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Dubai to host technology summit in October

The 3TECH Summit brings together global leading experts in Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, and Internet of Things to challenge them on how these 3 TECHnologies will converge in the future.

Organised by AEBICON Group DMCC, this is the first event of its kind and is due to be held on October 15, 2018 in Dubai.

In a ceremony held on July 30, 2018, at the Private Office of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nehayan and AEBICON Group DMCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize the strategic partnership between both parties.

In addition to the endorsement by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Alnehayan, the 3TECH Summit also has as official ambassadors, Adam Ladjadj, CEO of AE Capital and Ari Zoldan, a tech expert, and frequent contributor to CNN, Fox News, and NBC.

With the United Arab Emirates’ continuous support towards technologies of the future, this partnership once again reaffirms the country’s progressive and ambitious technological agenda.

The 3TECH Summit aims to incorporate high-level debates, panel presentations, and technical sessions while uniting world tech leaders and creating a unique platform for discussions about the future.

Dubai’s tourism appeal continues to flourish

Shrugging off any concerns about VAT, tourists continued to flock to Dubai in the first-half of 2018 as the region’s most-visited city reached 8.1 million visitors and is on track to surpass its last year’s figures of 15.79 million.

With the similar growth trend in visitor numbers during second half, Dubai is expected to become the third most-visited city in the world by surpassing Paris this year. It was the fourth most-visited city last year after Bangkok, London and Paris.

Figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) on Wednesday showed that the growth was driven by the traditional markets due to visa on arrival incentives as well as multimedia campaigns by Dubai in different markets.

India, Saudi Arabia, UK, China and Russia were the top five source markets for the emirate. Dubai received one million-plus tourists from India with a growth of three per cent during H1. While Russia was the fastest growing market at 74 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, reaching 405,000 visitors. Similarly, Chinese visitors totalled 453,000, an increase of nine per cent. Saudi Arabia maintained its status of the largest feeder market from the GCC in H1 2018.

According to Dubai Tourism, the first half of 2018 also witnessed increased contributions from the US and Germany, standing strong at seventh and eighth positions with 327,000 and 302,000 visitors, respectively.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general, Dubai Tourism, said they have deployed partnerships to ensure the emirate stays relevant and front of mind to both first-time and repeat visitors.

“Attracting 8.10 million visitors during H1 2018 stands us in good stead as we accelerate momentum towards our aspiration of becoming the most visited city in the world. The varied offering of Dubai’s tourism proposition has evolved, responding to market demand, and increasing the emirate’s attractiveness among target visitor segments across our key markets,” Almarri said.

At the end of H1 2018, Dubai had 700 hotel properties with 111,317 keys, an increase of seven per cent compared to the same time last year, Dubai Tourism said.

With an increase in demand for mid-market hotels in Dubai, the number of four star properties has increased from 114 to 138, representing 25 per cent of the rooms inventory. Occupied room nights were also up year on year with a total of 14.97 million compared to 14.53 million during the same period in 2017.

The total size of Dubai’s tourism sector was Dh109 billion at the end of last year, Dubai Tourism said.

Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International, said Dubai continues to strengthen its position as a leading destination for global travel.

“Dubai has done an incredible job of fuelling the growth of tourism through its visa initiatives, which has not only eased access into the city but has also introduced this destination to new source markets,” Kyriakidis said.

Laurent A. Voivenel, SVP for operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, said several initiatives launched in the first half including new attractions, easing of visa regulations, new route launches by Emirates and flydubai, enhanced offering in terms of hotels, retail and events as well as global marketing by Dubai Tourism gave fillip to the travel and tourism industry.

The number of overnight visitors will accelerate further during the second half of 2018 in line with the high season for leisure and business travellers as well as a strong calendar of events.

Commenting on the impact of VAT on the hospitality sector, he said that VAT in the UAE is at one of the lowest rates in the world, so its overall impact has been quite negligible. Moreover, the government is pumping back tax funds into development projects, which will boost a number of industries including tourism in the country.

