• Value Added Tax in the GCC

    Details on the new VAT established in the region covered by the GCC, including implementation best practices and documentation requirements. By Tanya Venegas, MBA, MHM, CHIA

  • Members Only: A Room for Robots in Hospitality

    Realistic uses for artificial intelligence are increasing, making way for machine-based assistance in accounting, marketing, customer service and more. This feature details current scenarios where robotics is used in the business environment, such as for accounting tasks.

  • Letter from the HFTP Global President: A New Year Equals New Possibilities

    Written By: Timothy G. Nauss, CHAE - We are officially in the year 2018. Now is the ideal time to reflect on the successes of the old year, and prepare to make this new year the best one ever. Just as we set goals for ourselves to make us healthier, happier and more successful, HFTP as an organization sets goals each year to better meet the needs of our members and the hospitality industry.

  • GDPR in Hospitality: Vendor Compliance Query Template Available to Industry

    As a professional association, Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) created a group of hospitality industry experts to develop hospitality-specific guidelines to assist with preparation for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance.

Hotel investments in MENA to hit record high in 2018

MEED · 9 January 2018
According to MEED Projects, the online projects tracking service, the value of new hotel investments in the MENA region could hit a record high in 2018.Ed James, Director of Content and Analysis at MEED Projects, said: "After a relatively subdued 2017 up to end of November which has seen US$5.45bn worth of new hotel construction contracts awarded, the value of hotels due to be awarded next year is more than US$14bn. This total would comfortably exceed the US$8.5bn awarded in 2016 and the previous record of US$11.9bn awarded in 2015."James added: "On the back of its forecasted performance, investment in hotels will comprise about 7 per cent of the total US$200bn scheduled projects spending in the MENA region next year, making it one of the most important construction subsectors. On a country basis, the UAE will be by far the largest market, with an expected US$8.4bn worth of contracts, followed by Saudi Arabia at US$1.9bn and Qatar at US$1.7bn."These figures will be discussed at the 14th edition of AHIC, which will be held from 17-19 April 2018 at the purpose-built AHIC Village in the grounds of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA).Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Co-Founder of AHIC, said: "These new figures are exciting for the Middle East hospitality investment community, which gathers annually at AHIC. With oil prices now trading significantly higher than the January 2016 lows, we expect to see signs of recovery and stability in most regional economies."He added: "There is still enormous potential for hotel development in this region, particularly as the industry seeks to diversify and we foresee significant growth in the mid-market and serviced apartments segments, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. With 'Focus on the Future' as our theme for AHIC 2018, the programme will include conference and networking sessions that tackle how to capitalise on these opportunities and maximise returns for the years ahead."Partner of AHIC 2018, Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, added that hotel investors would need to rise to the challenge of meeting the shifting demands of travellers and the specific requirements of certain demographic and geographic groups, such as millennials, families, and baby boomers, as well as halal travellers and those from emerging markets such as China and India."Investors need to understand these requirements and must also take into consideration from the outset which type of technology will drive the sector in the future - they need to consider this right at the beginning or risk becoming rapidly irrelevant," said Mattar.He observed: "The biggest risk for hotel investors is not embracing the changes and challenges outlined above and expecting traditional business to keep on coming. It's no longer a case of build it and they will come. It's more a case of build what they want, and they will come. There's a lot of competition on the global scene for the business of the new emerging markets. The hotel guest is now very much in the driving seat from the very design and product development phase."AHIC 2018, which promises to further knowledge, deepen existing relationships and forge new ones among the leaders of the hospitality investment community, will attract around 800 hotel investors, major developers, leading financiers, and C-level hotel executives to attend three days of content, networking and events.For registrations and for more information, visit:

AHIC 2018 to uncover the reality of hotel investment risks and returns in the global marketplace

