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Ras Al Khaimah

RAK: Experiential tourism meets cohesive sustainability  

For over 7,000 years, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has continuously been inhabited by humans, making it one of the most unique regions in the world. Its diverse topography is home to some of the most desirable beaches, lush mangrove trees, and mystical desert dunes, as well as the UAE’s highest peak, the mighty Jebel Jais standing at 1,934 meters above sea level. The emirate also caters to the discerning luxury traveler who’s looking for some of the best retreats in the UAE. 

During the most recent Global Citizen forum, I had the opportunity to speak with His Excellency Raki Phillips, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Phillips took over the top tourism job back in 2019 and has since been developing a seamless holiday infrastructure in addition to managing Ras Al Khaimah’s sustainable tourism strategy and initiatives.

What initiated Ras Al Khaimah hosting the Global Citizen Forum and what does it mean for the Emirate?

 

When we looked at the Global Citizen Forum last year, we were approached by the team and I had attended previous Global Citizen Forums and absolutely loved the conversations they’re having, the guest list that they bring, and really how they look at creating a better future for humanity. As grand as that may sound, they really put a lot of emphasis on this with the types of thought leaders they invite, and the activities that they put in place. It’s also a great way for us to showcase the destination. We hosted it last year here in Ras Al Khaimah. It was such a stellar success that we signed them up for three more years.

How would you describe Ras Al Khaimah?

 

Ras Al Khaimah is the nature emirate. We’re 45 minutes outside of Dubai International Airport and highly accessible. When you arrive here, you get three stunning topographies: the highest mountain in the UAE with Jebel Jais, 64 kilometers of white sand beach, and then our beautiful desert. It also has a cultural element to it. It really is a place where you can relax, enjoy, and even have a little bit of adventure on the longest zip line in the world, along with many of the other attractions that we offer.

 Ras Al Khaimah

An exciting new resort has been announced. What sort of new travelers do you expect to come to the emirate?

 

Earlier this year, Wynn announced an integrated resort, a multibillion-dollar investment into the Emirate, which is the largest FTI (fast track initiative) that this emirate has experienced. It is a driver of tourism. It’ll be a seismic shift in the way things will be experienced; it’s experiential. 

An integrated resort like Wynn does this in a unique way, having had tremendous experience globally as a hotel operator. But the attractions that they bring, the shows, the restaurants, are true drivers for tourism and a new way of doing tourism in the emirate. We’re very excited about it.

Could you elaborate on the sustainable tourism strategy and some of the key initiatives? 

 

We took a pledge last year to be the first certified sustainable destination in the region and our focus wasn’t just a buzzword. It was really to see how government and corporations, businesses, and private businesses can work together to ensure that we meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has put together. 

For us, those are things that we’ve done. We partnered with EarthCheck, which is a great global operator that has helped put us into a pathway where in the next year we achieve our plan. Sustainability, it’s not just environmental sustainability. It’s economic and cultural sustainability. Of course, the environment is a key factor in that.

ADNEC

ADNEC: Bolstering Abu Dhabi’s vision for economic growth

 Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) is a key contributor to the development of the business tourism sector in Abu Dhabi, helping the UAE capital become a leading destination for business meetings and events as part of the city’s bid to achieve its long-term goals of economic growth and diversification.

In the following interview, Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, MD and Group CEO, ADNEC, discusses with Economy Middle East the first ever Global Media Congress, the many ways ADCEC helps fulfill Abu Dhabi’s business and growth objectives, as well as the key role media plays in supporting this endeavor.

Can you describe the reasons behind the UAE’s stature as a global platform for media organizations?

 

The UAE is a key global player in shaping the future of the media industry and we have the ability to unite some of the world’s greatest minds in the field.

As we saw with our involvement in hosting and organizing the first-ever Global Media Congress, this complemented ADNEC Group’s commitment to creating a regional epicenter for the event that allowed us to share our vision for establishing a true focal point for the industry, creatives, and talent to collaborate, powered by state-of-the-art infrastructure and the very latest technologies, all integrated for the first time. 

The event united the entire media sector to exchange groundbreaking ideas and cutting-edge solutions shaping the future of the industry, in line with ADNEC Group’s goals. We were proud to provide a unique platform to highlight the position of mass media in the Middle East while engaging a global audience as well as driving innovative visions and collaborations that help advance the sector.

Read more: Abu Dhabi records six-year high GDP expansion

In how many ways is ADNEC helping support Abu Dhabi’s economy?

 

ADNEC Group makes strategic contributions to the sustainable growth of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry and brings business and leisure travelers together to create a valuable social and economic impact on the UAE capital. We aim to diversify our operations by focusing on a number of promising economic and investment sectors in the business and leisure tourism industries and achieving integration among them, which will contribute to enhancing our competitiveness on regional and international levels.

ADNEC Group maximizes the social and economic benefits to Abu Dhabi’s business and tourism sectors by holistically managing a group of business entities that provide and maintain facilities and services at the highest standards.

ADNEC Group is playing a crucial role in driving Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification, positively supporting the evolving interests of businesses in the Emirate and across the UAE. A global hub for major events, the ADNEC center has exceptional infrastructure, flexible teams, and the right facilities to ensure long-term and sustainable development as well as provide key services through a number of companies specialized in Destination Management, Catering, Hospitality, and more.

ADNEC

What are the overarching aims of the Global Media Conference beyond a meet-and-greet media event?

 

The Global Media Congress created an ideal gateway for emerging companies in the region to enter the Middle East, to network with the most prominent regional and global parties, and discuss the latest innovations. The event provided opportunities for various media institutions to discuss partnerships and collaborative ventures that will bolster the development of the media sector, ensuring its long-term sustainability, and the continued provision of solid, reliable, and highly credible content.

Under the theme “Shaping the Future of the Media Industry,” the specialized three-day conference saw in-depth discussions aimed at uniting the entire media sector to exchange ground-breaking ideas and cutting-edge solutions that are shaping the future of the industry. It provided a unique platform to drive innovation and collaborations that will advance the sector.

There was also a focus on the conference and workshops for young media professionals that offered a platform for journalists, tech firms, content creators, digital marketing specialists, streaming giants, entertainment executives, regulators, and key media stakeholders to share ideas and exchange experiences. 

In today’s digital communications, what is the impact of artificial intelligence on media, and what advanced technology is being integrated innovatively in this sector?

 

Advanced technology in digital communications is transforming the sector, driving efficiencies and enabling targeted communications, yielding positive outcomes. Artificial intelligence optimizes digital communications for businesses and media professionals by delivering the key messages that enable growth and retain customers. Advanced technologies help monitor social data and interpret results to enhance messaging with personalization and optimization of user experiences. Technology is advancing rapidly and companies that innovate are retaining customers and maximizing their earning potential.

ADNEC

Of the group’s six clusters – Food & Beverage, Hotels, Events, Venues, Tourism and Services – which are most on ADNEC’s development agenda and budget focus, and why?

