Business

GulfNews Business

Abu Dhabi Airport starts fast track flight connections to speed up passenger movement

Aviation|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi Airport’s new ‘Fast Track Flight Connections’ initiative for international transfer passengers will increase the speed of transiting through the airport by 27 per cent. The programme will also reduce missed connections and enable a “seamless” passenger experience, the airport said. See more Midas touch: Singapore exchange touts gold to the masses Photos: New products, services rolled out by Apple Photos: Dubai cruise industry ready to set sail again Assembling a solar powered future in China Mexico holds symbolic raffle for unwanted presidential jet It will also allow transfer passengers travelling aboard flights originating from partner airports in Europe, US and Canada to take advantage of a new and more efficient security screening process within the airport. The initiative will be rolled out in two phases, starting with Etihad flights origination from select destinations in Europe and North America. The second phase, which is expected to start in 2021, involves more airlines and points of origin as well as new procedure for transfer cargo and passengers. Abu Dhabi International Airport is the second largest airport in the UAE and one of the fastest growing aviation hubs in the world. Passenger numbers at the airport reached over 23 million in 2015, and that figure is expected to rise to over 45 million in the coming decade. Following the suspension of all commercial passenger flights to and from the UAE in March due to COVID-19, the airport facilitated a number of repatriation and humanitarian flights for UAE nationals returning to the country as well as expatriates and foreign nationals departing from their countries of origin.

GulfNews Business

Financial services must think open source

Analysis|: Open source software is highly valuable to the financial services industry, and 93 per cent of the sector’s IT leaders agree enterprise open source is crucial to their organisations. Adoption rates bear out this perspective, with enterprise open source currently making up 40 per cent of software used in the sector, and projected to rise to 46 per cent in two years. While banks have long been consuming enterprise open source products, many are yet to embrace open source ‘upstream’ community projects. Here’s why working in upstream communities is a smart tactic for firms looking to innovate more quickly: * Benefits of working with upstream Upstream engagement offers FSI firms many benefits, the first being scale. It allows banks to capitalize on ideas and resources from thousands of developers worldwide, providing a magnification effect. The company contributes developer time, resources, and funding to support projects – and benefits are apparent from the output. See more Midas touch: Singapore exchange touts gold to the masses Photos: New products, services rolled out by Apple Photos: Dubai cruise industry ready to set sail again Assembling a solar powered future in China Mexico holds symbolic raffle for unwanted presidential jet Besides productivity gain and wider talent pool ideas, companies that provide community leadership can influence product roadmap. Banks have done this by having IT team members participate in an existing open source middleware project, and contribute in steering business process management capabilities upstream. This they would then use in a product form once the software is secured by a trusted vendor. Upstream collaboration doesn’t just scale up a company’s own development efforts - it provides access to a diverse pool of programming and business problem perspectives. Community contributors can have a broad range of backgrounds, which enables financial services to benefit from insights gained in other industries. Engaging in these projects helps banks recruit new talent from passionate people communities and help retain their own developers. They encourage them to build up their expertise by participating in the open source community innovation engine. Exert influence There are three ways banks can strengthen their influence and contribution to the upstream community through valuable resources many of them possess. * First is by providing funding, which can involve paying for a full-time community manager to oversee the project, or sponsoring an event or other value-added expenditure. Companies have struggled to hire talent, sponsored an open source project, and have subsequently been flooded with enquiries from potential new hires. It’s a tried and tested method for success. * Second is providing human resources through internal developers to broaden the talent pool. *Third, banks can offer valuable technical level leadership, using their expertise to verify code quality by helping to keep developers motivated or arranging community get-togethers. Banks shouldn’t simply expect to open source their code and suddenly reap the benefits. As with any community-driven initiative, participants must be active contributors, and open source is most successful when organisations look beyond their own needs to help drive benefits for the entire community. Initiatives like FINOS (Fintech Open Source Foundation) have done this, providing open collaboration financial services industry forums such as Symphony, which has benefited from contributions by multiple organizations and individuals. Still there’s reluctance Banks often risk losing control or exclusivity of their ideas. Product features could take years to develop internally, whereas in open source, those ideas can be built and improved in much shorter timeframes. The customer-facing layer is where companies can drive the most competitive differentiation, and underlying platform technologies such as Kubernetes or Linux are a common foundation for many companies. This is why they attract contributors and where the greatest opportunity lies. There are also structural barriers that many banks need to overcome before engaging in upstream participation. Not all banks have the tech or legal mechanisms required to send their code outside of a company’s corporate firewall and transitioning from legacy organisational structures is not always easy. Rigid company policy on what employees can and can’t do is non-trivial when a business wants to be technologically agile. This cultural challenge is readily acknowledged by banks, and one that many are working to address. In a heavily regulated industry, it takes time for companies to introduce the policy and organisational changes needed to participate in open source communities. However, as software ecosystems expand further, financial services innovation will be increasingly driven in open source. Given the benefits to be gained, it is an opportunity worth seizing. - Tim Hooley is the EMEA Chief Technologist for Financial Services Industry, Red Hat.

