
The pandemic also changed the course of things to come. Current travel trends that help the brand stay ahead of the curve include focusing on sustainability, digital offerings, and the simplicity of a great bed and shower pressure.
“This is what people want. Sustainability is front and center: People had seen the globe differently when travel stopped and are very eco-conscious now,” he said. “It’s everything from offering farm-to-table local produce, reducing plastic water bottle usage, and planting local trees.”
Along the green trail
According to a 2022 report by Booking.com, 81 percent of travelers confirmed that sustainable travel is essential to them, with 50 percent saying that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices.
The research is based on insights gathered from more than 30,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories, with 71 percent of global travelers wanting to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months — a 10 percent increase year on year.
Sleiffer has worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years, starting his career at Hilton Amsterdam in 1990. Today, he oversees Hilton’s operations in the region, including 85 existing properties and 110 new ones that will open in the Middle East and North Africa in the next five years.
“We are growing our portfolio in the Middle East and North Africa by 130 percent,” said the hotelier.
“We increased revenue per available room 121 percent this year, up 8 percent compared to 2019 in our region. We are excited about new openings ahead — it’s a year of firsts for us.”
This year, big openings include the first Hilton on the Palm Jumeirah, the first Waldorf Astoria in Kuwait, the first Waldorf Astoria in Qatar, and the first Conrad in Morocco. Hilton currently operates 16 hotels in Saudi Arabia and has 45 in the pipeline.
“We see tremendous growth all over the region, but if I have to call out some countries, I would call out Saudi Arabia,” said Sleiffer. “It is a huge growth area for us with Vision 2030 We are fully aligned with the Ministry of Tourism. Saudi has mythical new openings that will allow us to be part of building a great story.”
On the home front
A trend arose during COVID-19 of an increase in domestic travelers discovering their own country; Sleiffer believes this will continue. Bloomberg reported late last year that the Kingdom expects 50 million visitors in 2022 — 45 percent of which are Saudi residents.
“That is one of the positives of COVID-19, that Saudis have rediscovered their own country as well,” he said. “All hotel operators are looking at Saudi now, but we have been in the Kingdom for a long, long time, and we already have a big presence in Makkah and Madinah. So our relationship with the Ministry of Tourism is very strong. Looking at the megaprojects, we want to be in all of those, too.”
While leisure travel has been a core part of growth over the last few years, Sleiffer said business travel is witnessing a renaissance.
“The leisure staycation business has helped us after the pandemic, but we also see big meetings; people want to reconnect with their teams,” he said. “We see it with people visiting from head office and team-building activities. It makes sense because colleagues have spent two years on virtual calls.”
For business and leisure travelers, the top source market for the Middle East and North Africa hotels in the first quarter of 2022 were actually residents enjoying staycations. Guests flying in from the UK comprised the second top source market. Hilton’s focus is an international, consistent standard with a local flavor in each country.
“Developing local talent is high on our agenda,” Sleiffer said. “We want to hire locally as much as we can to reflect local communities.”
DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels has a new brand and approach to set itself apart in a post-pandemic travel landscape. The hospitality major has launched The Edge, a conversion brand that brings existing and independent hotels under its fold to elevate its hospitality offering.
“It’s the perfect time to launch a new brand post-COVID 19. Hotels that struggle will understand the value that an operator can bring in terms of financial management and overall performance,” said Guy Hutchinson, president and CEO of Rotana, in an interview with Arab News.
“A strong, localized brand like ours can elevate performance and returns. It is ideal for hotels managed by others that may be dissatisfied, feel disengagement, and feel they can perform better,” said Hutchinson.
Rotana’s current portfolio includes 112 properties across the Middle East and North Africa, both in operation and pipeline. In the next three years, Hutchinson’s team hopes to have 25 properties under The Edge brand alone.
“And that is a conservative projection; we begin with two properties already signed in Dubai and Istanbul,” he said. “We see a lot of interest in this concept. Our investors are looking for alignment; the Edge provides them a way to convert to a hotel in a cost-effective way.”
