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Events in Abu Dhabi Will No Longer Pay Tourism Tax

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In its effort to position itself as a destination for large-scale events and conferences, Abu Dhabi has been investing in world-class venues. And now it’s incentivizing event planners even more by scrapping a 10 percent tax.

— Peden Doma Bhutia

Event organizers in Abu Dhabi will no longer be required to pay tourism tax. Hosting an event in Abu Dhabi had incurred a 10 percent tax per ticket sold. “For further support to the investment environment in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, it has been decided to exempt event organizers from the tourism fee of 10 percent on tickets sold,” a circular from the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi stated recently. The circular also said it is mandatory for event organizers to obtain event licenses in accordance with the regulations specified for this purpose. Event organizers are also required to declare the revenues generated from these events, submit supporting financial statements, and cooperate with revenue auditors or individuals designated by the department of culture and tourism to validate the accuracy of their declarations.

India is not looking at increasing air traffic rights for the United Arab Emirates, India’s civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Tuesday. The UAE had earlier urged India to increase the maximum number of seats between the two countries by 50,000 a week. “At this point we’re not looking at increasing it,” Scindia said to Reuters. Gulf carriers service a majority of India’s international air traffic, and are persistently seeking additional capacity and permission to serve secondary routes in the world’s most rapidly-expanding aviation market. Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways on Tuesday also urged India to increase limit on air traffic between the two countries. Speaking at the CAPA Aviation Summit in India, Jazeera Airways’ Chief Executive Rohit Ramachandran said the current weekly allowance of 12,000 was inadequate and asked for the cap to be raised to 28,000 seats.  

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has launched reciprocal interline partnerships with three new airline partners — Philippine Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Airlink South Africa, while re-launching interline links with Biman Bangladesh and codeshares with Air Seychelles and Italian carrier ITA Airways. The six interline/code agreements make life easier for guests of all the airlines involved, said Arik De, Etihad’s chief revenue officer. Customers of all airlines involved would be able to enjoy enhanced connectivity to destinations across each other’s networks, on a single ticket and would only have to check in once at the start of their flight, with their baggage checked through to their end destination.

A total of 64 airports in Asia-Pacific and Middle East have collectively contributed towards 162,623 tonnes of carbon reduction, according to the ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) Annual Report 2021-2022. This, according to ACI, is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted during the production of close to 24 million cotton t-shirts. During the reporting period from May 2021 to May 2022, the accredited airports from ACI Asia-Pacific and the Middle East have achieved tremendous results in effective carbon management. During this period, 64 airports from 23 countries and territories in ACI Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, collectively handling more than 40 percent of the region’s traffic, have been accredited under the programme. This momentum for airport climate action accelerated in spite of the challenges of Covid-19 recovery in the region at the time. “The coming years will be more challenging as Asia-Pacific and Middle East traffic is expected to collectively grow by 2.6 times until 2041 from 2019 level of 3.4 billion. Airports are already doing good work in decarbonisation, but are expected to scale up their efforts to reach net zero goals by 2050,” said Stefano Baronci, director general, ACI Asia-Pacific.

The foreign ministry of Oman has now announced a list of 103 countries, whose citizens can avail a visa-free entry to sultanate. Citizens of countries who can enter Oman visa free for 14 days include U.S., Canada, UK, Ukraine, China, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Germany, South Africa, Russia, Turkey, South Korea, New Zealand, Iran, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. Indian citizens can also enter the country visa free provided they are Gulf residents or have an entry visa for the U.S., Canada, UK, Schengen countries and Japan. This also applies to Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Vietnam, Bhutan, Panama, Peru, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. Tourists from all 103 countries can apply to have their 14-day visa extended to one month for a fee of $52

The first edition of the sustainability of cultural tourism forum reviewed the impact of technology on development of the cultural tourism sector, as well as the changing conditions that the tourism sector is going through. Organised by the Ajman Department of Tourism Development, the forum also reviewed the best practices in the cultural tourism management and its sustainability through digital media, while highlighting several ways to measure the impact of digital platforms on the future of cultural tourism. Being touted as one of the most prominent events organized by Ajman Tourism, the forum hosted discussions on the latest developments in the travel and tourism sectors, and focused on promoting competitiveness and reinforcing the pillars that ensure sustainability in the tourism sector. Mahmood Khaleel Alhashmi, director general of the Ajman Department of Tourism Development, stressed the emirate’s keenness to work with all partners to set strategic plans to develop the tourism sector in the emirate, including the cultural tourism sector.

Tim Clark, President of Dubai-based Emirates Airline, will participate in an in-depth discussion at the Arabian Travel Market 2023, which will take place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from May 1-4. In conversation with John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting, Clark will reflect on Emirates’ long-term strategy as it begins to ramp up aircraft deliveries from 2024 while balancing growth and tackling broader issues like climate change. The news comes amid reports of significant gains across the Middle East’s aviation sector, which saw year-on-year traffic almost double in January 2023 according to figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This growth is especially evident in the United Arab Emirates where Dubai International Airport catered to more than 66 million passengers in 2022, a 127 percent rise compared to the previous year.

Saudi Tourism Authority has signed a partnership agreement with Almosafer, the travel division of Seera Group, to promote domestic tourism in the kingdom. Almosafer and Saudi Tourism Authority have earlier collaborated on various successful initiatives to boost tourism in the kingdom to support the tourism pillar of Saudi Vision 2030. Saudi Arabia has been witnessing an unprecedented demand for domestic tourism in recent years. Under the agreement, Almosafer will launch a year-long campaign to promote domestic tourism throughout the year and offer a range of discounts and promotions to enable more locals to discover their own country. The appetite for domestic tourism remains incredibly strong as people are beginning to discover the many incredible attractions on their own doorstep, said Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer. “We are capitalising on this demand to help drive domestic tourism as we continue to develop our products and services to serve the travel needs of the Kingdom.”