 

ADNEC Group is made up of leading business entities with business interests in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and London that perfectly align with our future growth plans across the UAE, Middle East, and Europe.

Our new corporate identity also reflects the Group’s refreshed vision and mission, as it seeks to expand both in business terms and geographically. Through our rebranding, we have raised the visibility of all of our six main business segments – Venues, Events, Hotels, F&B, Services, and Tourism which are all of equal importance and have a strong focus. 

What media trends and challenges is the Global Media Conference addressing and attempting to overcome?

 

The event aimed to formulate a vision of the future for the media industry, which has become the main catalyst of sustainable development in communities. It shed light on the role of media in the Middle East and pushed toward developing the sector by reaching global audiences, supporting the realization of innovative visions, and establishing cooperation relations.

The conference also focused on a number of main themes, topics, and issues, including digital communication, the impact of artificial intelligence on contemporary media, and the integration of advanced technologies and innovation in the media sector.

Arif Amiri

DIFC: Innovation, Fintech, driving MEASA growth and investment landscape

From the outset, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has been a significant contributor to the sustainable economic growth of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Today, DIFC stands out as one of the world’s most advanced financial centres, as well as the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, an area which comprises 72 countries with an approximate population of 3 billion and an estimated GDP of $8 trillion.

In an interview with Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, we take an exclusive look into the strategies and inner workings of the authority as well as its crucial role as a growth driver of and gateway to MEASA.

Read more: DIFC reveals unicorn and scale-up venture studios as innovation launchpad

What global status does the UAE enjoy today, both economically and financially? Where do you stand it in the medium to long term on these two fronts?

 

Last year, DIFC and its clients created approximately 5 percent of Dubai’s GDP. Overall, the UAE Financial Services sector contributed 13 percent. DIFC and the industry is a key economic growth driver for Dubai and the UAE. Our contribution continues to increase.

Dubai is consistently the highest-ranked financial centre within the MEASA region in the Global Financial Centre Index rankings, featuring alongside other key financial hubs such as London, New York and Hong Kong, and our trajectory continues to elevate us from a regional hub towards a global hub. Our efforts on climate issues and ESGs are also recognised by our leading status in the Green Financial Centre Index.

The opportunities for businesses to use DIFC as a gateway to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia remain tremendous and backed by our world-class infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and innovation initiatives. DIFC is also home to an internationally recognised, independent regulator and a proven judicial system with an English common law framework.  Since our inception, they have provided confidence for finance-related firms to choose DIFC as their headquarters for the region.

As our client ecosystem has grown, so has its contribution to helping us drive the future of finance in the region. DIFC is home to more than 4,000 active registered companies and nearly 30,000 professionals – the largest and most diverse pool of industry talent in MEASA.

Since 2017, we have been evolving our proposition to stimulate financial innovation. We are home to the region’s first and largest Fintech Accelerator. Since then, DIFC has attracted 600 Fintech and innovation businesses, accounting for more than 60 percent of all those in the GCC. The DIFC Innovation Hub provides access to education, accelerator and innovator programmes, mentorship from established financial firms, cost-effective regulatory and operating licenses, and access to funding sources and expertise.

Lifestyle is also a key driver and influencing factor for companies to set up in our Centre. DIFC is more than a place to work. We are one of Dubai’s most sought-after 24-hour, seven-days-a-week lifestyle destinations comprising a variety of world-renowned retail and dining venues, a dynamic art and culture scene, residential apartments, hotels and public spaces.

Looking ahead, the opportunity for growth is immense and we continue to attract both large financial institutions and start-ups as we provide certainty, a track record of stability, access to regional markets, and one of the most progressive, tested regimes within the region.

DIFC

You announced the best annual performance in the history of the DIFC, with unprecedented results in 2021 as part of “Strategy 2024.” What are the most prominent features/highlights of what was achieved? What are your expectations for 2022 by year’s end? What about 2030 Strategy? What work has gone into achieving its goals?

 

At DIFC, we constantly strive to build and maintain our reputation as the leading global financial centre in the MEASA region, and our success is a reflection of all our stakeholders’ hard work, dedication and perseverance. Ultimately, DIFC’s success can be traced back to the strategies and initiatives undertaken by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Deputy Governor of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Chairman of Dubai International Financial Centre.

DIFC now comprises 17 of the world’s top 20 banks, 25 of the world’s top 30 global systemic banks, five of the top 10 insurance companies, five of the top 10 asset managers and several of the world’s leading law and consulting firms.

During the first half of 2022, we continued to shape the industry by introducing initiatives aligned with our Strategy 2030 which led to attracting new businesses and talent to our ecosystem at an unprecedented pace.

Last year, we achieved the growth targets set in Strategy 2024 three years ahead of schedule, further strengthening our global economic profile in a year marred by the global pandemic.

Strategy 2030 will see DIFC move beyond its achieved ambition of becoming the region’s leading financial centre, to becoming a global centre for business and innovation. The coming years will see DIFC doubling in size and doubling its economic contribution to Dubai’s GDP. It will also continue to strengthen the UAE’s competitiveness by working closely with the UAE Central Bank to drive digitalisation of UAE’s financial sector.

There are several highlights in our performance, but it’s worth mentioning that our strong performance reaffirms Dubai’s position as a leading global hub for financial institutions, Fintechs and innovation firms, in line with DIFC’s Strategy 2030.

In fact, the total number of registered companies grew from 3,297 to 4,031, a 22 percent year-on-year growth, fuelling unprecedented levels of workforce growth – the fastest job creation growth rate since inception, further expanding the region’s largest and most diverse pool of industry talent. And this phenomenal growth came against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty.

We welcomed some 537 new companies in H1 2022, an 11 percent year-to-date increase, and the Centre is now home to 1,252 financial and innovation-related companies – up by 22 percent from the first half of 2021.

Fintech and innovation companies continue to be key growth drivers at DIFC, increasing from 406 to 599, up 23 percent year-on-year.

By year-end, we firmly believe the ambitious steps taken by Dubai and DIFC to drive the future of finance will generate significant new opportunities for businesses. Our strong business growth will continue to pave the way for continued economic growth in our region and across the globe, enabling us to further raise our competitiveness and differentiate the emirate as a top global centre for finance, Fintech and innovation.

We will continue to deliver exceptional opportunities for expansion and business enterprise and to build productive and long-lasting partnerships with financial companies worldwide. Simply put, DIFC delivers the robust, state-of-the-art infrastructure and support needed to enhance the stability, competitiveness and growth potential of significant global enterprises.

DIFC’s central role: Can you describe the role DIFC played in supporting the country’s economy and growth?

 

Dubai has one of the most diversified economies in the region. A deliberate strategy that spans a range of industries.

DIFC, Dubai’s economy and the UAE economy are closely intertwined. This has been the case since DIFC was established in 2004.