Dubai Tourism said it is on track to meet its 2018 target.For its future growth, the emirate is pinning hopes on recently-announced initiatives such as exemption for transit passengers from all entry fees for the first forty-eight hours of their stay, multi-entry visa for cruise tourists, 10-year visas for investors and professionals and VAT refund scheme for tourists among others.

“Looking ahead to the second half of 2018, and additional areas of growth for the tourism sector, the recent move to implement a value added tax (VAT) refund mechanism for tourists will also ensure the industry’s competitiveness globally and drive further growth in its GDP contribution to Dubai,” added Almarri.

Chinese, Indians flock to Abu Dhabi hotels in H1

The UAE capital continues to charm foreign tourists. The total number of hotel guests in the first six months of the year at 2.4 million is 5 per cent more than half-year figures of 2017. Also, there was a 6 per cent rise in hotel guests in June compared to the same month last year.

While the most number of tourists came to the capital from China and India, it was visitors from Saudi Arabia (56.8 per cent) and the US (26.6 per cent) who pushed up the guest numbers in June, Sultan Al Dhaheri, executive director of tourism sector, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, said.

“In June, Abu Dhabi got 339,000 guests at its 162 hotels, an increase of more than 19,000 over last year,” he said and added that the expected target was 5.5 million for the year.

In June, some 29,900 Indian tourists visited Abu Dhabi, a 3.7 per cent growth from 28,800 in the same month of 2017. Visitors from China held second spot at 22,000 but the number was 10.8 per cent less than last June, which was 24,700.

In June, the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia rose from 8,200 to 12,900. Also, those from the US increased from 9,800 to 12,400. Other top nationalities include the Philippines, the UK and Egypt.

Overall, 214,600 Chinese visitors came during the six first months of the year, a 15.8 per cent growth. The Chinese were followed by 196,600 Indian tourists, a 19 per cent annual increase.

Al Dhaheri said the DCT is looking to tap new markets. “We review every six months and identify potential markets. East Asia is on our radar.”

He said the DCT Convention Bureau had a new vision. “We have a lot of trade between East and West and want to capitalise on that aspect. We want to cement Abu Dhabi’s position as a growing business hub and destination of choice for global meetings and conferences,” he said, adding that the capital has got world-class infrastructure to host any event.

Al Dhaheri said the opening of new attractions, theme parks and so on have helped bring more people to the capital.

Hotel revenue dips

In the first six months, there was a 5.1 per cent increase in the number of hotel guests, occupancy rate is up 2 per cent and the average length of stay has also risen by 2.6 per cent. However, hotel revenue has slipped 4.5 per cent from Dh2,774 million in the first six months of 2017 to Dh2,650 million in January to June of this year.

Al Dhaheri said the slowdown in the economy, supply-demand dynamics and currency rate fluctuation had an effect on revenues.

“We are trying to create more demand, focus on attracting big conferences and also mange supply and demand. These are things within our control to assure that revenue will increase,” he added.

Al Dhaheri said the last quarter is the busiest with conferences and festivals. “The tourism season is Q1 and Q4. We are expecting higher demand and volume of visitors,” he added.


Al Habtoor city hotels to be rebranded

Al Habtoor Group, a Dubai-based well-diversified conglomerate, on Tuesday announced that it has signed up with hospitality group Hilton for the franchise of its three properties located in Al Habtoor City on Sheikh Zayed Road.

The properties, which house nearly 1,600 keys, have been rebranded as Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels and Resorts; V Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton; and Hilton Dubai.

Previously, Marriott International had operated these properties under its St. Regis, W Hotel and the Westin brands. Last month, Al Habtoor Group and Marriott agreed to part ways and Marriott announced that it would end the management and association with the three properties.

Mohammed Al Habtoor, vice-chairman and CEO, Al Habtoor Group, said during a press conference on Tuesday that Marriott is still managing some of its properties around the world.

