• 20 Sep 2017

    At Dubai expo, Chinese companies look to tap lucrative halal market

    DUBAI (AFP) – Standing behind her stall at a Dubai exhibition centre, Ms Dai Donghe offered passersby what looked like carefully wrapped biscuits or chocolates.

    “This is dry beef, beef snacks,” said Ms Dai, general manager of Anhui Central Asia Food, one of eight Chinese companies from Anhui province displaying products at Halal Expo Dubai 2017.

    Dubai is hosting the show for the ninth year running, with the Gulf emirate positioning itself as a major hub for the halal industry, a booming US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) market for goods and services that are permissible under Islamic law.

    In recent years, Chinese firms have increasingly looked to tap the market, with organisers of the two-day show saying the Chinese halal sector is forecast to hit US$1.9 trillion by 2021, an average growth rate of nine percent from its 2015 level.

    Exhibitors from China said one of the keys to gaining a foothold in the market was winning the trust of consumers.

    “We make sure our food is halal,” Ms Dai told AFP, noting that the company buys meat from Chinese Muslims to ensure slaughtering is done according to Islamic tradition.

    Mr Nicholas Hsiu, a manager with ARA Halal Development Service Centre, said the show was an opportunity to promote the company’s exports.

    “We want to export to Muslim countries… We hope to introduce our products and export to the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East,” he told AFP.

    The company manufactures various types of halal noodles and has obtained certificates from recognised Islamic accreditation bodies in Hong Kong and elsewhere, Mr Hsiu said.

    Seventy-five exhibitors from 15 countries, including Malaysia, the global leader in halal exports, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Switzerland and others took part in the show.

    The industry encompasses food, beverages, fashion, cosmetics, tourism, and the US$2 trillion Islamic financial industry. For food products, the key is ensuring no traces of pork or alcohol, which are strictly banned by Islamic teachings.

    Exhibitors from Malaysia displayed a wide-range of cosmetics, beauty care products and agricultural seeds that one firm claimed “are better than Viagra”.

    Mountain honey processed to conform with Islamic requirements was displayed by one Pakistani firm, while exhibitors from Kazakhstan presented various types of chocolates.

    Standing at a stall packed with natural cosmetics, Ms Nur Syarifatun Nadzirah, the managing director of Gaveno Green Resources in Malaysia, said the company ensured its products comply with halal rules.

    “We make sure that all the ingredients are halal… We have certification” from well-established Malaysian bodies, she told AFP.

    Dubai, which unlike its oil-rich Gulf neighbours has a highly diversified economy, has been vying to become the global hub for the halal industry.

    The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a component, imports about US$20 billion in halal products every year, part of the some US$50 billion imported annually by the six Gulf Cooperation Council states.

    As well as holding conferences and exhibits, Dubai is establishing standardisation bodies like the Emirates International Accreditation Centre.

    The centre is one of several international organisations that set guidelines and issue certificates for products that conform to Islamic rules.

    The initiative is part of efforts “for Dubai to become the capital of the Islamic economy”, Ms Amina Ahmed Mohammed, the centre’s chief executive officer, told AFP.

    The emirate is also looking to overcome one of the main challenges facing the industry – different and sometimes conflicting standards and requirements depending on interpretations of religious texts.

    “The UAE has launched an international forum for the accreditation of halal organisations… in a bid to unify procedures around the world,” Ms Amina said.

  • 19 Sep 2017

    Dubai just commissioned a new 700-megawatt extension for its mega solar park

    Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, a giant single site solar park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is set to become even bigger courtesy of a new 700-megawatt solar extension. A contract to build the extension was awarded over the weekend. The additional construction will give the park the ability to generate 5,000 megawatts by 2030 after construction is completed. Following the construction, the solar park will cover around 83 square miles, and be capable of reducing carbon emissions by 6.5 million tons per year. At the center of the facility will stand an enormous 260-meter (853-foot) solar tower, the tallest in the world.

    The bid for developing the project’s fourth phase was awarded to a consortium consisting of Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and China’s Shanghai Electric. “Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide, and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), in a statement. “This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world.”

    The solar park first became operational in 2013, with a meager 13-megawatt solar first phase. Earlier this year, the second 200-megawatt phase became operational, while a third 800-megawatt phase will start operations by 2020, when the newly announced fourth phase will begin construction. The facility generates its solar power using a number of lenses and reflectors which concentrate the sun’s rays to heat fluid, which produce steam and drive a turbine: An approach which is more flexible than regular photovoltaic solar plants.

    While there are some other impressive solar projects around the world (look no further than the 40-megawatt world’s largest floating solar power plant which just went online in China), the Dubai effort stands alone. When the 700-megawatt phase is completed, Dubai will cement its status as being home to the world’s largest single-site solar park. It will also greatly contribute to the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase the share of clean energy in Dubai’s total power output to 7 percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050.

  • 20 Sep 2017

    Is the ‘Hawaii of China’ taking design cues from Dubai?

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    Hainan, China (CNN) — The dancing begins almost as soon as the sun sets on Sanya, in southern Hainan.

    Dozens of locals — some in costume, some without — set up in the wide paved areas beneath the palm trees, along the famous long white shoreline of Sanya Bay.
    Then, to the beat of an electronic boombox or traditional Chinese performers holding drums and cymbals, the synchronized movements begin.

    Watching the dancing as the waves break on the shore, on a balmy summer evening, it’s easy to see why Hainan, an island and the southern-most province in China, has long been known in advertising campaigns as the “Hawaii of China.”

    Traditional Chinese dance performed on the shores of Sanya Bay, Hainan. pic.twitter.com/uFKZYrC4Uy
    — Ben Westcott (@Ben_Westcott) September 14, 2017
    But only a few hundred meters down Sanya Bay, a different side of Hainan is glittering and glowing in the growing dark.

    On a newly reclaimed island on one edge of the bay, the imposing towers of Phoenix Island are projecting a light show.

    Giant diamonds sparkle on the sides of the massive hotel, followed by hundred-meter high dolphins splashing across an animated sea.