MEED ·17 October 2017
Dubai, UAE. -- The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) will offer strategic insights to the principles of hotel investment, development and construction; showcase regional and global hospitality projects with live investment opportunities; and provide more networking events than ever before.Planning for 'AHIC on the Beach', the 14th edition of the annual knowledge and networking platform for the hotel investment community, which will be held from 17-19 April 2018 at the purpose-built AHIC Village in the grounds of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), is currently underway in collaboration with industry experts.The 2018 programme is being shaped following the AHIC Advisory Board, held at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai, at which 37 of the Middle East's leading hotel owners, developers, and operators and consultants gathered to debate issues focused around the key pillars of hotel investment, innovation and inspiration.The Advisory Board revealed a collective desire to build hotels for ROI, with land, development and construction costs all coming under scrutiny. Participants look to better understand value engineering, the use of renewable energy sources and sustainable construction for decreased costs - all topics that will be featured in the AHIC 2018 programme.Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, said: "Our annual Advisory Board meeting is an essential component of the programming for AHIC, and we are very grateful for the input of all members. Every year, the discussion is different and this debate was dominated by a clear focus on the costs of development versus the reality of returns. There was a thirst for knowledge around issues such as risk adjustment and returns, supply and security, facilitation of foreign investment, ownership models and even exit strategies for distressed assets."Worsley continued: "Our Advisory Board also discussed new investment vehicles; innovative finance models; cryptocurrencies and digital payments; the impact of the co-living and working movement on the hotel model; how to maximise the religious tourism market in KSA; and where and what is the new mid-market. These are the hard-hitting topics we plan to address at AHIC 2018."Considering the latest Middle East hotel pipeline and performance data, presented to the Advisory Board by Philip Wooller, Area Director Middle East, STR, owners and operators alike aired their concerns about the continuing imbalance between supply and demand and the inevitable consequence of declining RevPAR. Currently, the Middle East is one of only two regions globally, the other being South America, in which supply is outstripping demand, with supply increasing at a rate of 4.9% versus demand at 3.2%."Room rate alone will not be enough to drive revenues for owners, so hoteliers must look at ancillary revenue sources, from food and beverage and spa and wellness to MICE, retail and as yet largely untapped opportunities, such as shared working spaces," said Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, Managing Director - Middle East, Bench Events. "We are developing a specific content stream for AHIC 2018 to help our delegates understand the opportunities to innovate their business models in ways that will help drive returns".The Advisory Board also revealed a desire for insights from other business sectors and for the first time, AHIC 2018 will feature a 'Spotlight on Innovation' series with speakers from outside the hospitality industry taking to the stage.There will also be live-on-stage interviews with leading hotel operators, expected to reveal their approach to maintaining the competitive edge. Keith Barr, Chief Executive Officer of InterContinental Hotels Group, appointed in July 2017, is confirmed as a key speaker, along with Christoph Hoffmann, CEO and Partner, 25Hours and Amar Lalvani, CEO and Managing Partner, Standard International.In addition to three days of engaging content, AHIC 2018 will present its first Project Showcase, highlighting regional and international hotel investment opportunities.Locally, these will include Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the few markets bucking current performance trends, with Total Guest Nights up 17.7 per cent during the first six months of 2017 and Room Revenue increasing by 13.3 per cent.Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, said: "These strong performance indicators, which are expected to continue throughout the last quarter of 2017 and beyond, clearly outline the potential for investors in looking at Ras Al Khaimah for their next hospitality venture. As Ras Al Khaimah draws closer to reaching its one million visitors target by the end of 2018, and charts a path towards attracting 2.9 million visitors by 2025, the need for quality hotel rooms has never been so important.""To accommodate this growth in visitors, we are providing potential investors a range of innovative opportunities to develop stand out properties across the emirate," Mattar said, adding that these would be showcased at AHIC.RAKTDA is working closely with the AHIC team to create the custom-built AHIC Village, in partnership with renowned designer Harlequin Arena Group.John Emmerson, Director of Events, MEED, said: "Everything Ras Al Khaimah has to offer, from the highest mountain peak, to the depths of the sea and everywhere in between, made it the perfect location to enhance the AHIC experience within an authentic cultural setting. The venue and landscape provides an amazing opportunity for the industry to get away and focus on relationships, opportunities and knowledge. We're delighted that AHIC 2018 will take the industry out of the day to day, creating an environment for attendees to focus on connecting, learning and doing deals."The AHIC Village will feature purpose-built spaces for more than 800 delegates to conduct prearranged meetings onsite; pop-ups from innovative restaurateurs; activities for attendees to break the ice and strengthen relationships; informal beach bar networking areas and much more.For registrations and for more information, visit: www.arabianconference.comContact: Lisa Flanagan, Senior Communications Consultant, In2 Consulting; Office: +971 4 455 8499; Mobile: +971 52 689 5509