GulfNews Business

UAE’s hotels can do with some tax relief

Analysis|: In the UAE, staycations have been the main alternative to travel as the lockdown was eased. With a few remaining restrictions on mobility, one can get into a car and drive to a remote resort in the middle of the desert, or to a beach resort that may even boast of exclusive water villas. While this is the only travel alternative for those who are willing to take the risk of moving, with face masks and social distancing, it also is a way to partially make up for tourism-generated revenues. Aviation and tourism are after all responsible for more than 13 per cent of the UAE’s GDP, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). See more Midas touch: Singapore exchange touts gold to the masses Photos: New products, services rolled out by Apple Photos: Dubai cruise industry ready to set sail again Assembling a solar powered future in China Mexico holds symbolic raffle for unwanted presidential jet What’s important to note here is that no matter how many individuals opt for staycations within the UAE, these are not there to bring occupancy levels at hotels to their average levels during the summer reason. Dubai alone received more than 16 million visitors in 2019, which is impressive compared to a UAE’s 9-10 million population. Rates didn’t budget as much As things started to go back to normal, the expectation was that hotel rates would be competitively and reasonably priced to attract as many guests as possible, especially since supply far outstrips demand. Rather, hotel rates were more or less at the same levels that would have been expected in a busy summer season in the UAE. Furthermore, resorts with an edge - i.e., remote location, private villas, beachfront and so on - had even more reason to keep their rates at their usual levels, if not higher. Why’s that? First, this has to do with supply and demand. Since supply significantly exceeds demand, then higher room rates multiplied by lower occupancy rates, compared to a year ago, may generate better revenues for hotels than if room rates were lowered and occupancy rates fail to make up for the revenue shortfall. Also, as individuals would logically prefer hotels and resorts with premium locations and a more exclusive feel compared to a normal room, such destinations can subsequently ask for higher nightly rates. Having been in lockdown and with very limited travel options, individuals have got the cash to spend on whatever exotic staycations that they can get. Need to balance Secondly, there has been no policy driven encouragement to offer better deals by relieving hotels and resorts from tourism-related taxes. Given that those taxes have always been passed on to individuals in normal times, it would only make sense to have them passed on to individuals now as hotels and resorts struggle financially. Put differently, hotels and resorts need to be paid enough to sustain their operations. Meanwhile, tourism regulators need to generate enough revenues to balance their budgets. The situation is even more financially pressing, with aviation and tourism activities being much lower than their pre-COVID-19 levels. Now, what if tourism-related taxes have been experimentally waived off for a month or two during the summer season? This could have encouraged more individuals to go for staycations and to spend more in hotels and resorts by staying for longer durations. More so as many were working from home, which could be done from anywhere. Not only would this have been more beneficial for hotels and resorts, but the forgone revenues, from tourism-related taxes, could be marked as part of the fiscal stimulus aimed at reigniting economic activity in the UAE. In conclusion, staycations have been the choice of necessity in the UAE. Generally, hotel rates did not drop to levels lower than those observed last year. This is due to an anticipated low occupancy rate and the inclusion of tourism-related taxes in hotel rates. Removal of the latter, even if only experimentally during the summer period, may have shown the way to better support the sector. The last thought that I want to leave you with: What could replace tourism-related taxes? - Abdulnasser Alshaali is a UAE based economist.