    It’s just one of a growing number of extravagant Hainan resorts and hotels, each trying to out do each other in novelty and grandeur.

    ‘A little dream to go to Hainan’
    The next day, dressed in full suits and glamorous dresses beneath the beating tropical sun, couples pose to have their wedding photos taken beneath the palm trees and beside the white sand.

    Around them, dozens of tiny white crabs scuttle from hole to hole along the beach, an example of the natural beauty which has lured the couples here to make Hainan a permanent part of their memories together.

    Wei Kailei, dean of the College of Tourism at Hainan University, tells CNN the island is a “world-class attraction.”

    “It is well known as an island of leisure, vacation and longevity,” he says. “The blue sky and pure water in Hainan are even more precious, contrasted with the rest of the nation plagued by smog.”

    sea-shore

    Father and son play on Sanya Bay beach in southern Hainan Island, China.

    Sichuan native Thomas Liu brought his wife and his son to Hainan all the way from their central China hometown of Chengdu.

    “For (my son) to see how broad the sea is and have a beach where he can play? It’s great for him,” he says, while walking along Yalong Bay.

    “I think many people, when we are young, we know that Hainan is a very beautiful place, so I think for many people they have a little dream to go to Hainan.”

    Despite the island’s natural beauty, however, Liu says it’s becoming a little too popular.

    “There’s too many people here, from now I think all over the world and all over China,” he says.

    According to the provincial statistics bureau, more than 60 million tourists made trips to Hainan in 2016, up 12.9% compared to the previous year.

    But the island and its main cities of Haikou and Sanya are popular tourist destinations not just for Chinese but also for many Europeans.

    Valter Julia, a Russian citizen from the city of Norilsk, says she and her partner came to Hainan nine years ago for the first time and, after they had a son, they’d wanted to return.

    “I think it is a good place to have a rest … Very special and very pleasurable place,” she says.

    ‘Oriental Dubai’

    Increasingly, rather than Hawaii, parts of Hainan bring to mind the unashamed extravagance of Dubai, the wealthy United Arab Emirates city state that once built a man-made island in the shape of a map of the world.

    The huge, curved towers of Phoenix Island catch the eye the moment you walk down to Sanya Bay.

    The futuristic hotel has changed the skyline of Sanya Bay dramatically. Connected to the city by a long bridge, which only guests can cross, the artificial island gives off the air of outrageous opulence.

    In the lead up to the launch of Phoenix Island, it was even described in promotional literature as the “Oriental Dubai.”

    sea-shore

    A birds-eye view of the vista of Sanya Bay, taken in June, featuring the new Phoenix Island in the top right.

    Phoenix Island isn’t the only artificial land mass being constructed in Hainan. In the north, off the coast of Haikou, a massive island the shape of a yin-yang symbol is being built, according to the local government’s website.

    Once finished it’ll feature a new hotel, a yacht club, a cruise port and a waters sports area.

    In Sanya city, away from beach, an ambitious new hotel has been built in the shape of nine enormous green trees.
    “Hainan is the largest special economic zone, the only international tourist island and the first tourist model construction zone in China,” says Wei.

    “Everyone in the province puts great effort into infrastructure and environment, aiming to provide tourists high quality attractions, facilities, environment and services.”

    biuldings

    Beauty Crown Hotel in Sanya features nine enormous tree-like structures, which hold dozens of hotel rooms.

    108-meter Buddha
    It isn’t just apartments and hotels anxious to steal the limelight on Hainan.

    In the island’s south, an enormous white statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin stands on an artificial island at the center of a sprawling temple complex.

    Finished in 2005, the 108-meter high statue was reportedly consecrated by 108 Buddhist monks from across China. It’s an appropriate choice, as she is sometimes known as “Guanyin of the Southern Seas.”

    statue

    A woman poses for a photo in front of a 108-meter statue of Guanyin, the Buddha of the Southern Seas.

    Some 15% of the Chinese population consider themselves to be Buddhist, according to 2014 stats, so it’s no surprise this is a popular landmark.

    Even on a weekday, hundreds of predominantly Chinese tourists pour into the temple grounds to see the sights and pray to Guanyin. At the altar leading to bridge to the statue, the air is thick with incense and pilgrims wrestle for kneeling space.

    As you walk towards the enormous Buddha, the path on both sides is cluttered with stores selling memorabilia and expensive tea.

    Even once you get inside the enormous statue, surrounded by the piped sounds of Buddhist chanting, the interior has half a dozen more opportunities to buy merchandize and commemorations.

    At the very foot of the statue, up a lift and then hundreds of steps, one woman grips the Bodhisattva’s enormous toe and implores her loudly, “Ah! Guanyin Buddha!”

    A uniformed guard shushes her and encourages passersby to move on.

    statue2

    A woman prays to the Bodhisattva Guanyin at her huge statue in southern Sanya, Hainan.

    No slowing down
    Back in Sanya Bay, the sun is beginning to set again and locals on dozens of motorbikes are pulling up to the shoreline to watch the imminent entertainment.

    As with so much of Hainan, the dancing is a combination of the old and the new. Some women and men, dressed in full costume, are performing a traditional square dance or guangchang wu. Next to them, other performers dressed in leotards are moving in time to modern pop songs.

    This contradiction, a combination of Hawaii and Dubai, appears here to stay — for now at least.

    As the dancing begins again in the sweltering heat, the giant diamonds of Phoenix Island light up and begin to spin.

    map

    Getting to Hainan: Sanya International Airport services flights from a number of cities in the region including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

  • 20 Sep 2017

    Bespoke home finance to boost Dubai realty

    For Mohamed Farah, it sounded like a great deal.

    A Dubai resident since 1992, the Syrian business owner was able to buy an off-plan studio flat in Damac Heights for Dh700,000 without putting down any new money as a deposit.

    “I have two flats in Dubai Silicon Oasis where I had completed the repayments,” he says. “My businesses have been very strong over the past ten years. All of the flats I own, I had paid for in cash.”