AHIC 2017 reveals strong potential in the mid-market hotel sector, with supply set to match that of luxury hotels in the GCC by 2021, reports STR

MEED ·27 April 2017
Dubai, UAE -- The economy and mid-market hotel segment was identified as presenting a significant opportunity for hotel owners and operators alike at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from 25-27 April, 2017 and organised by Bench Events and MEED.Expert speakers also identified a gap in the market for more experiential accommodation and entertainment attractions, especially in Dubai, as the market continues to diversify its hospitality offering.Now in its 13th year, the annual knowledge and networking platform for the global hospitality investment community, AHIC, attracted more than 700 delegates keen to better understand regional hospitality market fundamentals, opportunities and investment potential.In an exclusive presentation, STR Managing Director Robin Rossmann provided insight into the midscale pipeline and performance in the GCC, revealing that mid-market supply is set to match luxury in the GCC by 2021.According to STR, the 'Midscale' has out-performed the 'Upscale & Upper Mid Classes' and 'Luxury & Upper Upscale' classes since 2011 across the GCC.Rossmann observed that mid-market hotels are under-penetrated and pointed to significant growth potential underpinned by growing intra-regional travel and demand for affordable travel.Commenting on the trends, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman, Bench Events, Board Director, STR and Co-Founder of AHIC, said: "The mid-market has been discussed at AHIC for several years, but in 2017, we have witnessed a significant shift as the compelling investment model for lower development costs and higher, quicker returns has put the mid-market in favour. It was fascinating to explore the long-term view, looking at costs, rate strategy and returns with our many speakers and sponsors."Testament to the potential for the mid-market in the Middle East is the launch of US-based hotelier Choice Hotels International in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with a pipeline of seven signed hotels already and many more to come. We were delighted to welcome Stephen P. Joyce, President & CEO, Choice Hotels International, Inc, as one of our keynote speakers to gain insights from one of the world's leaders in the mid-market hotel industry."Commenting on the company's expansion, Stephen P. Joyce said the growth of the middle class and demand from travellers for quality, midscale accommodation had fueled Choice Hotels International's entry to the Middle East with three of its brands: Clarion, Comfort and Quality."We think the timing's now finally right for a company like Choice to enter the market in a fairly significant way and establish a strong moderate tier lodging component which is purpose-built, value-oriented, but high quality," said Joyce, during his live-on-stage interview with Jonathan Worsley.Joyce added: "Historically when you look at this region and what people considered moderate, they kind of pull the chandelier and pull the marble and they don't change the operating model. Our operating model is there should be 20-25 employees in the hotel; it should run very high margins; it should be relatively low capex to get in; relatively high margin production and low cost to operate, but at the same time, satisfy the guests' needs in a way that isn't being done currently."In a dedicated plenary panel session focused on investment in the mid-market, Elie Milky, Vice President Business Development MEA for The Rezidor Hotel Group, echoed this."We are very active in the midscale market in the Middle East, with 20 percent of our properties within that bracket. However, we have more in the pipeline along with serviced apartments. Operational efficiency starts at the development of the product; you may not need a comprehensive back of house and you can reduce the staff-to-guest ratio," said Milky.In the same panel, Christian Nader, Vice President Development, Middle East & Africa, Kempinski & Shaza Hotels, said the company's new venture, Mysk by Shaza, is carefully positioned in the upper-midscale bracket."While Shaza is five-star, we studied the ROI to position Mysk above the four-plus star rating," said Nader."Owners are taking a different approach than previously, moving away from the need to have a luxury five-star property. However, they tend to demand add-ons such as ballrooms. We are managing their expectations by explaining that the Mysk brand and offering is sufficient for the market," Nader added.In a separate session focused on Dubai and The Next Five Years 2017-2022, Gurdish Bassi, Economist at GRMC Advisory Consulting, revealed insights into tourist spend patterns in Dubai.He predicted that total tourist spend in Dubai is expected to reach AED144 billion by 2021, compared to AED113 billion in 2016, and that the largest spending increase would be in the Entertainment sector.Bassi said: "Shopping malls may not have it all; Entertainment and Experiential concepts will capture a significant proportion of total spend."Klaus Assmann, Vice President - Hospitality and Retail, Dubai Parks and Resorts, added his views on the further potential for Dubai."I think theme parks, I think more MICE space, I think much more out of the box thinking from hotel operators [will follow]. As we know, there's growth already regarding shopping malls, there are many, many more projects coming up like this. I think it becomes much more residential, much more freehold, just in general I think it will grow more and more but on the same pattern as it is now," said Assmann.Dr Martin Berlin, Partner, Deals Strategy ME, Global Deals Real Estate Leader, PwC, concluded: "Dubai will develop into a city that is on a par with other cities, other global megacities, other global destinations and gateway cities".The conversation at AHIC centred around the theme Catalysts of Change, with technology and digitisation highlighted by many speakers as having a major impact on the future of the hospitality industry, and also featured discussions centred around topics including asset management, overseas investment, F&B, brands, third-party management and alternative investment models.For more information visit:

Demographics and digitisation identified as two major Catalysts of Change impacting the global hotel industry at AHIC 2017

MEED ·26 April 2017
Dubai, UAE -- Catalysts of Change including the shift in global economic powers, demographics and ageing populations, and the impact of digitisation were some of the hot topics discussed live on stage during the opening sessions of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from 25-27 April, 2017 and organised by Bench Events and MEED.Now in its 13th year, the annual knowledge and networking platform for the global hospitality investment community, AHIC, attracted more than 700 delegates eager to learn more about the Catalysts of Change influencing the evolving persona of the hotel guest and driving innovation among hotel owners and operators alike.Jonathan Worsley, Chairman, Bench Events, Board Director, STR and Co-Founder of AHIC, introduced AHIC with the assistance of a robot co-host created by Isukashi, setting the scene for discussions on Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological breakthroughs.Commenting on the trends, Worsley said: "In the lead-up to AHIC during many conversations with our speakers, sponsors and the AHIC Advisory Board, it became clear that technology in its many and varied forms would be one of the major Catalysts of Change for the hospitality industry in the coming years. We wanted to give our delegates a demonstration of this with our AHIC robot and set the scene for three days of dynamic conversations."Worsley addressed these issues in the opening keynote session with Chris Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton, which this week announced it has the largest active pipeline in the GCC in terms of both rooms and properties, with more than 16,000 keys under construction and scheduled to open before 2020, according to STR.Chris Nassetta said that while AI and robotics would be a part of Hilton's future, at its core Hilton is a "business of people serving people"."Our Team Members differentiate Hilton by delivering an exceptional experience, something that is different from what people can get in another place, something that's special, something that's memorable, something that makes them want to come back," commented Nassetta. "The way I think of innovation, is how do we take the core of what we do and make it even better?"The topic of technological breakthroughs, such as AI, was identified as one of the top five megatrends by PwC Middle East's Partner and Deals Real Estate Leader Dr. Martin Berlin, who unveiled the new PwC Report Global Megatrends and their impact on Hospitality in the Middle East at AHIC.The trends presented by PwC were: Demographic and Social Change, with a polarising demand shift from the Silver Tourist to the Millennials and Generation Z; Shift in Global Economic Powers, as emerging economies are expected to surpass advanced economies in terms of international tourism arrivals by 2020; Accelerating Urbanisation, with 40 global megacities forecast by 2025; Climate Change and Resource Scarcity, predicted to impact the attractiveness of the Middle East as a destination; and Technological Breakthroughs, with connectivity as a key component of this.As Dr. Berlin explained: "The travel and tourism industry has witnessed rapid and fundamental infiltration of digitisation across the entire value chain. Combined with the demographic and social change the digitisation will lead to a change of the 'delivery' of hospitality products and services."These game-changing trends, or Catalysts of Change, shaped much of the conversation in the opening CEOs' panel session, featuring Stefan Leser, Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group; Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group; Steven Daines, CEO New Businesses and CEO HotelServices Africa and Middle East, AccorHotels; Alex Kyriakidis, President and MD, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International; and Robert Welanetz, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties & Acting CEO Majid Al Futtaim Hotels, moderated by Dr Berlin.Referring to the five PwC trends, Alex Kyriakidis said: "To take a couple and put them on the top, unquestionably there would be technology and not just its impact on the guest and the consumer but also on the way we operate. The second trend [to highlight] would be demographics - the changing demographics and what does that mean for technology and everything else that we do".The panelists were in agreement and emphasised the fact that technology impacted both the front- and back-of-house functions of their business.At Emaar Hospitality Group, Olivier Harnisch, who took up his role on March 1, 2017, said he was interested in the potential of IoT and near-field communications to "really change the nature of our guests' stay".Harnisch commented: "If you think about it, a guest's stay is still full of friction, right? All of us travel a lot and just think about how many tasks are have to programme your safe, reset the shower, set up the gym equipment...all this uses data that is available and could be automated with the two functions [IoT and near-field communication] that I mentioned."Stefan Leser said he was focused on using IoT and digitisation, which he referred to as Industry 4.0, to enable Jumeirah Group "to run hotels in a very different manner", using predictive maintenance in favour of preventative maintenance as an example.Accor's Steven Daines said he believed there is a "disruption going on that is much wider and much deeper" regarding the way that consumers look at travel and hospitality as a whole."Technology and intelligence and data are going to be the major disrupters in the coming years and that's in two ways," said Daines.Firstly, he said they would impact the way hoteliers both extract data and feed databases in a worthwhile way to personalise services and secondly, Daines predicted that the consumer would have access to better data as they researched travel and accommodation."It's so time consuming and tiring today to look for a holiday and I'm sure the intelligence will improve for the customer as well, and that's something I'm not sure we are quite prepared for," observed Daines.On the subject of planning and preparation, speaking from the investor's perspective, Robert Welanetz, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said he believed owners and operators faced a big challenge considering the vast investment technology required versus the risk of its "shelf-life until the next best idea".Here, Stefan Leser urged the industry to focus predominately on the impact of the technology, not the timing of it."In my role as CEO I need to make the calls about where the true impact lies. I need to be right on the impact, I don't need to be right on the timing. If there is one conclusion out of the last 10 years of technology, a lot of times you have underestimated the impact and you have overestimated the time of arrival and I think that is one of the conclusions that we need to be right on".The conversation at AHIC will continue over the next two days, with future discussions centred around topics including the mid-market, asset management, overseas investment, F&B, brands, third-party management and alternative investment models.For more information visit:
Article by Stefan Leser