Our success is reflected in national economic growth. Our new strategy to double in size is as bold, ambitious and well-considered as the federal government’s own national growth plans.

The Centre’s commitment to differentiating itself as the region’s leading global financial hub reflects our commitment to continuously evolve our ecosystem, our legal and regulatory framework and our innovation proposition to attract global companies.

It is also worth noting that DIFC ranked first among global free zones in attracting FDI to the financial services sector in 2021. During the period of 2017-2021, the Centre supported Dubai to attract 58 FDI projects in the sector, totalling AED926.2 million and generating more than 1,432 jobs.

DIFC

DIFC has provided new opportunities to enhance cooperation in the Fintech sector. What is the importance of Fintech today? How does it contribute to developing the economy? Do you expect Dubai to become a springboard for global Fintech entrepreneurs to build and expand across the region?

 

DIFC has built the most comprehensive Fintech and innovation proposition in MEASA region. This has helped us become one of the world’s leading hubs for the sector, and is attracting high levels of interest from Fintechs in Asia and other parts of the world. DIFC will continue to develop initiatives to further differentiate our strong reputation for Fintech.

DIFC helps start-ups, global players and unicorns expand their global reach and capture opportunities in fast-growing MEASA markets. As an example, between January and September 2022, DIFC-based Fintech firms secured more than AED2 billion ($559 million) of funding.

Our proposition also helps cement Dubai’s reputation as a global hub for technology and innovation.

We have already identified that Fintech is the fastest growing sector in DIFC, and so we are ensuring Fintech companies enjoy the support, the infrastructure and the ease of doing business they not only expect but deserve.

Dubai is already a regional – if not global – springboard for innovative Fintech companies. Given our growing cohort of world-class Fintech players, we are in an ideal position to drive the sector, both regionally and globally. Financial technology companies are rapidly positioning themselves as the sector which enables global flows of capital, drives innovation and enables us all to do more than we ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

We see Fintech as an enormous area of growth, and an enormous opportunity. This was confirmed with our DIFC Fintech Week held earlier this year at the Ritz Carlton. Around 1,000 attendees heard 40 world-leading speakers talk about the key themes shaping the next phase of Fintech including Web 3.0, the metaverse, NFTs, crypto, blockchain, payments, embedded finance, open banking, RegTech and ESG.

In May 2023, we are excited to be hosting the first Dubai Fintech Summit in May 2023, a global event that will bring together more than 5,000 experts, thought leaders, policymakers and decision-makers together to discuss how they can shape a new wave of innovation, enterprise and growth for the international financial industry.

DEWA

DEWA: Partnerships core to green and lucrative future

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is exceptionally active in new technology usage and highly attractive to investments. It is adopting innovation and the latest disruptive technologies of the 4IR, reshaping the traditional concepts of work mechanisms to enhance Dubai’s position as an incubator for creativity and cementing its reputation as a beacon of innovation.

Economy Middle East addressed a number of DEWA’s latest initiatives with HE Saeed Al Tayer, MD&CEO of DEWA, where we asked:

1- What role is the innovation center and the Partnership Lab for the UAE playing in light of global emphasis on renewable energy transition?

 

Thanks to the forward-looking vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai is on the right track to becoming the smartest and happiest city in the world.

DEWA’s Innovation Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is a pioneering global hub for renewable and clean energy innovations, and an educational platform that hosts events, conferences, seminars, and workshops in collaboration with local and global universities, organizations, and start-ups.

We are keen to build strategic partnerships with local, regional, and global organizations to transform Dubai into the smartest city in the world, as well as achieve the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050.

DEWA
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park

2- Can you update us on the tender for the 900 MW renewable energy project at the solar park?

 

There has been a great response from international developers for the 900MW 6th phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. DEWA has appointed a consortium of advisors to provide consultancy services for implementing the 6th phase. The project is based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model and will become operational in stages between 2025 and 2027.

Read more: Dubai’s DEWA Q3 net profit up 10% to $863 mn

3- DEWA is the organizer of WETEX. How do these types of exhibitions contribute to enhancing and improving the services DEWA provides?

 

DEWA is the organizer of the Water, Energy, Technology, and Environment Exhibition (WETEX) and Dubai Solar Show. This is the largest exhibition of its kind in the region bringing together prominent global organizations specialized in water, clean and renewable energy, the environment, gas, green development, sustainability, and related industries. The show widens DEWA’s partners’ network and promotes adoption of innovative ideas and solutions.

4- DEWA is the first utility in the region to adopt Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) strategy. What does that mean in terms of maintenance, efficiency, and cost savings for the UAE?

 

We work continuously to enhance the reliability and efficiency of our transmission and distribution networks. The use of Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) & Artificial Intelligence has helped us to predict and address potential faults in a timely and efficient manner, reduce our maintenance costs, and ensure continuity of supply, thereby enhancing the happiness of our customers.

DEWA
DEWA HQ

5- Does DEWA believe that green hydrogen will be an active element in the diversification of energy sources in the future? What are your outlooks in this regard?

 

The use of green hydrogen for power generation and fighting global warming is rising. Studies show that green hydrogen production will increase by 57% annually to reach 5.7 million tons by 2030.

The Green Hydrogen pilot plant that DEWA built in collaboration with Expo 2020 and Siemens Energy, is aligned with Dubai’s and UAE’s commitment to sustainability, supports Dubai turning into a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 as well as DEWA’s strategy to diversify energy sources.

DEWA, in partnership with Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), is studying a proposal for building a hydrogen fueling station in Dubai, which will encourage the use of sustainable transportation, as well as the UAE’s Hydrogen Vehicles System that aims to develop the hydrogen economy in the UAE and open up local markets to hydrogen vehicles.

6- What can you tell us about the largest IPO in the EMEA region since 2019, where DEWA raised AED 22.3 billion ($6.1 billion)?

 

As part of the IPO, the Government of Dubai sold 18% of its shares. The proceeds from the sale of DEWA’s shares were remitted to the Government of Dubai.

For the first 9 months of 2022, DEWA’s revenue increased by 15% to AED 20.63 bn. Energy demand in Dubai during the first 9 months of 2022 increased by 5% compared to the same period in 2021. Similarly, water demand in the same period grew by 6.4%. In the first 9 months of 2022, our net profit is nearly at par with the full-year net profit of 2021. We are well-positioned to deliver the best full-year financial performance in our operating history and are optimistic about our green growth prospects.

Moreover, we have made sustained progress towards unlocking shareholder value by paying our first dividend of AED 3.1bn in October 2022, by listing our majority-owned district cooling subsidiary, EMPOWER, on the DFM, and by recommending the payment of a one-time special dividend of AED 2.03bn to our shareholders in December 2022. The next dividend of AED 3.1bn is intended to be paid in April 2023. For the financial year 2022, we expect to return AED 8.23bn in dividends to our shareholders. Assuming an IPO share price of AED 2.48 per share, this amounts to a 2022 dividend yield of 6.6%.