GulfNews Business

3 bold moves CFOs can make today to outperform the market

Business|: For years, finance leaders have been seeking ways to leverage technology to make their organisations future-ready. The current pandemic exposed the shortcomings of outdated platforms and accelerated the pace of innovation, even as some organisations battle for their very lives. The bold moves are drawn from research conducted by McKinsey & Co. on the financial performance of 1,500 companies following the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 to understand how the top 25 per cent in terms of total returns to shareholders were able to outperform their competitors after the downturn. These “resilients”, the research found, shared key characteristics, including an aggressive approach to reallocating resources and investing in productivity initiatives within the organisation. Bold move #1 Adopt a transformation mindset when reallocating resources The upside to any economic crisis is that it presents a logical and necessary opportunity to rethink every aspect of the business. Contrary to what one might think, now is not the time to invest resources in small, incremental adjustments; rather, it’s the time to focus on bold, transformational moves that can deliver outsize productivity gains and returns on investment. Bold moves during a crisis also require powerful tools, yet many companies found themselves ill-equipped to maintain the business, let alone accelerate innovation. Many Oracle customers were running on-premises systems from the early 2000s, which lack crucial capabilities that are integrated into Oracle’s current Cloud ERP. The current generation of Cloud ERP software is giving companies outsize productivity gains now — when they are desperately needed — as well as the flexibility to adopt new business models that support subscription-based revenue streams or digital sales channels. Getting on the cloud today also provides access to continuous innovations being architected now into the software’s road map, from digital assistants and chatbots to AI-driven predictive and prescriptive analytics. Bold move #2 Pursue pragmatic M&A and divestitures to improve the company’s portfolio Based on McKinsey’s research of the past and assessment of current conditions, the economic downturn is an ideal opportunity to embark on a programmatic approach to mergers, acquisitions and divestitures that can increase your business’ competitive advantage. Organisations using outdated technologies will be challenged to gain visibility into the profitability of their current business models, assess the potential of new M&A activities or spin-offs, and operationally support the choices they make. Oracle uses its own Cloud ERP to support its M&A strategy and realise expected synergies. Oracle is very acquisitive, and we have been buying a number of companies over the years, over 100-plus in the past 20 years — many of them large-sized organisations. More than 25 of those acquisitions were completed during the great recession of 2007-2009, to support Oracle’s pivot into enterprise applications and hardware. The true cloud financial management systems are continuously updated with the latest capabilities to provide scalability and flexibility, rapidly integrate new entities, and provide the ability to model the impact of individual acquisitions or divestitures on both the bottom and top lines. Bold move #3 Boost productivity through digitisation Innovation in finance has been a priority for years but has now become urgent as a result of the pandemic. More digitisation and automation of finance processes have long been on the to-do list of finance leaders. According to the McKinsey report Get in front of digital finance, more than 75 per cent of tasks can be automated in areas such as cash disbursement, revenue management, and general accounting operations. As organisations move towards digitisation and high levels of automation, the importance of advanced data and analytics to drive visibility and collaboration across an organisation has never been higher. At Oracle, our strategy has always been to provide a single integrated service: connected enterprise, connected data, connected view of the business processes to help you actually drive these big transformations. The view from the front office to the back office is critical, not just to operationalise all these new business models, but to also help manage ongoing changes. Through a single unified platform that facilitates more automation and better collaboration, CFOs and finance teams can more easily adopt modern practices such as continuous forecasting and planning, and predictive capabilities to better respond to the next crisis. Plus, they gain the ability to execute more work remotely — such as the critical task of closing the books. Oracle was able to increase productivity during the pandemic, shortening the monthly close by an additional 20 per cent while working from home. In fact, Oracle is reaping the benefits of its own cloud solutions across hundreds of processes, every day. Next steps for reimagining finance Finance teams in every organisation must move towards resiliency and finance reimagination at their own pace. There is no cookie-cutter approach. Covid-19 won’t be the last of the disruptions businesses must contend with. It’s important for them to re-evaluate and rebuild their business models to be more resilient. Yet resilience is no longer about having the cash reserves and resources to weather disruption right now – it’s about building an infrastructure that is flexible, cloud-based and automated to deal with constant, unrelenting change. Here’s how you can start building business resilience with Oracle Cloud Applications The writer is Executive Director, ERP and EPM Product Marketing at Oracle

GulfNews Business

UAE among top eight countries globally to show strong recovery in private aviation

Business|: Since the first weeks in March, when the number of flights worldwide plummeted, the recovery for the private aviation industry has been bumpy. Some of the largest markets, such as the United States, are still hovering around 60 per cent of their flight activity in 2019. Conversely, the markets with the strongest recovery for the private jet industry may surprise you. The good news is that the United Arab Emirates is among the strongest. UAE recovery is strong According to data on departures, only eight countries made gains in July compared to July 2019. Among them, the UAE saw a 19 per cent increase in activity compared to last year. The UAE is also on the list of countries to have made the biggest gain in activity this year from June to July with a 45 per cent jump in activity. Some of the biggest markets, the United States for instance, are only seeing marginal growth. The country recorded a 21 per cent decline in July and August flights are tracking 19 per cent year-on-year levels. What is driving the faster recovery in countries such as the UAE? Consumer habits are changing With commercial flight options limited and crowded airports seen as a risk, private jet travel is no longer viewed as a luxury, but rather as a necessity. “Passengers want to limit their exposure to crowds. They want more peace of mind when they travel,” said Adel Mardini, Founder and CEO of Jetex, a global private aviation company based in Dubai. Only a small portion of the new demand in the industry is coming from corporate travel, which is still slow as business conferences are cancelled, and meetings have been moved online. The surge is mostly coming from leisure travellers, from friends and families who, right now, don’t see commercial travel an option. Prior to the pandemic, McKinsey reported that only 10 per cent of those who can afford to fly privately were doing so. Now we are seeing more of those passengers switch from first and business class to private aviation. In this new era of air travel, Jetex is happy to be part of the solution. The company has helped relocate families who needed to get home. It reunited a mother who had been separated from her daughter when countries began to close. As the world and travel industry recover from the crisis, people are still, albeit cautiously, going on holiday. Among the most popular destinations for leisure passengers flying through the Jetex VIP terminal in Dubai are Turkey, Greece, and the Maldives. There are still many travel opportunities for families in the Gulf region. Adel Mardini, Founder and CEO of Jetex Image Credit: Supplied Government support is paramount Jetex attributes the UAE’s success to the support the government has shown the industry. In Dubai, the company has the ability to test passengers for COVID-19 as they come through the private terminal, making their travel experience as easy and seamless as possible. Although countries are beginning to open their borders, more travellers are avoiding commercial airlines by booking private jets to reduce the chance of them catching coronavirus. This trend will continue over the coming months as the UAE is now approaching high season as more travellers experience the benefits of private terminals and convenience of flying private, regardless of the destination. To learn more, visit here.