He said Al Habtoor Hospitality will manage the properties and use the franchise rights of the Hilton. Mohammed revealed that there were no layoffs of its 1,000-plus employees as a result of a change in the franchise.

“All the employees are here. They are enjoying the same benefits within Al Habtoor City as they enjoyed before the change in franchise. Only four out of 1,000-plus employees have left. We are not going to change the properties in a big way. We are now trying to lead our own team to manage our future properties which we will acquire,” Mohammed said.

Ian Carter, president, global development, architecture, design and construction, Hilton, said the group is moving from managing to franchising hotels. “We will be doing everything to ensure a revenue mix. And Al Habtoor will manage cost and expenses,” he said.

Pakistanis working and buying assets in UAE out of tax amnesty scope

All Pakistani nationals residing in their home country and who bought assets abroad now have less than a week to declare their moveable and immovable assets to benefit from the tax amnesty scheme, senior government officials said in Dubai on Thursday.

Addressing the media in Dubai, Talha Aziz, staff officer to the chairperson of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), said this scheme is applicable only to those Pakistani residents who are obliged to register under the country’s law and pay tax on the purchase of foreign assets.

However, those Pakistani nationals who are living and working abroad – such as those in the UAE, the GCC, the United States and other European countries – need not submit details because they earned the money and bought assets abroad. Therefore, they are out of the scope of this amnesty scheme.

This amnesty scheme is meant to bring the undeclared assets of Pakistanis in foreign countries under the tax net and it is also an opportunity of those who cannot declare how they bought these assets.

Aziz said Pakistanis will not be questioned about how they bought these assets and where they earned the income from. But he warned that penalty will be imposed on those who will declare their assets after the expiration of the amnesty scheme on July 31.

“It is a lucrative scheme with lowest tax rates of just 2 to 5 per cent, depending on the nature of the assets. You will be in the records of the FBR and no one will question you about your assets and income,” Aziz said, adding that “it has two key features: one is that all declaration will be confidential and secondly people will not have to pay any other taxes upon the declaration of these foreign assets.”

He revealed that this initiative has been taken by parliament and also has the backing of the supreme court. Hence, no one can question the declaration and it cannot be challenged in any court.

He, however, warned that international environment is changing and since Pakistan is a signatory to the OECD’s information sharing agreement, the FBR will receive details of assets bought by Pakistanis in foreign countries such as the UAE, Canada, UK, etc, from next year.

More than 100 countries have signed the agreement and all the information will be shared electronically, Aziz added.

Aziz said Pakistani nationals can submit details about their foreign assets through the FBR’s website. “All the details are available on FBR’s website. The form is very simple and people will not have to submit any documents but only the value of the asset, for instance, where it is located and few more points. Once you will fill the form on FBR website, you will come to know how much you have to pay the tax,” he added.

Qadir Bakhsh, additional director at State Bank of Pakistan, said tax payment under this amnesty scheme can be channelled through any bank into the central bank’s account. The payment can be made only in the US currency.

“Tax liability will be filed in US dollars and the amount will be sent through banking channels into SBP accounts. Then an electronic receipt will be issued by SBP.” He advised people to check with the bank when making payment because some banks deduct certain amounts as service charges.

UAE announces new rule on VAT

The UAE Cabinet has adopted a decision to implement the value added tax refund system for tourists, which will integrate between retail outlets with tax refund points in line with the government’s efforts to achieve the efficient implementation of the tax system in the UAE.

According to a press statement, the new tax refund system supports the growth of the tourism sector in the UAE and maintain its position as a global destination for tourists.

“The system will be implemented beginning the fourth quarter of 2018 in cooperation with an international specialised company in tax recovery services,” it added.

Non-resident tourists may refund VAT on purchases made at participating retailers, provided that such goods are not exempt from the tax system, through designated refund outlets.

The tourism sector contributes directly to the local economy. The number of passengers through the UAE’s airports reached 123 million passengers in 2017, and the total contribution of the tourism sector to the country’s GDP reached 11.3 per cent in 2017, equivalent to Dh154.1 billion.

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