7- How does DEWA stand in the eyes of energy investors coming to Dubai?

 

Investors appreciate Dubai’s business-friendly environment which is supported by a transparent legal and regulatory framework. In recent years 5 IPP and IWPP projects have been already implemented and currently, 2 projects are in the pipeline. Energy investors have so far brought in over $10 Billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Dubai and more investments are expected as DEWA has announced that all new capacity additions will be implemented through the IPP/IWPP model.

We’re sending a strong message to local and international investors that Dubai offers the best choice to become their preferred investment destination.

8- How will DEWA increase its contribution to the UAE’s GDP in the next five years?

 

The adoption of the IPP model has created significant economic value for DEWA since we are able to procure electricity at the lowest Levelized cost. This has increased profitability and reduced our dependency on costly/uncertain fuel imports. IPP projects are usually accompanied by the import of new technology and know-how, an increase in skilled workforce, etc., all of which add to jobs and growth opportunities in the economy with a positive impact on GDP.

DEWA has also established several diversified activities related to its core businesses, which are operating profitably, and contributing to GDP, including Bottled drinking water, Energy efficiency business, data solutions, digital opportunities, district cooling service, etc.

Sharjah

Sharjah evokes the meaning of the Union on UAE National Day

UAE National Day is a special annual occasion that brings pride and joy to citizens, residents, and visitors alike. Sharjah is no stranger to the festivities that the UAE as a country engages in, and has arranged for venues and activities that are sure to entertain and please the crowds, particularly for people of determination and families with little kids, all of whose needs are tended to and cared for down to the smallest detail.     

HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Higher Committee for Sharjah’s National Day Celebrations, discusses with Economy Middle East the preparations for the UAE’s National Day and its crucial importance. 

What lasting memories will people in attendance take home with them from the activities planned for Sharjah in celebration of the UAE National Day?

 

We were keen to provide a rich program while moving to different places throughout Sharjah and its municipalities at different times. We coordinated with the municipal councils in the cities of the Emirate of Sharjah with the aim of distributing the festive program’s activities such that they cover all parts of the emirate throughout the celebration period. The program is designed to ensure the largest possible participation in the celebrations so that this national occasion remains a beautiful memory for every citizen, resident, and visitor. Those wishing to enjoy the events can follow and participate in Flag Island, Al Majaz Amphitheater, Sharjah National Park, Maleha Public Park in Maleha, Al Hosn Island in Dibba Al Hisn, and Khorfakkan Amphitheatre, Wadi Al Hilu. Other areas include Kalba, the parks and neighborhoods in Al Bataeh, different areas of Madam, in Al Dhaid Fort, and the Heritage Village in Al Hamriya.

We hope that through our efforts our activities are enhanced to the level of this national event, which evokes in us the meanings of the Union and draws the shape of the future for our children. Therefore, we promise the attendees a rich and varied program suitable for all ages, where celebrations will be an occasion for joy, spending beautiful time with family and friends, and creating unforgettable memories, in addition to being a national occasion that is dear to our hearts.

Sharjah

What significant figures will be in attendance, and what topics will they be addressing during the activities of the National Day?

 

Like every year, on this occasion, we must extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to the Executive Council of the Emirate of Sharjah, headed by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, for its sponsorship and support for the celebrations of the 51st National Day.

Senior officials of Sharjah and its government entities, representatives of major private sector companies as well as cultural, media, literary and artistic personalities, in addition to the general audience will enjoy attending the most prominent events. These include the “Sultan of Giving” show, which talks about the generosity of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, since assuming the reins of power in the Emirate of Sharjah, the extent of development taking place at the urban, cultural and environmental levels, as well as interest in education and human building over the past 51 years. We will also have the “The New Era” show, which includes four theatrical performances that address the coming years in the life of the Union, efforts to prepare for them, the aspirations of the UAE, and what has been achieved. 

Every year, the public eagerly awaits the Khorfakkan celebrations, especially the concerts hosted by the Khorfakkan Amphitheater on December 3, with a musical evening featuring performances by Aida Al Menhali and Diana Haddad. Al Majaz Amphitheatre will host a musical evening on November 26 by Balqis and Latifa.

Read more:Sharjah Sustainable City awarded ‘Best Sustainable Residential Development’

What logistical and security measures will be taken to ensure a safe and exciting event for the huge number of citizens and residents joining the festivities?

 

Large and important events undoubtedly always adhere to certain protocols in order to ensure the security and safety of visitors. We aim beyond that by ensuring engineering requirements for public facilities used by people of determination such as ramps for wheelchairs. We are also keen to have changing and nursing rooms for mothers who bring their young children and, as usual, the UAE is always exceptional in managing and organizing events at all levels. All committees are ready and putting the finishing touches, whether in terms of preparing the venues or the necessary equipment and supplies. We hope that this year’s celebrations will be extraordinary and up to the level of this great national event. The audience is our partner in the success of this national celebration and in ensuring that things run smoothly and to the highest standards possible.

What key strengths went into successfully organizing this joyful event and what message does it aim to send?

 

Rich with the most beautiful places for tourism, entertainment, cultural and family options, the Emirate of Sharjah celebrates the 51st National Day of the UAE.

With a program that lasts for 10 days from November 24 to December 3, 2022, visitors to the festivities will be able to be acquainted with Sharjah’s various landmarks throughout this period. It is an occasion to introduce its status as a friendly city for children and people of determination.

Holding these celebrations in the most important areas and cities of Sharjah at different times helps everyone from all parts of the country attend and enjoy the performances that reflect the richness of the local culture, its national, human, and religious values, as well as its openness to the world, thus strengthening it as a destination for life and work.

Miral

Miral: Leading immersive experiences in iconic destinations

Miral conceives, creates, develops, operates, and manages immersive destinations and experiences that create treasured memories for the global tourists it draws, helping fast-track the realization of Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification plans and cementing it as a prime location for international investment.

Launching landmark projects on Yas Island, Miral helped bolster the emirate’s reputation as a global tourism destination with unique attractions and a world-class infrastructure.

 In the following exclusive interview with Economy Middle East, Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi, Group CEO of Miral, reveals the strategies behind its new identity, its portfolio of projects, technologies, themed attractions, and much more.

You revealed your new identity in October. This goes beyond a new visual logo and renaming subsidiaries. Please expand on the new direction of being data-driven, progressive, committed, and joyful.

 

We recently unveiled Miral’s new visual identity, signifying a new chapter of growth as we strive to be the region’s most impactful and influential leisure, tourism, and lifestyle entity as Abu Dhabi’s leading creator of immersive destinations and experiences. As a key contributor to the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy, Miral also announced its portfolio of projects under construction worth over AED13 billion on Yas Island and across the emirate, with three new projects coming soon.