How will you be a global catalyst for change?

MEED ·19 April 2017
In 2017 Jumeirah celebrates its 20th anniversary. As we prepared for this important milestone we considered not only our brand, our portfolio and offering but also our success and our responsibility. Being a catalyst for change is a responsibility. Hospitality companies effect change and are a driver for social and cultural evolution. Change comes in various guises and, certainly, today we are more able than ever to influence the way we live and the way we spend our valuable time. We are offering experiences and travel destinations that only a few generations ago would have been inconceivable for many.You cannot be a catalyst for change unless you are prepared to innovate. You must be comfortable with risk, however calculated it might be. You need to operate in a positive environment - where trying a new venture that does not ultimately succeed is not seen as failure. And you need to accept with ease that your decisions and actions are going to be open to scrutiny. Again, it comes down to being bold. An important spur in our own culture of bold thinking, and in maintaining our brand positioning as a leader in luxury hospitality, is our commitment to continuous improvement. It is one of our most important tenets. It applies as much to our colleagues, who are encouraged to develop and upskill, as it does to our brand and properties.If I look back just one year since I took the helm as Group CEO, I am astounded by the number of improvements and enhancements introduced across the company. Two of the most significant were the launch of The Terrace at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and the opening of Jumeirah Al Naseem. The Terrace reinvigorated an already unmatched and iconic hotel, offering guests a completely new and unique experience. Jumeirah Al Naseem completed the Madinat Jumeirah resort and took our Jumeirah brand in a fresh direction, with its contemporary modern luxury styling, without diminishing the Arabian hospitality, which so importantly underpins the Jumeirah experience.One important pillar of continuous improvement is to embrace technology. This is much more than investing in technology; it's understanding technology and what it offers. Many technologies created for one industry have an indirect impact on other industries. Don't limit your thinking to hospitality tech - look outside the sector. What other technologies are being used and how can you adopt, in part or in whole, within your own business. Be inspired by technology and adapt it.Virtual reality was created as an entertainment experience and was adopted, and adapted by the gaming industry in the 1990s. Google adopted and adapted it to create Street View and it became a tool for architects and town planners. Soon it was adopted and adapted by theme parks, augmenting reality to provide the thrills of the rollercoaster without the ride. And last year the world chess championship was broadcast live in 360 deg VR and VR has been adopted by American football, and other sports broadcasters.We innovated VR tech to create Jumeirah Inside, the first collaboration between Google and a hospitality company. VR means we can offer viewers a personalized, curated journey around our properties. And it gave us global reach. It is available in five languages, across mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Although a substantial investment, it is a simple idea that has transformed the guest experience - it's now about the pre-guest experience. VR has enabled us to reach the guest before they visit the properties and we treat them as guests before they walk through the door.We have used technology to effect change in how travel choices are made and close the gap between aspiration and reality. We have sought to eliminate the risk that a holiday or travel experience will disappoint or that time will not be well spent. In a world where time is the most highly valued commodity of all, who can afford to waste it? We have also eliminated some of the uncertainty that can procrastinate the decision-making process. In a world of choice - you can't choose.If we can be a global catalyst for change it is through being a visionary and inspiring others to be bolder. Our bold thinking is a reflection of Dubai and driven by the inspiration that surrounds us. We are consciously creating an environment that embraces continuous improvement. We believe that we have a responsibility to be catalyst for change - and we are fulfilling that responsibility and sharing our insights with the hospitality community. Our aim is not only to inspire our guests but also our industry peers.

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference to unveil global hospitality research trends impacting the Middle East