Cutting-edge model
The Edge brand will sit under the Rotana parent company alongside familiar brands like Reyhaan and Arjaan. The new conversion-based brand has a development team in the market, with specialists who meet investors, developers and property owners.
“They are proactive, we talk to all these parties involved and meet with developers, and then we put a selection of brands together that will meet client needs,” said Hutchinson. “We have a specialist development team that focuses on this for us.”
Outside the Edge brand, Rotana has 42 properties in the pipeline and a goal to add eight to 10 new hotels per year. Hutchinson said that the ambitious expansion plans are responsible for maintaining existing Rotana properties and bringing them to pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s been through a difficult three years, and our focus is equally on getting existing stakeholders back to where they should be,” he said. “They deserve our focus, and we are responsible to them.”
Rotana’s strategic success helped the brand emerge with strength from the pandemic. It ended 2020 with an above-average occupancy rate of 90 percent due to clever moves, including offering long term accommodation to employees of the oil and gas industry when they needed a place to stay off-site, as well as approximately 1,500 international medical staff who were brought in to assist with added screenings.
Betting on the recovery
Today, Rotana is witnessing the effects of pent-up travel demand from domestic and international visitors.
“Across the industry, this region is leading travel recovery globally,” said Hutchinson. “At the end of the first quarter of 2022, if we take key cities around the Gulf Cooperation Council: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, these destinations are probably the top five travel destinations in the world right now.”
The hotelier added that Dubai’s average hotel occupancy rates in the first quarter of the year were 84 percent. At the same time, the highest cities were Istanbul and Los Angeles, at 66 percent and 55 percent, respectively. He credited Dubai’s efforts with the Expo and good management of COVID-19 restrictions with a positive impact.
Dubai has become a leading destination for leisure, tourism and hospitality with a regular stream of investment. Dubai’s hotel sector experienced its highest occupancy since 2007 during the final weeks before Expo 2020, with 91.7 percent of Dubai’s rooms occupied, according to early data from STR.
“Saudi Arabia is also a critical space for us and the industry,” said Hutchinson. “As a destination, it’s underserved in terms of the number of hotel rooms. There is also a massive focus from the government on developing tourism infrastructure. It’s a significant opportunity to be at the beginning of that journey.”
Rotana already has seven hotels in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with another seven in various stages of development in the Kingdom. The team is particularly interested in new destinations that are opening up and have proven popular with domestic travelers, including Alkhobar and AlUla.
“We are interested in expanding, but less in the established cities and more so in these parts of the country opening up and developing tourism infrastructure,” he said. “I think Saudi will surprise us.”
DUBAI: As the world cautiously resumes travel after the pandemic, companies operating within this space are already seeing patterns emerge. What does travel recovery look like when we delve into data? The largest travel provider in the region, Seera Group, offers key insights into the Arabian Travel Market 2022, the Middle East’s biggest travel and tourism exhibition that has kicked off in Dubai.
The typical Saudi consumer traveled an average of four times before the pandemic, according to data from Seera Group. The surprising part? This number has already been surpassed for the average Saudi consumer in 2022.
“We’re already seeing data matching up to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2022, and we expect to achieve up to 30 percent more by the end of the year,” Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president of Seera Group’s Travel Unit leading the growth and development of Almosafer, the Middle East’s leading travel brand, told Arab News. 
Boom in domestic travel 
Where exactly are they traveling? Pre-COVID-19, 65 percent of travel took place internationally, in cities including London, Paris and Dubai. When the pandemic hit, domestic travel found fresh demand, with 65 percent of it taking place within Saudi Arabia well into 2021.
This year, domestic travel is still booming, but Ahussain expects to end the year with a 50-50 split as borders continue to reopen around the world. Cairo bookings saw a 77 percent increase for Eid alone this year. Male in the Maldives witnessed a 196 percent increase year-on-year.
Ahussain said: “Domestic city breaks remain of interest with hotel bookings in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam increasing. To that end, Seera Group recently launched Chalets+, a holiday home option that has seen a huge spike in bookings with more people having an appetite for alternative accommodations.
“We are already noticing changes, such as very early bookings for the summer holidays when Saudis usually book closer to a travel date,” he said. “We are also seeing interest peak in new international destinations, such as Amsterdam and Bangkok.”