In terms of being data-driven, we use analytics and technology to better understand our guests’ preferences. We personalize travel packages for different guests to make their experiences unique and memorable. For example, in 2021 Miral launched FacePass, a cutting-edge contactless technology that utilizes facial recognition to streamline guest experiences. This also enables us to customize experiences and leverage state-of-the-art recognition algorithms to send joyful photos of guests on a ride directly to their Yas Island app.

To add sustainable growth and value, we continue to add more cultural, leisure, sporting, and business concepts that connect and enliven the local community, while delivering joy and excitement to people globally. An example of this would be our latest announcement that we will launch the region’s first Harry Potter-themed land at the world’s largest indoor theme park Warner Bros. Abu Dhabi.

Overall, our new visual identity is inspired by the combination of themes connecting and enriching, as Miral seeks to marry partners and employees under a common ideology and purpose – to connect people in the moment at an experience or destination. Recently, we brought the most popular musical in the world, “The Lion King,” to the Middle East and we feel this is a clear demonstration of how we are delivering joy to our residents and tourists. 

Miral
Ferrari World

You currently have a portfolio of projects under construction worth over AED13 billion on Yas Island and across the UAE. Previously you managed AED9 billion in investments in Yas Island- What were Miral’s most remarkable accomplishments to date and the ones it expects in the future?

 

Over the last 11 years, Miral has been responsible for transforming the entertainment and leisure sector in the region, showcasing Abu Dhabi as a leading global tourism destination.

The most immediate accomplishment has been our approach to the recovery from the global pandemic. This summer, Yas Island recorded a record-breaking 90 percent hotel occupancy during Eid Al-Adha, and our award-winning theme parks boasted a 90 percent recovery of international numbers compared to pre-pandemic figures.  The UAE has emerged as the safest country in the world, and we are delighted that both domestic and international tourists are choosing to enjoy our unique offering.

Looking further back, I think I am proud of the accomplishment of our strategy to create a truly integrated entertainment and leisure destination that creates lasting memories for our guests of all ages. Yas Island is continually evolving; we began with record-breaking theme parks such as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and continue to add iconic developments including Etihad Arena, Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island and Yas Bay. We are relentless in our pursuit of delivering unique and inspirational experiences.

Earlier this year, Miral was appointed by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi to oversee Saadiyat Island’s Destination Management Strategy, helping to achieve Saadiyat Vision 2025 that aims to grow domestic, regional, and global visitors, as well as support the development of Abu Dhabi’s tourism ecosystem and reaffirm its position as a center for creativity and innovation. This includes delivering the immersive, multi-sensory venue teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi, and the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, anticipated to be the largest of its kind in the region, to grow domestic, regional and global visitors.

In the future, we will open three landmark projects across Abu Dhabi. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, the next-generation marine-life park, is currently 90 percent complete and will open in 2023 on Yas Island.  

Read more: Harry Potter-themed land coming soon to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island

Is your approach to digital transformation based on allowing a better understanding of guests to create more personalized, streamlined, memorable, and immersive experiences for them? How is your B2B transformation happening? And is the metaverse part of your business/entertainment plans?

 

Yes, providing an enhanced customer experience is at the center of everything we do. Therefore, we are able to create a more personalized and memorable experience for our guests by implementing a combination of first-party data, AI, machine learning, and analytics – even in group settings such as theme parks.

Last year, we launched the Noor Initiative, our decision analytics strategy. This B2B initiative aims to enhance the company’s investment in predictive data analytics and integrate innovation across our operations, which in turn will bolster Abu Dhabi’s position as a data-driven capital. This initiative highlights our endeavor to deliver deeper, tailored experiences for local and international visitors to Yas Island’s award-winning theme parks and experiences.

We have previously mentioned how we have introduced FacePass to streamline the guest experience via facial recognition technology, and since its inception over a million guests have registered for a MyPass ID, which has informed decision-making to customize and personalize visitations to Yas Island.

In regards to the metaverse, we are amazed at how this new technology is able to remove all physical boundaries. Therefore, our goal is to create a metaverse bridge to happiness by introducing fascinating, immersive experiences to visitors from around the world from the heart of the UAE capital. As a vehicle of innovation, we would like to implement a virtual platform within the metaverse to serve as a testing ground for new initiatives before bringing any proposed changes offline. 

The opening of SeaWorld Park Abu Dhabi in 2023 is a huge undertaking that underscores the importance of partnerships. What partnership strategies do you engage in when aiming to bring into fruition this next-generation marine-life theme park, or other major entertainment and experience-led attractions to Yas Island or elsewhere?

 

We are continually looking for partners that share our vision to create immersive destinations and experiences that contribute to the growth of the leisure and entertainment industry and Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification.

Most importantly, we are committed to delivering memorable moments and sparking joy, and therefore strive to set new standards to produce a unique guest experience in Abu Dhabi that will be truly transformative. For example, we are currently working in partnership with DCT to launch teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi, which is set to be an immersive, inspirational space where the intersection of art and technology will ignite curiosity, imagination, and creativity in all who visit.

We appreciate that we need to give our guests reasons to come back again and again to our destinations and therefore it’s important to continually expand and grow our offering. Not happy with simply being the world’s largest indoor theme park, with Warner Bros Abu Dhabi World Abu Dhabi, on the day of the opening we asked, “What’s next?” We recently announced that the region’s first Harry Potter-themed land will be added to the park’s six other immersive zones. 

What is the bigger picture, beyond entertainment, that you hope to achieve on a local or global level with a mega theme park like SeaWorld Park?

 

Rather than blindly launching international concepts and hoping that they’ll be successful, we spend a large amount of time in the planning stages of how to adopt these destinations to make them locally and culturally relevant.

For instance, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is not only the next-generation marine-life theme park, but it will also feature the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return center. It will play an integral part in supporting regional and global conservation efforts by providing an advanced knowledge hub with a focus on indigenous Arabian Gulf and marine life ecosystems. 

Is Miral expanding in the UAE, GCC or even globally? What plans are in place for the company in terms of attractions, themes, or partnerships in the coming two to five years?

 

Guided by its ambition to be a customer-centric, data-driven, progressive and efficient organization, Miral’s strategy for the next five years will be fueled by its focus on continuing to grow and develop Yas Island as a successful destination as well as delivering new leisure and entertainment destinations and ventures that generate sustainable value while contributing to the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy.

Sharjah FDI

Sharjah FDI: A healthy business environment designed for robust ROI 

The Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah) acts as a strategic partner for global investors looking to grow their business in the emirate, home to diverse and attractive opportunities. Thanks largely to efforts by the FDI office, the emirate is enjoying a sustainable growth path geared toward economic diversification.

In an interview with Economy Middle East, Mohammed Juma’a Al Musharrakh, CEO of Sharjah FDI Office, discussed the investment opportunities across a range of sectors and industries, highlighting which of these are most attractive to investors. 

What can you tell us about having robust and sustainable economic infrastructures and competitive logistics to attract investors?