MEED ·19 April 2017
Dubai, UAE. 19 April 2017 - Ahead of next week's Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from April 25 to 27, its speakers have unveiled insights into the global trends and market sentiment that are currently making an impact on the hospitality industry across the Middle East.Chairman of Bench Events and Co-founder of AHIC, Jonathan Worsley, said: "AHIC is the premium networking and knowledge platform for the hospitality investment community in the Middle East and beyond. As such, we are committed to providing our delegates with the very latest market intelligence and are thrilled to be unveiling new reports at AHIC 2017, including Global Megatrends from PwC and the AHIC BLP Market Sentiment Survey Review in partnership with Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP (BLP)."On 26 April, PwC Middle East's Partner and Deals Real Estate Leader Dr. Martin Berlin, will present, for the first time, the new PwC Report Global Megatrends and their impact on Hospitality in the Middle East. Later that day, Berlin will take part in the AHIC Research Den in a session entitled: Delving Into The Five Global Mega Trends and How They Relate to Middle East Hospitality.Ahead of the conference, Dr. Martin Berlin said: "We are delighted to take part in AHIC for the fourth year around. The Middle East finds itself at the epicentre of the several megatrends that are shaping our world today. These in turn have a direct impact on the region's hospitality industry."A polarising demand shift in generations, advancement of emerging technologies, increasing connectivity and awareness in urbanisation and tourism, as well as a changing climate and the evident impact of digitisation in today's world will shape the future of hospitality and tourism. Stay tuned for our report on global megatrends and their impact on the Middle East's travel and tourism industry, which we look forward to launch at this year's AHIC," said Berlin.Later the same day, Robin Rossmann, Managing Director, STR will present an exclusive data report on Performance and Pipeline for the three-four star segment at AHIC 2017, in a preview to one of the most anticipated sessions: The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market. Rossmann will be joined on stage by representatives from operators including Emaar Hospitality Group, Louvre Hotels Group, Shaza Hotels and The Rezidor Hotel Group along with owners from Action Hotels and Ghina Real Estate Company to discuss the potential of this important segment."The Middle East has been the fastest growing region in the hospitality industry over the last decade in terms of supply," said Robin Rossmann. "With 153,460 rooms across 540 projects currently under contract, the region is set to add 49% on top of its current existing supply. As far as markets, Dubai leads the way with over 42,000 rooms in the pipeline, followed by Makkah with almost 30,000. While this represents significant expansion for Dubai, demand has also continued to grow. We're projecting some declines for the market's occupancy levels over the next few years, as supply is expected to outpace demand. While Dubai continues to bring in substantial leisure business, which has helped offset much of the supply growth to date, it will become increasingly challenging for the market to continue maintaining this balance as it continues to expand."The dynamic market of Dubai will take centre-stage as AHIC presents its first Dubai Tourist Profiling Report, researched and written by GRMC Advisory Consulting, on April 27 in a not-to-be-missed session