Data at the core
Data is embedded into the core business of Seera Group, with the company spending heavily on customer-facing digital products as well as streamlining internal digital operations.
“All of our business decisions, whether car rental, hospitality or travel business, are fully integrated within data,” said Ahussain. “It’s the core of what we use to make decisions. We rely on real time performance marketing a lot. Fundamentally, data is embedded into our culture.”
To that end, the company first rebranded from Al-Tayyar to Seera Group and revamped its digital offering. Next, consumer and business travel were merged under one unit at the end of 2021 to realize efficiencies and leverage the strength of the Almosafer brand equity and platform.
The strategy seems to be working. The company’s most recent earnings report showed that Seera Group registered substantial growth across all travel verticals for the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year. The group’s gross booking value increased by 87 percent in the first quarter of 2022 to SR1.6 billion ($430 million), compared to SR873 million during the same period last year, illustrating a dramatic rebound in travel demand following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Almosafer alone reported a 57 percent increase in GBV when comparing the two periods. The growth has predominantly been driven by consumer demand, which has already returned to the first quarter of 2019 levels. Revenue for Almosafer grew by 370 percent from SR12 million in the first quarter of 2021 to SR57 million in the first quarter of 2022. The increase in revenue has been driven by the strength of the consumer brand and increased pricing power, according to a statement by the company. Almosafer’s omni-channel approach, round-the-clock travel advisory across platforms and strong digital capabilities resulted in 32 million sessions on the platform in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 404 percent from the first quarter of 2021.
“2022 has kicked off with an incredibly positive start to the year,” said Majed Al-Nefaie, CEO of Seera Group, at the Arabian Travel Market. “As the Kingdom’s national champion for the travel and tourism sector, we will continue to drive forward Vision 2030’s tourism agenda as an investor and enabler in innovative and aspirational businesses. Travel is back and 2022 is going to be a very positive year for Seera Group in particular and the travel industry in general.”
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion giga-project, NEOM, intends to regenerate the area by planting 100 million trees, bringing back ibex, oryx, ostriches, and cheetahs, and stopping hunting, fishing and logging.
Visitors to the city will have a guilt-free vacation and the city seeks to make holidays environmentally friendly, Andrew McEvoy, managing director tourism at NEOM, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market.
The net-zero city — to be powered by 100 percent clean energy — will seek to seamlessly integrate nature with technology with a blueprint for the future of work, living and sustainability. 
“NEOM is very much built around sustainability,” said McEvoy. 
McEvoy told Arab News NEOM’s The Line establishes a regenerative receipt that will make going on holiday more environmentally friendly than staying at home.
The Line is a 170-km city with no streets or cars, and is one of the three big projects NEOM has announced, said McEvoy.
“When you come as a visitor to NEOM, we want to give you what we call a regenerative receipt. We want to tell you that we offset all of your emissions,” the official said.
McEvoy said that visitors will not only offset all their emissions, but will also contribute to the local economy. “You’ve helped employ locals as guides, rangers, and tourism professionals,” he added.
According to McEvoy, tourists visiting The Line will have a guilt-free vacation because they have created no emissions, and added value financially, socially, and sustainably.
NEOM is also currently developing OXAGON, the world’s largest flood control structure, a port that will include cruise terminals, as well as TROJENA, a ski resort in Saudi Arabia where tourists can enjoy natural snow on Jabal Al-Lawz (a mountain), said McEvoy.
McEvoy said that NEOM is beyond sustainability as it aims to be a regenerative tourism destination.
“This is about leaving the destination better than the way we found it, which is super exciting,” McEvoy said.
Asked about NEOM’s targets for 2022, the NEOM official said for this year, the company’s targets are business-to-business.
NEOM’s goal for 2022 is to build assets, McEvoy said. Visitors will be able to visit in 2024, he added.
“We have 10,000 construction workers living and working in NEOM now,” McEvoy said.
However, he added that by the end of 2022, the number will increase to 30,000 construction workers.
According to McEvoy, ATM is about building commercial partnerships to better sell NEOM once it opens.

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