    Farah is one of a number of property investors taking advantage of a new generation of more accessible home finance products in Dubai.

    These are the result of competition among financers to provide finance facility to a reluctant pool of end users and investors during a slow market.

    Tailored finance

    Under the terms of the “Double Your Property” product offered by Amlak Finance PJSC, a leading specialised real estate financier in the Middle East, purchasers who already own at least one property in Dubai without an existing finance can leverage their first home as collateral in order to acquire another property.

    This second property may be either a ready or under construction property. The idea is that rental payments on the second property will eventually pay off the finance payments.

    The product, which is open to both residents and non-residents of the UAE who own property in Dubai, effectively allows investors with a minimum salary of Dh10,000 a month to double their property portfolio by leveraging the equity release on first property to own one or more properties.

    Dubai

    As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom

    “The existence of this product opens up possibilities for investors to have easy access to finance,” says Jonathan Rawling, Chief Finance Officer at Yallacompare, a financial comparison site in the Middle East.

    “The real benefit is that it allows you to make the finance payments on your second property through the rental income on that property. Some home finance products in the market will not take account of rental income when calculating your eligibility for a home finance.”

    Refreshing change

    “Amlak is recognising that, where individuals already own one property, there is additional collateral available for the finance on the second property,” Rawling adds. “This is perhaps a refreshing change to the more blinkered approach where banks look at property financing on an asset-by-asset rather than a portfolio basis.”

    Property analysts say that, after stalling over the past two years following a 2014 oil shock, Dubai’s sales market showed some signs of recovery during the spring.

    According to the Dubai Land Department (DLD), the value of deals transacted between January and June this year stood at Dh132 billion, 16.8 per cent higher compared with the Dh113bn recorded over the same period in 2016.

    The DLD said the total value of new home finance increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion.

    Stimulate market

    For Amlak Finance, this is an attempt to stimulate the market as sales of completed and under-construction properties in Dubai start picking up.

    Arif Alharmi, Managing Director and CEO of Amlak Finance, (pictured right), says, “The product is primarily focused at existing investors who already own property in Dubai. We want to boost the Dubai real estate market, and have therefore developed a product that helps investors grow their portfolio without putting in any additional contribution.”

    Nonetheless, analysts still say that a glut of new supply coming to the market is dampening the sales market.

    Research from Dubai-based property data company Reidin and property consultancy Global Capital estimates that 13,991 new off-plan homes were launched in the six months between January and June 2017.

    “The growing off-plan supply continues to negatively affect ready property sales,” says David Godchaux, Chief Executive of Core Savills.

    “Existing owners try and attract the same pool of investors and end users as they attempt to sell their ready properties. They contend with highly competitive and attractive payment plans offered by master developers.”

    Niranjan Mendonca, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Dubai-based property broker Homes4Life, says he is currently negotiating with three customers about signing a deal on Amlak’s product, which only came on the market a couple of months ago.

    lake

    The DLD said the total value of new mortgages increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion

    He explains that investors are being drawn to off-plan property launches rather than buying completed properties because they expect far higher resale prices in the wake of Expo 2020.

    This is compounded by the fact that the down payments required for developers on off-plan properties are attractive now.

    Property developers are also offering generous payment terms on off-plan property deals, some of which can extend for as many as five years after the construction period.

    Win-win proposition

    More than competition, it is a win-win situation for all, says Arif Alharmi. “Developer payment plans are still restricted in terms of repayment to between two and five years.”

    “Our proposition is to extend that plan to 15-20 years for the consumer. [They] get a longer payment plan, the developer gets to sell stock and we can facilitate the whole process.”

    Expo 2020

    Whether Amlak’s innovative home finance product will succeed in helping lift the Dubai property market from a two-year lull remains to be seen, but the initial signs are promising.

    As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom.

    Arif Alharmi further commented: “We have already seen market conditions improving in the UAE and this momentum is expected to continue. As we move closer to hosting the Dubai Expo, we have witnessed significant investment in diversifying the local economy, in line with the UAE’s economic growth strategy.

    “There has been improvement in key sectors such as tourism, aviation, and real estate, and it is expected that we will see this increase even further as we approach 2020.”

At Dubai expo, Chinese companies look to tap lucrative halal market

DUBAI (AFP) – Standing behind her stall at a Dubai exhibition centre, Ms Dai Donghe offered passersby what looked like carefully wrapped biscuits or chocolates.

“This is dry beef, beef snacks,” said Ms Dai, general manager of Anhui Central Asia Food, one of eight Chinese companies from Anhui province displaying products at Halal Expo Dubai 2017.

Dubai is hosting the show for the ninth year running, with the Gulf emirate positioning itself as a major hub for the halal industry, a booming US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) market for goods and services that are permissible under Islamic law.

In recent years, Chinese firms have increasingly looked to tap the market, with organisers of the two-day show saying the Chinese halal sector is forecast to hit US$1.9 trillion by 2021, an average growth rate of nine percent from its 2015 level.

Exhibitors from China said one of the keys to gaining a foothold in the market was winning the trust of consumers.

“We make sure our food is halal,” Ms Dai told AFP, noting that the company buys meat from Chinese Muslims to ensure slaughtering is done according to Islamic tradition.

Mr Nicholas Hsiu, a manager with ARA Halal Development Service Centre, said the show was an opportunity to promote the company’s exports.

“We want to export to Muslim countries… We hope to introduce our products and export to the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East,” he told AFP.

The company manufactures various types of halal noodles and has obtained certificates from recognised Islamic accreditation bodies in Hong Kong and elsewhere, Mr Hsiu said.

Seventy-five exhibitors from 15 countries, including Malaysia, the global leader in halal exports, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Switzerland and others took part in the show.

The industry encompasses food, beverages, fashion, cosmetics, tourism, and the US$2 trillion Islamic financial industry. For food products, the key is ensuring no traces of pork or alcohol, which are strictly banned by Islamic teachings.

Exhibitors from Malaysia displayed a wide-range of cosmetics, beauty care products and agricultural seeds that one firm claimed “are better than Viagra”.