on Dubai and the Next Five Years 2017-2022.Presented by Gurdish Bassi, Economist, GRMC Advisory Consulting, this report will provide a unique insight into Dubai tourist spend patterns, activities and motives - and analyse how the tourist profile will evolve by 2021.In a sneak preview of the Dubai Tourist Profiling Report, GRMC Advisory Consulting forecasts a "conspicuous change" in the distribution of tourists coming to Dubai.Gurdish Bassi explained: "Multiple primary research campaigns with hotel guests across Dubai revealed that 34% of Asian visitors were first-time overseas travellers - this statistic increases to 62% when only two-star and three-star hotels are considered. As affluence levels in tier two and three cities of Asian economies rise, an increasing number of first-time overseas travellers will seek Dubai as the first choice of destination, as it offers a comprehensive mix of activities, and is strategically located."He added: "As more Asians (increasingly from second and third-tier cities) replace Westerners, spending will witness growth levels lower than growth in number of visitors."Dubai is on track to reach the target of 20 million tourists (hotel / hotel apartment and staying with friends / family combined) by 2020 - this implies a 7% annualised growth rate up to 2020. However, the expenditure by these tourists will only grow by 4.5% because of the underlying change in visitor profile," predicted Bassi.In an analysis of the sentiment of AHIC delegates themselves, Scott Antel, Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP (BLP) will present the findings of the second annual AHIC BLP Market Sentiment Survey Review. Looking at 2016 vs 2017, the survey will analyse the shifts in market mood and forecasts.Ahead of his presentation in The Research Den on April 26, Antel revealed that 72% of respondents predicted there will be "some growth" in MENA RevPAR in 2017 - an improvement in sentiment from 2016, where most respondents predicted "no growth" or a "decline in growth".Antel quoted one respondent, who said: "People have gotten used to these obstacles (low energy prices, sanctions, geopolitical uncertainty) as the "new norm" and have adapted and are getting on with it."However, Antel said one area that still caused major concern was that of the OTA model. According to the AHIC BLP Market Sentiment Survey Review, 90% of respondents feel operators should bear more of the costs of recapturing guests back to their own direct booking platforms. Antel commented: "The very real dilution of the brands' distribution systems with the rise of the OTAs has not been reflected in the cost charged by the operator for marketing and distribution. If anything it has increased as operators try and lure back (through discounts, upgrades, frequent guest programmes) the customers they lost but on the owners' dime. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the survey results," asserted Antel."Suggestions from respondents for redressing this perceived imbalance included decreasing the central marketing charges of operators or waiving those charges on guest revenues attributable to bookings not made directly through the operators own website," Antel added.To find out more from PwC's Global Megatrends and their impact on Hospitality in the Middle East; GRMC Advisory Consulting's Dubai Tourist Profiling Report; The AHIC BLP Market Sentiment Survey Review; and STR's latest performance and pipeline data, register now for the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017.The full programme for AHIC 2017 is available here.

