Qatar pledges $ 100mn to Palestinian National Authority


He said that the contribution falls within Qatar’s firm belief in the need to help the Palestinian people and build up its self-capabilities to achieve its national objectives to development and establishment of its independent state.

Meanwhile, international donors pledged $ 7.4bn to the Palestinians yesterday at a conference described by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the “last hope” to save their government from bankruptcy.



GCC urged to intensify role in Islamic tourism



Arab News: Halal airlines and women-only hotels are just some of the up and coming investment trends currently gaining global popularity, according to a recently released global trends report published by World Tourism Market (WTM)

The report also said Saudi Arabia and the Gulf should do more to promote the Islamic tourism market and urged the region to take a more assertive role in pursuing the wealth of investment opportunities in the market, noting that “it is critical for Middle Eastern countries to take concrete steps to develop halal tourism internally.”

In the past, due to Saudi Arabia’s strict religious rules prohibiting women from checking in hotels or traveling without the presence of a male family member or written consent from a male guardian, many investors deemed it is a fruitless endeavor to invest in Islamic tourism with only a minimal amount of women found to be traveling alone. However, in recent years, as Saudi women have taken a more decisive stance in society and business — currently worth an estimated SR27 billion and holding up to 35 percent of the Kingdom’s bank accounts based on Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) statistics (Kingdom’s central bank) — more companies in Saudi Arabia are adopting a halal-based business strategy to cater to the needs of the Muslim female traveler and at the same time creating a trend, many experts said.

Hans-Peter Leitzke, managing director of the Rosewood Corniche in Jeddah — Saudi Arabia’s first hotel to offer a floor exclusively for women — was quoted as saying that ”we designed our dedicated ‘Ladies Floor’ because there is an increased demand for this kind of facility from Arab ladies and female travelers as a whole, and the response so far underlines this.”

Since the Rosewood opened its doors nearly four months ago, the hotel has been receiving strong response from female guests and added that they expected other hotels to follow the example in supporting the growing trend.

“ We are confident it will establish the Rosewood Corniche as Saudi Arabia’s most sought-after hotel for the discriminated female traveler. At the same time, I would not be surprised to see more hotels here and the other parts of the region opening ladies floors,” he said.

Apart from Arab ladies themselves, Arab women’s organizations that need facilities to hold events in privacy and cater to their special needs are also a recognizable source of clientele, he added.

Nonetheless, not everyone is in agreement with the trend saying that it could cause some social problems in the future. “Right now we have segregation in schools and government offices as well as restaurants, salons and see the advent of female-only shopping malls,” Rogaya Sabban, a Saudi businesswoman, told Arab News.

“I think applying Islamic principles to make things easier for Muslim women is a must, however, one should remember not to go to the extreme,” she cautioned.


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