 

There are a number of reasons why the emirate of Sharjah has proven to be a hub of possibilities for investors, businesses, and entrepreneurs. Our geographic position makes Sharjah a great place to be based, not only within our own country’s borders but in the world as a whole, and we aim to be the center of business and commerce globally. Sharjah’s advanced position in global trade, along with its well-developed infrastructural facilities and highly attractive investment ecosystem, make the emirate a hub for prosperous activity. These facts were outlined in various economic summits and seminars in which we represented ourselves in the UAE and around the world.

Sharjah FDI
SAEED center

What investment schemes does your office have to grow healthcare, travel & leisure mobility & logistics, talent & innovation, green technology, culture & heritage, and manufacturing?

 

We created the Investors Services Centre (SAEED) to be a dynamic entity developed specifically to help investors and entrepreneurs, from the region and abroad, set up their businesses in the emirate of Sharjah with unequaled speed and efficiency. We have developed many incentives and attractive reasons to incentivize businesses to choose Sharjah as their new home and headquarters. 

We have thriving pharmaceutical manufacturing and precision medicine, a specialized healthcare sector that caters to a range of health-related facilities including elderly care, as well as a growing “Wellness & Medical Tourism” sector. 

As more and more people discover the opportunities that present themselves in Sharjah and take note of our rising local population, medical needs and advances will be driving high volumes of spending in the health and wellbeing sector here.

In regards to travel & leisure, Sharjah’s diverse natural landscapes present opportunities for varied tourism offerings across the emirate. These include Ecotourism and Adventure Tourism in the East Coast and Central Regions, spotlighting Sharjah as an ideal location for film shoots and television commercials due to our many different biomes under special care by skilled and passionate people. 

We are also an ideal location to hold business events, festivals, and live entertainment. Expanding on the growing talent in the area also makes Sharjah an ideal place for further innovation as we enable local human resources to lead the way with further education and training.

Sharjah is a regional champion for driving innovation in sustainability, with the emirate on track to become the first zero-waste-to-landfill city in the region, with plans to be leading globally as well. Investments in waste recycling and waste-to-energy systems, clean energy generation and storage, smart buildings, and green construction activities continue to be on the rise.

Sharjah is a symbol of a cultural, intellectual, and architectural revolution, and our commitment to heritage and culture was instrumental in earning the emirate the UNESCO title of the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World.” 

Sharjah, meaning “Rising Sun,” dates back more than 6,000 years, and under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, our efforts to make Sharjah one of the cultural centers of the world is increasing in leaps and bounds.

When it comes to manufacturing, investments in technology are outpacing all other sectors. Sharjah, which is home to more than 35 percent of the UAE’s manufacturing industries, has the potential to lead the world in advancing the development and creation of products and machinery.

Read more: Sharjah’s sustainability focus pays rich dividends in real estate sector

Sharjah FDI

What are the top three key investments areas in Sharjah with the largest potential ROI for investors?

 

Sharjah has a business-friendly environment backed by modern legislation, a future-ready infrastructure, a highly talented workforce as well as more than 60,000 SMEs and start-ups. 

As mentioned earlier, Sharjah has a multitude of sectors one can invest to achieve highly lucrative ROIs. Using our specialized free zones, or industrial zones coupled with strategic locations and global connectivity via sea and air, regardless of what investors might choose to invest, it will prove to be a profitable venture. 

That said, our real estate sector continues to experience a boom, and as more people move to this culture-rich city, then naturally the travel & leisure as well as healthcare sectors will continue to flourish and have robust outlooks for sizeable ROIs.  

stc

The company that dares to digitally enable LIFE

Opening borders and breaking barriers is simply what a company like stc does. It’s not merely a telecom company, but a giant – a gentle one – which engages in all facets of our lives, digital or otherwise.

There’s so much to talk about that nothing short of a focused interview with a star leader, the man behind the stc’s strategies and future plans, can truly explain what this company means to so many. Economy Middle East interviewed stc Group CEO Eng. Olayan Alwetaid, and this is what he had to say:

1- stc provides many different services beyond telecom. Can you tell us more about these services and how they support your overall goal of being a leader in digital transformation?

 

stc Group redefined itself in 2017 through its “dare” strategy. The company doesn’t see itself as a telecom operator but as a digital enabler providing digital services in various verticals. It’s been great to see how our customers have received our ventures into other areas, such as fintech, IoT, cybersecurity, AI, data centers, connectivity, 5G, cloud computing, e-gaming, and many more.

For instance, stcpay is a digital wallet, which not only is of great convenience to our customers but is also in line with the Vision 2030 goal of reducing cash transactions. In addition, stcplay is our dedicated e-sports and gaming platform. Gaming and e-sport is one sector that continues to grow, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it, and in fact, we’re playing a huge role in transforming the Middle East’s gaming industry by connecting gaming service providers with gamers to ensure they have the best possible gaming experience.

Furthermore, stc Group made large investments in technology and talent within its data privacy and cybersecurity businesses. The key focus is to clearly understand the threats and risks faced by all our stakeholders and customer demographics, from confidentiality, integrity, availability, privacy, security, and resilience perspectives. Every customer and stakeholder group faces a specific set of unique cybersecurity threats and risks. Our cybersecurity teams work diligently to identify these threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. They use cutting-edge 24/7 cyber defense monitoring, vulnerability, and penetration testing, as well as threat hunting, in addition to governance, risk, and compliance practices involving the support of specialist teams.

While we focus on technology development, we have also invested in the Internet of Things (IoT), as we tend to establish the country as a regional IoT hub in the Middle East and North Africa region in collaboration with PIF. Hence we founded a new company to expand and become a “one-stop-shop” for IoT solutions by using the experience and technology of existing IoT partners. According to local market research, the IoT market in Saudi Arabia might expand to $2.88 billion (SAR10.8 billion) by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 12.8 percent. The Internet of things has been identified in stc’s “DARE 2.0” strategy among the five strategic areas of investment. It is at our core and aligns with Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation initiatives, supported by PIF.

Moreover, we apt to endow technology in KSA through artificial intelligence, hence the group, with Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement many national initiatives to enhance artificial intelligence and digital solutions in Saudi Arabia, as we intend to localize digital solutions and exchange experiences and knowledge in the field of data management and governance. We also seek to support data quality globally within the best practices, along with assisting startups in adhering to data governance and implementing a personal data protection system.

stc Group further looks toward enhancing digitization by developing cloud computing, therefore we established a new company in Riyadh with “Alibaba cloud,” eWTP Arabia for Technical Innovation Ltd, the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), and the Saudi Information Technology Company (SITE). The new company in Riyadh came in response to the significant increase in demand for cloud computing services and solutions in the region to provide advanced cloud computing services to companies operating in the KSA, ensuring that they employ the highest standards of security and protection.

stc

 2- What is the stc Group strategy that helped achieve various successes in recent years and are there plans to maintain them?