Mountain honey processed to conform with Islamic requirements was displayed by one Pakistani firm, while exhibitors from Kazakhstan presented various types of chocolates.

Standing at a stall packed with natural cosmetics, Ms Nur Syarifatun Nadzirah, the managing director of Gaveno Green Resources in Malaysia, said the company ensured its products comply with halal rules.

“We make sure that all the ingredients are halal… We have certification” from well-established Malaysian bodies, she told AFP.

Dubai, which unlike its oil-rich Gulf neighbours has a highly diversified economy, has been vying to become the global hub for the halal industry.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a component, imports about US$20 billion in halal products every year, part of the some US$50 billion imported annually by the six Gulf Cooperation Council states.

As well as holding conferences and exhibits, Dubai is establishing standardisation bodies like the Emirates International Accreditation Centre.

The centre is one of several international organisations that set guidelines and issue certificates for products that conform to Islamic rules.

The initiative is part of efforts “for Dubai to become the capital of the Islamic economy”, Ms Amina Ahmed Mohammed, the centre’s chief executive officer, told AFP.

The emirate is also looking to overcome one of the main challenges facing the industry – different and sometimes conflicting standards and requirements depending on interpretations of religious texts.

“The UAE has launched an international forum for the accreditation of halal organisations… in a bid to unify procedures around the world,” Ms Amina said.

20 Sep 2017

Dubai just commissioned a new 700-megawatt extension for its mega solar park

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, a giant single site solar park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is set to become even bigger courtesy of a new 700-megawatt solar extension. A contract to build the extension was awarded over the weekend. The additional construction will give the park the ability to generate 5,000 megawatts by 2030 after construction is completed. Following the construction, the solar park will cover around 83 square miles, and be capable of reducing carbon emissions by 6.5 million tons per year. At the center of the facility will stand an enormous 260-meter (853-foot) solar tower, the tallest in the world.

The bid for developing the project’s fourth phase was awarded to a consortium consisting of Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and China’s Shanghai Electric. “Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide, and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), in a statement. “This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world.”

The solar park first became operational in 2013, with a meager 13-megawatt solar first phase. Earlier this year, the second 200-megawatt phase became operational, while a third 800-megawatt phase will start operations by 2020, when the newly announced fourth phase will begin construction. The facility generates its solar power using a number of lenses and reflectors which concentrate the sun’s rays to heat fluid, which produce steam and drive a turbine: An approach which is more flexible than regular photovoltaic solar plants.

While there are some other impressive solar projects around the world (look no further than the 40-megawatt world’s largest floating solar power plant which just went online in China), the Dubai effort stands alone. When the 700-megawatt phase is completed, Dubai will cement its status as being home to the world’s largest single-site solar park. It will also greatly contribute to the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase the share of clean energy in Dubai’s total power output to 7 percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050.

19 Sep 2017

Is the ‘Hawaii of China’ taking design cues from Dubai?

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Hainan, China (CNN) — The dancing begins almost as soon as the sun sets on Sanya, in southern Hainan.

Dozens of locals — some in costume, some without — set up in the wide paved areas beneath the palm trees, along the famous long white shoreline of Sanya Bay.
Then, to the beat of an electronic boombox or traditional Chinese performers holding drums and cymbals, the synchronized movements begin.

Watching the dancing as the waves break on the shore, on a balmy summer evening, it’s easy to see why Hainan, an island and the southern-most province in China, has long been known in advertising campaigns as the “Hawaii of China.”

Traditional Chinese dance performed on the shores of Sanya Bay, Hainan. pic.twitter.com/uFKZYrC4Uy
— Ben Westcott (@Ben_Westcott) September 14, 2017
But only a few hundred meters down Sanya Bay, a different side of Hainan is glittering and glowing in the growing dark.

On a newly reclaimed island on one edge of the bay, the imposing towers of Phoenix Island are projecting a light show.

Giant diamonds sparkle on the sides of the massive hotel, followed by hundred-meter high dolphins splashing across an animated sea.

It’s just one of a growing number of extravagant Hainan resorts and hotels, each trying to out do each other in novelty and grandeur.

‘A little dream to go to Hainan’
The next day, dressed in full suits and glamorous dresses beneath the beating tropical sun, couples pose to have their wedding photos taken beneath the palm trees and beside the white sand.

Around them, dozens of tiny white crabs scuttle from hole to hole along the beach, an example of the natural beauty which has lured the couples here to make Hainan a permanent part of their memories together.

Wei Kailei, dean of the College of Tourism at Hainan University, tells CNN the island is a “world-class attraction.”

“It is well known as an island of leisure, vacation and longevity,” he says. “The blue sky and pure water in Hainan are even more precious, contrasted with the rest of the nation plagued by smog.”

sea-shore

Father and son play on Sanya Bay beach in southern Hainan Island, China.

Sichuan native Thomas Liu brought his wife and his son to Hainan all the way from their central China hometown of Chengdu.

“For (my son) to see how broad the sea is and have a beach where he can play? It’s great for him,” he says, while walking along Yalong Bay.

“I think many people, when we are young, we know that Hainan is a very beautiful place, so I think for many people they have a little dream to go to Hainan.”

Despite the island’s natural beauty, however, Liu says it’s becoming a little too popular.

“There’s too many people here, from now I think all over the world and all over China,” he says.

According to the provincial statistics bureau, more than 60 million tourists made trips to Hainan in 2016, up 12.9% compared to the previous year.

But the island and its main cities of Haikou and Sanya are popular tourist destinations not just for Chinese but also for many Europeans.

Valter Julia, a Russian citizen from the city of Norilsk, says she and her partner came to Hainan nine years ago for the first time and, after they had a son, they’d wanted to return.

“I think it is a good place to have a rest … Very special and very pleasurable place,” she says.

‘Oriental Dubai’

Increasingly, rather than Hawaii, parts of Hainan bring to mind the unashamed extravagance of Dubai, the wealthy United Arab Emirates city state that once built a man-made island in the shape of a map of the world.