India-based online travel agency MakeMyTrip has launched multiple features to help reshape the travel booking experience in the United Arab Emirates. Having launched in the UAE in 2020, MakeMyTrip has now tied up with hotels across the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe to bring special prices for UAE travellers. The online travel company has also partnered with banks to offer deals on flights and hotels. MakeMyTrip has also launched a high-decibel marketing campaign, “Break the Booking Routine,” to reach a broader base. “Our experience of being a travel super-app in the diverse Indian market, and our strong tech stack, helps us understand the travel needs of users in the UAE better. With the launch of the industry-leading features and an innovative marketing campaign, we aim to reach out to a wider consumer base,” said Saujanya Shrivastava, chief operating officer of flights and Gulf Cooperation Council, MakeMyTrip.

Oman Air Holidays has partnered with National Bank of Oman’s Islamic banking window Muzn to offer flexible financing plans for Umrah packages. Under the scheme, guests can tailor their pilgrimage with flight, accommodation, transport, and add-on options and pay for it in monthly installments according to the Service Ijarah concept. “We’re pleased to make Umrah more accessible and affordable,” said Mundher Al Shaikhani, acting vice president marketing at Oman Air. The Shari’a-compliant Umrah financing will be provided at a rate of 4.45 percent by Muzn. The offer is available to Omani nationals as well as expatriates who hold a valid residence permit and are aged between 21 to 60 years old. Both Muzn customers and non-customers can apply, and family members of any age can be included in the package.

Turkey’s Galataport İstanbul hosted nearly 150 ships and 350,000 passengers and crew in 2022. With more than 8000 kilometres of coastline, Türkiye has been demonstrating its rise in cruise tourism with İstanbul being designated a homeport by many cruise lines and different capacity ships. As a homeport, Galataport İstanbul has been credited to boost cruise tourism in a wide geography from the Mediterranean basin to the Black Sea, making a significant contribution to the tourism and economy of the region and the country. While the main port operation was 15 percent in 2014 when the port area was taken over, the proportion of ships using Galataport Istanbul as their home port has now increased to 50 percent, and efforts are underway to further increase this figure, a release from the port said.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund and IMPACT46, a venture capital firm in the country, announced their joint investment in Al Matar Group for Travel and Tourism. With the goal of expanding and growing the Al Matar Group, the Tourism Development Fund will act as a strategic partner contributing to the development of new tourism platforms via the Internet. This investment will serve tourists, increase the supply of rooms, and cultivate innovation, thereby raising the level of services offered within the industry. “Our united efforts will cultivate a thriving ecosystem of startups in the tourism sector, fueling economic growth and job creation,” Abdulaziz Al-Omran, founder and CEO of IMPACT46, said. Yousef Al-Rajhi, chairman of the Al Matar Group, emphasized the agreement’s importance for supporting the hospitality sector, upgrading services, and promoting digital transformation in the kingdom’s tourism industry. Al Matar Travel Group recently signed a new technology agreement with travel technology provider Sabre Corporation that will see the travel company uses Sabre’s technology and solutions to help drive operational efficiency, advance its virtual payments strategy and transform travellers experience.

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority and the European outbound tour operators FTI Group have struck a new agreement that paves the way for the launch of twice-weekly flights from Munich to Ras Al Khaimah International Airport in the fourth quarter of this year. The agreement will significantly expand air connectivity between Ras Al Khaimah and Germany, one of the emirate’s top five visitor source markets for many years. Germany ranks among the global tourism industry’s most important outbound source markets and is projected to account for almost 118 million travellers annually by 2024, according to a recent report published by GlobalData. In 2022, Ras AL Khaimah experienced 81 percent growth in German visitors Khaimah compared to the previous year, and the addition of twice-weekly direct flights from Munich, one of the country’s most important aviation hubs, should see this number grow substantially, said Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. 

Real estate company D&B Properties has announced that it has revamped its holiday homes division in Dubai Homes & Beyond division. Homes & Beyond is an integrated company under D&B Properties and Bayari Investments, providing high-end and affordable properties for both long and short-term stays. Adham Younis, group CEO of D&B Properties and Homes & Beyond, said, “We’ve invested significant resources into modernizing our properties and enhancing the levels of service we offer.” Oxana Kulilkova, who was recently appointed director of Homes & Beyond, bringing over a decade’s experience in the real estate and holiday homes industry across Europe and the Middle East, praised the success of the holiday homes sector in Dubai over the past two years as a positive symbol of the city’s growing economy. She added, “Our mission is simple – we want visitors and residents alike to experience all that this great city has to offer without having to worry about finding a place where they can feel at home during their stay.”

Hilton, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) West Asia and local sustainability champions Winnow and Goumbook, has announced the launch of Green Ramadan, an initiative which will see food waste reduction efforts implemented across several key markets in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates at Conrad Dubai. ­­With reports from UNEP West Asia showing that food waste increases by 25-50 percent in the region during religious and social festivities, Hilton is introducing measures to minimise waste during the holy month of Ramadan and drive awareness around local sourcing and food waste. Hilton said that the initiative is in line with Hilton’s Travel with Purpose 2030 Goals to reduce food waste sent to landfill by 50 percent. The partnership will combine Hilton’s drive towards a net zero future, UNEP’s ‘Recipe of Change’ food waste reduction campaign, Goumbook’s local sustainability expertise and Winnow’s AI technology allowing for digitally led tracking of food waste throughout Ramadan. In doing so, Hilton will gather data to predict future procurement and production needs while also minimizing its long-term environmental impact.

Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi has been developing world-class venues for events and conferences.

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