 

KSA maintains a strong digital infrastructure, accelerating digital transformation. This structure has enabled the Kingdom to face public and private sector disruptive challenges, ensuring business continuity, educational operations, citizen requirements, and daily resident lives. The Kingdom has been ranked among the top 10 developed countries globally for its robust digital framework on one hand.

On the other hand, stc Group has had a successful year in 2021. The group witnessed increased progress versus 2020 in comparison to the last five years. We have expanded our business as well and started looking into telecom, IT, cybersecurity, IoT, cloud, entertainment, gaming, media, and many more digital solutions. stc Group is going beyond being just a telecom provider, we are now the digital enabler. All our assets have been created carefully to address the demand in the market. We are in a continuous process of creating more options for the company to do more and collaborate even further. Previously, we were talking about telecoms, and now we are talking about digital leaders. For instance, solutions by stc is the largest IT company in the region with reported revenues of around SAR8 billion in 2021, while stc pay is at the forefront of fintech. We are constantly developing and implementing our vision as the market requires. We have become the enabler of the digital movement through our partners in the government including policymakers in relevant ministries and different regulating bodies like the Central Bank, telecom, and cyber security regulators.

3- Where is Saudi Arabia now and where will it be in the next five to ten years when it comes to digitalization and stc’s role within that?

 

We are maintaining the same strategy to uphold the way forward. Digitalization is at the heart of what we do with four main priorities. We are pushing to digitize ourselves and the country. We are accelerating the performance of our assets and continuing to be the leader and digital enabler in every other sector that we are involved in, be it fintech, IoT, cyber security, and so on. We are also focused on customer experience, which is an essential part of what we do. stc Group strongly believes that it puts everything into a totally new level of standards, because if we [aim] to provide the best experience in the country, then we need to have the best networks, platforms, people, and everything that is required to move to the next level.

We are also expanding in scale and scope and going more digitally. We want to expand the regions that have been addressed in terms of geography, whether in KSA or so on. We strongly believe that the future is here in this country, and it needs to be taken to the next level. There is a great deal of progress happening all around. We are going through the digital agenda and trying to figure out what the next step is and how we can accelerate it. Regarding the fintech strategy, stc Group was ahead of the game and started two years ago. We are aligned with the strategy, objectives, and the aspirations of the government. Being the national champion for the country, we have a mission of pushing the boundaries, even if the strategy is to be developed at a later stage. The government is actively looking at what we do, and we are partnering with them on many fronts. Our movements are also helping to accelerate the strategy development as well as its execution.

4- What is your investment mindset?

 

Our investment mindset is what has been adopted in the country after the Vision’s programs were set. It is a formula that has been working from our perspective as an operator and investor. We will always be at the forefront when it comes to technology deployments, being active as an operator, and enabling digitalization. This entire ecosystem built over time is here to stay and we are here to continue to be the leader of digital enablement in the country and region.

5- What is the focus of development and implementation?

 

We chose a few priorities that feel right for stc Group. We are looking at many priorities that have already been addressed such as Center3 and fintech. This also includes the Cloud hub and creating this partnership for everybody to be able to host content. We believe that IoT is the next big thing in terms of technology and we’re active on that. Data analytics and data use cases are another focus area as well as AI. stc Group can tackle more than one priority at a time. There is a great deal of work happening on the fintech side as well. Doing business in the digital world is all about partnerships and having the right partners to start working together to address the market demand.

Showroom showcase: One man’s vision for future mobility

A true automotive aficionado with more than 40 years of experience across three continents, Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles, is the recipient of some of the highest regional and international accolades for his inspirational leadership as CEO and visionary.

Al Masaood Automobiles serves as the authorized dealer for Nissan, Infiniti, and Renault in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the UAE’s Western region.

Tansel relentlessly pursues a culture of excellence and, under his leadership, the company has received numerous awards, the latest of which is the Global Nissan Aftersales Award for the fiscal year 2021. This marks the second consecutive year that Al Masaood Automobiles has been granted this award for exceeding Nissan’s aftersales business targets and outperforming other dealers internationally within its segment.

In an interview with Tansel, Economy Middle East asked:

What are the latest trends disrupting the mobility industry?

 

Billions are poured yearly into technology, interconnectivity, and smart automation, and the arrival of Industry 4.0 is now reshaping the automotive industry.

In my opinion, the automotive industry is heading toward two main trends: the mainstream adoption of electric and autonomous mobility. These two trends will also trickle into the new mobility services like electric water shuttles or maybe even self-driving taxi drones.

For electrification to become ubiquitous, infrastructure to support the adoption of EVs is highly needed. The majority of EVs are currently considered luxury vehicles, above the desired price point for many, so to gain traction in this direction, the volume segment must catch up, and the desired price point for prospective customers must be considered. We should expect this to be resolved over the coming two to three years driven by improvements in batteries.

Also, the possibility of cars driving themselves is now becoming a reality thanks to cross-industry collaboration and technologies.

Another trend is the rise in e-commerce sales as customers are demanding more digitally enhanced experiences when they are researching, purchasing, and operating a car.

Al Masaood Automobiles’ virtual, live and interactive sales platform enabled us to connect closely with our customers, selling more cars from digital leads than ever before. We have also launched cashless purchases at our Nissan showrooms in Abu Dhabi, where buyers can now make easy, seamless, and convenient online payments using debit/credit cards, payment gateway transactions, and online bank transfers. Security being paramount, we launched high-level protocols and various encryption and data authentication mechanisms for safe payment processes.

How do you see the evolution of autonomous vehicles and the adoption of electric mobility in the region?

 

The current focus on electric vehicles and zero emissions presents avenues to catalyse the targets previously set in the Paris Agreement.

Auto executives say more than half (52 percent) of U.S. car sales will be EVs by 2030, KPMG surveys show. The International Energy Agency predicts there will be around 145 million electric vehicles in use by the end of the decade.

Nissan, our primary automotive partner, set a long-term vision, “Ambition 2030,” for empowering mobility and beyond, driving toward a cleaner, safer, and more inclusive world. Nissan aims to accelerate the electrification of its vehicle line-up and rate of technology innovation with investments of 2 trillion yen ($13.8 billion) over the next five years. Nissan also aims to introduce 23 new electrified models, including 15 new EVs by fiscal year 2030 aiming for an electrification mix of more than 50 percent globally across the Nissan and INFINITI brands.

On the way to becoming mainstream, autonomous mobility has the potential to build the cities of the future, lowering carbon emissions and paving the way for more sustainable living.

I would also like to highlight that many auto brands have already adopted autonomous or semi-autonomous technologies in their vehicles, like the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Nissan, for example, installed the ProPILOT system, which premiered in the region on the 2021 Nissan Altima, and the all-new Nissan Pathfinder. ProPILOT combines Nissan’s intelligent cruise control system with steering assist technologies, making driving easy and stress-free by automatically maintaining a set distance from the car ahead. Nissan is aiming to expand its ProPILOT technology to over 2.5 million Nissan and INFINITI vehicles by 2026.

mobility
Showroom group photo

Having said you launched your Nissan e-commerce platform in 2019 and your virtual showroom experience in 2020, can you tell us more about the importance of omnichannel experience for customers?