The huge, curved towers of Phoenix Island catch the eye the moment you walk down to Sanya Bay.

The futuristic hotel has changed the skyline of Sanya Bay dramatically. Connected to the city by a long bridge, which only guests can cross, the artificial island gives off the air of outrageous opulence.

In the lead up to the launch of Phoenix Island, it was even described in promotional literature as the “Oriental Dubai.”

sea-shore

A birds-eye view of the vista of Sanya Bay, taken in June, featuring the new Phoenix Island in the top right.

Phoenix Island isn’t the only artificial land mass being constructed in Hainan. In the north, off the coast of Haikou, a massive island the shape of a yin-yang symbol is being built, according to the local government’s website.

Once finished it’ll feature a new hotel, a yacht club, a cruise port and a waters sports area.

In Sanya city, away from beach, an ambitious new hotel has been built in the shape of nine enormous green trees.
“Hainan is the largest special economic zone, the only international tourist island and the first tourist model construction zone in China,” says Wei.

“Everyone in the province puts great effort into infrastructure and environment, aiming to provide tourists high quality attractions, facilities, environment and services.”

biuldings

Beauty Crown Hotel in Sanya features nine enormous tree-like structures, which hold dozens of hotel rooms.

108-meter Buddha
It isn’t just apartments and hotels anxious to steal the limelight on Hainan.

In the island’s south, an enormous white statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin stands on an artificial island at the center of a sprawling temple complex.

Finished in 2005, the 108-meter high statue was reportedly consecrated by 108 Buddhist monks from across China. It’s an appropriate choice, as she is sometimes known as “Guanyin of the Southern Seas.”

statue

A woman poses for a photo in front of a 108-meter statue of Guanyin, the Buddha of the Southern Seas.

Some 15% of the Chinese population consider themselves to be Buddhist, according to 2014 stats, so it’s no surprise this is a popular landmark.

Even on a weekday, hundreds of predominantly Chinese tourists pour into the temple grounds to see the sights and pray to Guanyin. At the altar leading to bridge to the statue, the air is thick with incense and pilgrims wrestle for kneeling space.

As you walk towards the enormous Buddha, the path on both sides is cluttered with stores selling memorabilia and expensive tea.

Even once you get inside the enormous statue, surrounded by the piped sounds of Buddhist chanting, the interior has half a dozen more opportunities to buy merchandize and commemorations.

At the very foot of the statue, up a lift and then hundreds of steps, one woman grips the Bodhisattva’s enormous toe and implores her loudly, “Ah! Guanyin Buddha!”

A uniformed guard shushes her and encourages passersby to move on.

statue2

A woman prays to the Bodhisattva Guanyin at her huge statue in southern Sanya, Hainan.

No slowing down
Back in Sanya Bay, the sun is beginning to set again and locals on dozens of motorbikes are pulling up to the shoreline to watch the imminent entertainment.

As with so much of Hainan, the dancing is a combination of the old and the new. Some women and men, dressed in full costume, are performing a traditional square dance or guangchang wu. Next to them, other performers dressed in leotards are moving in time to modern pop songs.

This contradiction, a combination of Hawaii and Dubai, appears here to stay — for now at least.

As the dancing begins again in the sweltering heat, the giant diamonds of Phoenix Island light up and begin to spin.

map

Getting to Hainan: Sanya International Airport services flights from a number of cities in the region including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

20 Sep 2017

Bespoke home finance to boost Dubai realty

For Mohamed Farah, it sounded like a great deal.

A Dubai resident since 1992, the Syrian business owner was able to buy an off-plan studio flat in Damac Heights for Dh700,000 without putting down any new money as a deposit.

“I have two flats in Dubai Silicon Oasis where I had completed the repayments,” he says. “My businesses have been very strong over the past ten years. All of the flats I own, I had paid for in cash.”

Farah is one of a number of property investors taking advantage of a new generation of more accessible home finance products in Dubai.

These are the result of competition among financers to provide finance facility to a reluctant pool of end users and investors during a slow market.

Tailored finance

Under the terms of the “Double Your Property” product offered by Amlak Finance PJSC, a leading specialised real estate financier in the Middle East, purchasers who already own at least one property in Dubai without an existing finance can leverage their first home as collateral in order to acquire another property.

This second property may be either a ready or under construction property. The idea is that rental payments on the second property will eventually pay off the finance payments.

The product, which is open to both residents and non-residents of the UAE who own property in Dubai, effectively allows investors with a minimum salary of Dh10,000 a month to double their property portfolio by leveraging the equity release on first property to own one or more properties.

Dubai

As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom

“The existence of this product opens up possibilities for investors to have easy access to finance,” says Jonathan Rawling, Chief Finance Officer at Yallacompare, a financial comparison site in the Middle East.

“The real benefit is that it allows you to make the finance payments on your second property through the rental income on that property. Some home finance products in the market will not take account of rental income when calculating your eligibility for a home finance.”

Refreshing change

“Amlak is recognising that, where individuals already own one property, there is additional collateral available for the finance on the second property,” Rawling adds. “This is perhaps a refreshing change to the more blinkered approach where banks look at property financing on an asset-by-asset rather than a portfolio basis.”

Property analysts say that, after stalling over the past two years following a 2014 oil shock, Dubai’s sales market showed some signs of recovery during the spring.

According to the Dubai Land Department (DLD), the value of deals transacted between January and June this year stood at Dh132 billion, 16.8 per cent higher compared with the Dh113bn recorded over the same period in 2016.

The DLD said the total value of new home finance increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion.

Stimulate market

For Amlak Finance, this is an attempt to stimulate the market as sales of completed and under-construction properties in Dubai start picking up.

Arif Alharmi, Managing Director and CEO of Amlak Finance, (pictured right), says, “The product is primarily focused at existing investors who already own property in Dubai. We want to boost the Dubai real estate market, and have therefore developed a product that helps investors grow their portfolio without putting in any additional contribution.”

Nonetheless, analysts still say that a glut of new supply coming to the market is dampening the sales market.

Research from Dubai-based property data company Reidin and property consultancy Global Capital estimates that 13,991 new off-plan homes were launched in the six months between January and June 2017.

“The growing off-plan supply continues to negatively affect ready property sales,” says David Godchaux, Chief Executive of Core Savills.

“Existing owners try and attract the same pool of investors and end users as they attempt to sell their ready properties. They contend with highly competitive and attractive payment plans offered by master developers.”

Niranjan Mendonca, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Dubai-based property broker Homes4Life, says he is currently negotiating with three customers about signing a deal on Amlak’s product, which only came on the market a couple of months ago.

lake

The DLD said the total value of new mortgages increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion

He explains that investors are being drawn to off-plan property launches rather than buying completed properties because they expect far higher resale prices in the wake of Expo 2020.

This is compounded by the fact that the down payments required for developers on off-plan properties are attractive now.

Property developers are also offering generous payment terms on off-plan property deals, some of which can extend for as many as five years after the construction period.

Win-win proposition

More than competition, it is a win-win situation for all, says Arif Alharmi. “Developer payment plans are still restricted in terms of repayment to between two and five years.”

“Our proposition is to extend that plan to 15-20 years for the consumer. [They] get a longer payment plan, the developer gets to sell stock and we can facilitate the whole process.”

Expo 2020

Whether Amlak’s innovative home finance product will succeed in helping lift the Dubai property market from a two-year lull remains to be seen, but the initial signs are promising.

As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom.

Arif Alharmi further commented: “We have already seen market conditions improving in the UAE and this momentum is expected to continue. As we move closer to hosting the Dubai Expo, we have witnessed significant investment in diversifying the local economy, in line with the UAE’s economic growth strategy.

“There has been improvement in key sectors such as tourism, aviation, and real estate, and it is expected that we will see this increase even further as we approach 2020.”

20 Sep 2017

Is the ‘Hawaii of China’ taking design cues from Dubai?

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Hainan, China (CNN) — The dancing begins almost as soon as the sun sets on Sanya, in southern Hainan.

Dozens of locals — some in costume, some without — set up in the wide paved areas beneath the palm trees, along the famous long white shoreline of Sanya Bay.
Then, to the beat of an electronic boombox or traditional Chinese performers holding drums and cymbals, the synchronized movements begin.

Watching the dancing as the waves break on the shore, on a balmy summer evening, it’s easy to see why Hainan, an island and the southern-most province in China, has long been known in advertising campaigns as the “Hawaii of China.”

Traditional Chinese dance performed on the shores of Sanya Bay, Hainan. pic.twitter.com/uFKZYrC4Uy
— Ben Westcott (@Ben_Westcott) September 14, 2017
But only a few hundred meters down Sanya Bay, a different side of Hainan is glittering and glowing in the growing dark.

On a newly reclaimed island on one edge of the bay, the imposing towers of Phoenix Island are projecting a light show.

Giant diamonds sparkle on the sides of the massive hotel, followed by hundred-meter high dolphins splashing across an animated sea.

It’s just one of a growing number of extravagant Hainan resorts and hotels, each trying to out do each other in novelty and grandeur.

‘A little dream to go to Hainan’
The next day, dressed in full suits and glamorous dresses beneath the beating tropical sun, couples pose to have their wedding photos taken beneath the palm trees and beside the white sand.

Around them, dozens of tiny white crabs scuttle from hole to hole along the beach, an example of the natural beauty which has lured the couples here to make Hainan a permanent part of their memories together.

Wei Kailei, dean of the College of Tourism at Hainan University, tells CNN the island is a “world-class attraction.”

“It is well known as an island of leisure, vacation and longevity,” he says. “The blue sky and pure water in Hainan are even more precious, contrasted with the rest of the nation plagued by smog.”

sea-shore

Father and son play on Sanya Bay beach in southern Hainan Island, China.

Sichuan native Thomas Liu brought his wife and his son to Hainan all the way from their central China hometown of Chengdu.

“For (my son) to see how broad the sea is and have a beach where he can play? It’s great for him,” he says, while walking along Yalong Bay.

“I think many people, when we are young, we know that Hainan is a very beautiful place, so I think for many people they have a little dream to go to Hainan.”

Despite the island’s natural beauty, however, Liu says it’s becoming a little too popular.

“There’s too many people here, from now I think all over the world and all over China,” he says.

According to the provincial statistics bureau, more than 60 million tourists made trips to Hainan in 2016, up 12.9% compared to the previous year.

But the island and its main cities of Haikou and Sanya are popular tourist destinations not just for Chinese but also for many Europeans.

Valter Julia, a Russian citizen from the city of Norilsk, says she and her partner came to Hainan nine years ago for the first time and, after they had a son, they’d wanted to return.

“I think it is a good place to have a rest … Very special and very pleasurable place,” she says.

‘Oriental Dubai’

Increasingly, rather than Hawaii, parts of Hainan bring to mind the unashamed extravagance of Dubai, the wealthy United Arab Emirates city state that once built a man-made island in the shape of a map of the world.

The huge, curved towers of Phoenix Island catch the eye the moment you walk down to Sanya Bay.

The futuristic hotel has changed the skyline of Sanya Bay dramatically. Connected to the city by a long bridge, which only guests can cross, the artificial island gives off the air of outrageous opulence.

In the lead up to the launch of Phoenix Island, it was even described in promotional literature as the “Oriental Dubai.”

sea-shore

A birds-eye view of the vista of Sanya Bay, taken in June, featuring the new Phoenix Island in the top right.

Phoenix Island isn’t the only artificial land mass being constructed in Hainan. In the north, off the coast of Haikou, a massive island the shape of a yin-yang symbol is being built, according to the local government’s website.

Once finished it’ll feature a new hotel, a yacht club, a cruise port and a waters sports area.

In Sanya city, away from beach, an ambitious new hotel has been built in the shape of nine enormous green trees.
“Hainan is the largest special economic zone, the only international tourist island and the first tourist model construction zone in China,” says Wei.