 

Technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Omnichannel platforms, will support and influence future mobility.

We expect the selling of vehicles and delivery of services to be radically simplified. Most customers start their shopping journey online and expect continuity across channels.  Omni-channel is the future of online sales.

Digitization has been a core component of Al Masaood Automobiles’ strategy. In 2019 we launched Nissan’s first-ever e-commerce platform in the region, and in 2020 implemented Nissan’s global Shop@Home service that provides customers a seamless experience.

Al Masaood Automobiles has also rolled out Nissan Service, a suite of products and services that present an innovative, seamless aftersales experience across online and offline channels. Nissan has also rolled out an innovative digital survey, designed to gauge customer fulfillment.

Our Al Masaood Auto App is also a solution that was launched to help customers manage service appointment bookings, track car servicing in real-time, seek roadside assistance, and view our new and certified pre-owned models, as well as a range of vehicle accessories and trade-ins.

And to help with real-time customer services, we launched a dedicated CX intelligence platform that also allows our team to get customers’ feedback on our services and experience in real time.

We also introduced the Connected Live Interactive Xperience (CLIX), which is a virtual experience that allowed customers to enjoy a fully interactive live showroom experience from the comfort of their homes.

In your opinion, will car usership (leasing) be dominant over ownership in the future?

 

A good number of industry experts believe that customers may drop the need to own a car and rely on shared mobility such as public transport, ride-hailing, leasing, and subscription models. This was already happening pre-Covid, however, the onset of the pandemic has brought it to a halt. The trend nowadays is picking up again, as many users are enjoying the convenience of shared mobility.

Also, dealerships will start downsizing physically and upgrading technologically. Their focus will change from attracting leads to offering meaningful customer experiences.

Technology investments in fleet analytics is expected to rise, however, and these will also bring on prickly topics like user privacy and data protection.

Will the future of the dealership be affected by technology solutions?

 

Car dealerships are moving into the future of easy mobility services by focusing on digitizing their offerings such as touch screens for showcasing car models, as well as car configurators that give customers a full 360 view of their vehicles. Other retail experiences are being supplemented with pop-up stores and satellite service centers.

Contrary to what some people think, the dealership model is not dying, it’s only morphing into a new phase.

Shams

Thriving under the sun: Shams home to future creativity

Following the recent fifth anniversary of Sharjah Media City (Shams) and the inauguration of a new, state-of-the-art Business Centre for registered companies, in line with its commitment to support business and encourage creativity, Economy Middle East interviewed H.E. Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (Shams).

 

1- How do you intend to become a major contributor to the country’s future at the level of governance? What steps has Shams taken to become a catalyst for creative businesses to grow and thrive?

 

Sharjah Media City (Shams) has maintained the same ambitious vision since the beginning – we strive to empower the emirate’s media sector and to help its business community grow.

We are working to develop an innovation-led system, designed to empower people in the creative industries through meaningful media content in line with Sharjah’s strategy to spearhead progress, enhance the community’s well-being, and boost the emirate’s economic performance, diversity, and competitiveness.

We are encouraging game-changing ideas and creating opportunities for innovators and creators to transform their visions into concrete and viable media projects with a meaningful message.

With a 2 million sqm area up for development, Shams is home to a dynamic, technologically advanced community of businesses involved in everything from media to real estate and e-commerce.

Shams aims to ensure members, companies, startups, and innovators can all thrive, as well as for investors to back successful ventures. We offer a host of benefits, including 100 percent ownership for foreign investors, a suite of integrated business development solutions, a range of commercial activities, and flexible regulations to switch between these activities.

The Business Centre consists of three buildings housing a physical incubator for entrepreneurship, innovation and smart projects. The 6,200 sqm project offers 3,400 sqm of leasable office space, including offices, conference rooms, customer service offices, a restaurant, a gymnasium, and more.

Shams
Shams Business Center

2- What is the role of Shams in supporting young people to contribute to the process of preparing for the next 50 in the UAE and Sharjah in particular? And how does Shams seek to ensure the inclusion of women in this field?

 

Young people are the beacon of hope. Shams communicates with youth to be part of a two-way media development approach – to be creative and professional media professionals, and secondly to transform that creativity into thriving businesses that boost the economy and diversification.

Shams targets talented individuals in the media field with efforts and initiatives that provide them with new opportunities to transform their ideas into inspiring media projects and businesses.

During 2021 and 2022, Shams held 70 workshops attended by 1,834 participants from youth groups. Topics included design, social media, marketing, script writing, radio and television presentation, social media content, speaking on camera, building a media plan, media risk management, socializing, photography, music, and media production. The workshops were held in partnership with several associations in Sharjah and the UAE.

In this day and age, our youth is particularly interested in gaming. To capitalize on these interests, a total of four online tournaments with 1,000 players were organized through this cooperation which received more than 150,000 views and follow-ups.

To further empower our youth, Shams launched the innovative “Ghaya” package specifically for young entrepreneurs, students, and graduates who graduated less than a year ago. The package offers licenses at a heavily subsidized rate to enable them to discover their potential in the world of unlimited creativity.

Shams also believes in empowering young women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Thus, we launched a special package targeted toward women who aim to venture into their entrepreneurial journey. Since the launch of our “womenpreneur” package, we have a substantial number of companies in Shams owned solely by women entrepreneurs that continues to grow exponentially over the years.

3- In your opinion, what is the importance of building a governmental communication system for any country? How can you contribute to its development?

 

Building a governmental communication system is essential to every country. It aims to raise the level of coordination and enhance communication between government entities, in addition to supporting the country’s strategic vision by establishing transparency in government sector practices and enhancing government excellence in the field of communication.

At Shams, we are contributing to the development of governmental communication systems by following international best practices, keeping abreast of the most prominent developments in this field, and using modern media channels to ensure messages reach our target audience.

4- What is your assessment of the importance of the International Government Communication Forum and the Sharjah Government Communication Award, locally and abroad?

 

The International Government Communication Forum is an important annual initiative in the UAE that connects international experts in the field of government communication. The forum impacted government communication significantly through its unique platform regionally. Shams has been keen to participate in the forum annually to benefit from the latest practices and policies presented.

The award is a great competition between participating parties, and it reflects their keenness to adopt the best practices and innovations to develop their government communication system. It is also a great opportunity to show the extent of the development that the various bodies and entities have reached to build an effective government communication system.

Over the years, the award has succeeded in highlighting landmark experiences in the field for others to benefit from. On a global scale, the award will be an opportunity to enhance the image of Sharjah and the UAE and highlight the outstanding achievements made in the field of government communication.