“Everyone in the province puts great effort into infrastructure and environment, aiming to provide tourists high quality attractions, facilities, environment and services.”

biuldings

Beauty Crown Hotel in Sanya features nine enormous tree-like structures, which hold dozens of hotel rooms.

108-meter Buddha
It isn’t just apartments and hotels anxious to steal the limelight on Hainan.

In the island’s south, an enormous white statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin stands on an artificial island at the center of a sprawling temple complex.

Finished in 2005, the 108-meter high statue was reportedly consecrated by 108 Buddhist monks from across China. It’s an appropriate choice, as she is sometimes known as “Guanyin of the Southern Seas.”

statue

A woman poses for a photo in front of a 108-meter statue of Guanyin, the Buddha of the Southern Seas.

Some 15% of the Chinese population consider themselves to be Buddhist, according to 2014 stats, so it’s no surprise this is a popular landmark.

Even on a weekday, hundreds of predominantly Chinese tourists pour into the temple grounds to see the sights and pray to Guanyin. At the altar leading to bridge to the statue, the air is thick with incense and pilgrims wrestle for kneeling space.

As you walk towards the enormous Buddha, the path on both sides is cluttered with stores selling memorabilia and expensive tea.

Even once you get inside the enormous statue, surrounded by the piped sounds of Buddhist chanting, the interior has half a dozen more opportunities to buy merchandize and commemorations.

At the very foot of the statue, up a lift and then hundreds of steps, one woman grips the Bodhisattva’s enormous toe and implores her loudly, “Ah! Guanyin Buddha!”

A uniformed guard shushes her and encourages passersby to move on.

statue2

A woman prays to the Bodhisattva Guanyin at her huge statue in southern Sanya, Hainan.

No slowing down
Back in Sanya Bay, the sun is beginning to set again and locals on dozens of motorbikes are pulling up to the shoreline to watch the imminent entertainment.

As with so much of Hainan, the dancing is a combination of the old and the new. Some women and men, dressed in full costume, are performing a traditional square dance or guangchang wu. Next to them, other performers dressed in leotards are moving in time to modern pop songs.

This contradiction, a combination of Hawaii and Dubai, appears here to stay — for now at least.

As the dancing begins again in the sweltering heat, the giant diamonds of Phoenix Island light up and begin to spin.

map

Getting to Hainan: Sanya International Airport services flights from a number of cities in the region including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

20 Sep 2017

Bespoke home finance to boost Dubai realty

For Mohamed Farah, it sounded like a great deal.

A Dubai resident since 1992, the Syrian business owner was able to buy an off-plan studio flat in Damac Heights for Dh700,000 without putting down any new money as a deposit.

“I have two flats in Dubai Silicon Oasis where I had completed the repayments,” he says. “My businesses have been very strong over the past ten years. All of the flats I own, I had paid for in cash.”

Farah is one of a number of property investors taking advantage of a new generation of more accessible home finance products in Dubai.

These are the result of competition among financers to provide finance facility to a reluctant pool of end users and investors during a slow market.

Tailored finance

Under the terms of the “Double Your Property” product offered by Amlak Finance PJSC, a leading specialised real estate financier in the Middle East, purchasers who already own at least one property in Dubai without an existing finance can leverage their first home as collateral in order to acquire another property.

This second property may be either a ready or under construction property. The idea is that rental payments on the second property will eventually pay off the finance payments.

The product, which is open to both residents and non-residents of the UAE who own property in Dubai, effectively allows investors with a minimum salary of Dh10,000 a month to double their property portfolio by leveraging the equity release on first property to own one or more properties.

Dubai

As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom

“The existence of this product opens up possibilities for investors to have easy access to finance,” says Jonathan Rawling, Chief Finance Officer at Yallacompare, a financial comparison site in the Middle East.

“The real benefit is that it allows you to make the finance payments on your second property through the rental income on that property. Some home finance products in the market will not take account of rental income when calculating your eligibility for a home finance.”

Refreshing change

“Amlak is recognising that, where individuals already own one property, there is additional collateral available for the finance on the second property,” Rawling adds. “This is perhaps a refreshing change to the more blinkered approach where banks look at property financing on an asset-by-asset rather than a portfolio basis.”

Property analysts say that, after stalling over the past two years following a 2014 oil shock, Dubai’s sales market showed some signs of recovery during the spring.

According to the Dubai Land Department (DLD), the value of deals transacted between January and June this year stood at Dh132 billion, 16.8 per cent higher compared with the Dh113bn recorded over the same period in 2016.

The DLD said the total value of new home finance increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion.

Stimulate market

For Amlak Finance, this is an attempt to stimulate the market as sales of completed and under-construction properties in Dubai start picking up.

Arif Alharmi, Managing Director and CEO of Amlak Finance, (pictured right), says, “The product is primarily focused at existing investors who already own property in Dubai. We want to boost the Dubai real estate market, and have therefore developed a product that helps investors grow their portfolio without putting in any additional contribution.”

Nonetheless, analysts still say that a glut of new supply coming to the market is dampening the sales market.

Research from Dubai-based property data company Reidin and property consultancy Global Capital estimates that 13,991 new off-plan homes were launched in the six months between January and June 2017.

“The growing off-plan supply continues to negatively affect ready property sales,” says David Godchaux, Chief Executive of Core Savills.

“Existing owners try and attract the same pool of investors and end users as they attempt to sell their ready properties. They contend with highly competitive and attractive payment plans offered by master developers.”

Niranjan Mendonca, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Dubai-based property broker Homes4Life, says he is currently negotiating with three customers about signing a deal on Amlak’s product, which only came on the market a couple of months ago.

lake

The DLD said the total value of new mortgages increased 24.2 per cent to Dh60 billion, up from Dh48.3 billion

He explains that investors are being drawn to off-plan property launches rather than buying completed properties because they expect far higher resale prices in the wake of Expo 2020.

This is compounded by the fact that the down payments required for developers on off-plan properties are attractive now.

Property developers are also offering generous payment terms on off-plan property deals, some of which can extend for as many as five years after the construction period.

Win-win proposition

More than competition, it is a win-win situation for all, says Arif Alharmi. “Developer payment plans are still restricted in terms of repayment to between two and five years.”

“Our proposition is to extend that plan to 15-20 years for the consumer. [They] get a longer payment plan, the developer gets to sell stock and we can facilitate the whole process.”

Expo 2020

Whether Amlak’s innovative home finance product will succeed in helping lift the Dubai property market from a two-year lull remains to be seen, but the initial signs are promising.

As Dubai enters the run-up to Expo 2020, many are predicting another mini boom.

Arif Alharmi further commented: “We have already seen market conditions improving in the UAE and this momentum is expected to continue. As we move closer to hosting the Dubai Expo, we have witnessed significant investment in diversifying the local economy, in line with the UAE’s economic growth strategy.

“There has been improvement in key sectors such as tourism, aviation, and real estate, and it is expected that we will see this increase even further as we approach 2020.”

20 Sep 2017

Dubai Is Building a Floating Miniature Replica of Venice

Dubai may be known for modern, soaring skyscrapers and eccentric innovations—we’re talking drone taxis here—but its newest project aims to bring in some old world Italian flair. By 2020, a miniature version of Venice will be floating 2.5 miles off the city’s coast. Complete with 12 restaurants, an underwater spa, and gondolas imported straight from the famous Italian city, the resort claims to be the world’s “first five-star floating destination.”

Overseen by Dubai developer Cityscape Global, The Floating Venice, as it’s been dubbed, will be able to accommodate up to 3,000 guests daily. In true Dubai fashion, visitors will have to travel by seaplane, boat, or helicopter in order to reach the resort. Upon arrival, they’ll check in at the underwater lobby before being transported to one of the mini-city’s 414 cabins—and 180 of those cabins, along with the hotel’s spa, restaurants, and bars, will be submerged, offering an immersive view of the Arabian Sea. Of course, it’s no ordinary ocean view: The on-site coral nursery, with over 400,000 square feet of coral and marine life, will be the focal point of the subterranean rooms. More claustrophobic guests will be able to come up for air at one of the complex’s 12 floating beaches, and sample Venetian delicacies as they tan.
In keeping with the project’s ode to Venetian tradition, visitors will also be able to participate in some of Venice’s popular festivals. The Carnevale di Venezia—Italy’s famed festival of masks—will be celebrated, along with the Regata Stoica di Venezia and the Festa del Redentore. Even operas will be performed on-site at the resort.

Read More : No place like Dubai for GCC home buyers

The extravagant hotel isn’t the first replica of its kind. China unveiled plans to remake Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon late last year, with Tudor streets and a winding Avon River. And Titanic fans will be able to flock to a full-scale replica of the famous ship in Sichuan (80 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu) once the project is complete, “iceberg experience” and all.

11 Sep 2017

PROMOTING AND EXPANDING

Sharjah Media Centre is adapting to the Emirate’s rapid evolution. What are the main new developments at the Centre?
The government established Sharjah Media Centre five years ago. Today, it has emerged as a single-window, unique platform that anyone can approach to know any and everything about Sharjah, its government, institutions, the economy, government procedures, media, education, history, and landmarks—or any other area. We have a team of more than 100 qualified, well-trained professionals. We are also constantly looking to empower our staff by providing them with training and new skills so that they give their best in serving the Centre. We are in touch with other contact centers in the UAE and the region to help us with this. The Centre is also responsible for the PR and media coverage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, both in the UAE and abroad. We have a dedicated social media account for the Ruler covering all of his events and engagements.

The Sharjah Media Centre is the media arm of the government of Sharjah and aims to promote the Emirate. How is the Centre working to achieve that?
We have built a rewarding relationship with other government departments and agencies in the Emirate and are constantly working with them toward the objective of acting as the media arm and platform of the government. For example, we liaise with the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority to publish various statistics about the industry, such as the Emirate’s tourist numbers and museum visitor data. If the number of tourists visiting a particular area or attraction is seen as dwindling, then the Centre could focus on promoting it. Of course, we are constantly working to strengthen our partnership with other stakeholders and present a positive image of the Emirate through our media interaction. Since the inception of the Centre, especially with the launch of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF), which is attended by more than 2,000 world leaders and media personalities, there has been a clear, positive, and perceptible improvement in the way Sharjah is seen around the world and across the region.

This year Sharjah hosted the fifth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) with the slogan “Citizens for Prosperity.” What were the main highlights of this year and how would you rate its results?
The IGCF is all about enhancing government communication and this year we focused on improving communication between citizens and the government. As HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said in his opening address at the 2015 edition of the Forum, communication needs to be two-way, not just one way—from the government to the people. As part of this theme, we discussed various aspects of communication involving the government and its people, including areas as different as aviation and culture, with experienced speakers from both the public and private sectors running the sessions.

What are your priorities and goals for 2016?
Every year we set ourselves certain objectives and activities that are aimed at supporting and working with other government departments. We need to take the next step now and have one centralized media entity in Sharjah. We are planning to meet with every media team of every government department at least every three months to see what their problems and concerns are and how to address them. We are working to produce one coordinated media calendar for Sharjah. We need to streamline the system. We also need to improve our call center so that it is open and accessible 24 hours. We need to make the Press Club more attractive and accessible to journalists as well by providing more services and benefits. We also need to expand the scope of the Ruler’s PR and media coverage beyond Arabic and English to other languages, especially when he travels abroad.

12 Sep 2017

Who we are

The team, at Chii Richtown, comprises indigenous experts in renting, selling and managing commercial properties and villas in Dubai, UAE. Established in 2006, the company has over a decade of experience in tracking new property developments and estimating trends in prime market areas that help clients in meeting their requirements. We are currently selling and leasing out properties in all areas of Dubai.We strongly believe if you have a requirement for a home or office space, we will help you find it!

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