AHIC Hotel Investment Briefing in Jeddah Highlights Development as Critical for Hospitality Industry Success

MEED ·27 March 2017
Dubai, UAE -- Hoteliers in Jeddah and the Holy Cities attending this year's Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) highlighted the government's efforts in diversifying the economy by investing in large-scale development projects in efforts to boost the hospitality industry.The briefing on 14 March, saw hoteliers, hospitality investors and owners discuss the key regional issues impacting the local market ahead of AHIC, which is running from 25 to 27 April 2017 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.In a panel discussion, delegates discussed the large-scale projects underway in the region and what that meant for investment in the tourism sector. The projects include King Abdulaziz Airport, King Abdullah Economic City and the Haramain High Speed Rail, which will link the Holy Cities of Medina and Mecca as it passes through the new City, the new Airport and Jeddah.Abdellah Essonni, Chief Hospitality Officer, Maad International Co, pointed out that the Maad Hospitality Towers, with its 11,000 rooms will be delivered in phases starting at the end of 2017. "This project, along with a dozen other mega-developments across the Kingdom, are a living testament to the government and the people's will to break the economy's dependency on oil," he said."The World Travel & Tourism Council foresees the total contribution of travel and tourism to Saudi Arabia's GDP will reach close to 10 percent from its current seven percent, and we at Maad International are proud to be allowed to play a small role in these diversification efforts."Hala Matar Choufany, President Middle East & Africa, HVS, welcomed the government's drive to build the new developments, as well as infrastructure, adding, "Now is the time when I would encourage the government to review its visa policies to facilitate the employment of more people as the demand for manpower grows ever bigger to support the mixed-use developments underway. Improving the system would provide substantial growth in the hospitality sector."Master developer of the Mayasem project in Jeddah, Shamayel United Development Company, in studying the need for family entertainment as part of its overall masterplan, Usamah Al Senan, its Chief Executive Officer, called for new hotels in the city to explore stronger propositions for family leisure with dedicated resorts. "I would urge smart hotel operators to partner and promote different types of entertainment options in the city to further enhance the visitor experience."The lively discussion was aided in its assessment by the thorough presentation of Ismail AlKamal, Director of AlKamal International on the opportunities and challenges facing hospitality construction in Saudi Arabia."Being in the hotel construction industry, the AHIC regional briefing was a great opportunity to gain insight on the actual indicators of hotel supply versus demand in the local market," he said."The information provided was extremely valuable to us and will definitely assist us in planning for the years ahead. In addition, the vibrant discussion between operators, investors and developers at the briefing highlighted the challenges faced by each and where the opportunities are in the market."I'm really looking forward to attending the conference in Dubai next month, to expand on the themes we talked about during the briefing and exchange ideas with other leaders in the industry, Ismail concluded.The full programme for AHIC 2017 is available here.AHIC 2017 will bring together more than 700 hotel owners, investors, developers, operators, consultants and experts from professional services to debate the hospitality investment climate against a backdrop of global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic environment.The conference will feature panel sessions entitled: The MacroEconomic Outlook for Middle East Hospitality; Do You Need An International Brand?; An A-Z of Reflagging Your Hotel; The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market; and Concepts for the GCC.Sessions specifically targeted at hospitality investors will tackle issues such as white label operations, asset management, alternative models of investment, how to exit a contract, overseas acquisitions, working with master developers and achieving ROI on F&B.For registrations and for more information, visit: www.arabianconference.comPhoto caption: Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED, leads a panel discussion at the AHIC briefing in Jeddah; from left: Hala Matar Choufany, President Middle East & Africa, HVS; Abdellah Essonni, Chief Hospitality Officer, Maad International Co.; Ismail AlKamal, Director, Al Kamal International; and Usamah Al Senan, Chief Executive Officer, Shamayel.

How will you be a global catalyst for change? - Wyndham Hotel Group

MEED ·23 March 2017
The ongoing digital revolution, emerging internet of things and advent of the sharing economy are having a profound effect on the way people do business across the world. It's high time they were seen as enablers, not disruptors, and hospitality investors, developers, owners and operators alike have the chance in 2017 to capitalise on these for future growth, profitability and success. In the lead up to the 2017 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners how they will be a global catalyst for change.Despite the challenges of the last few years, political as well as economic, the MEA region has proven its resilience in many ways. The region remains dynamic with many opportunities for growth.The evolving budgets of both leisure and business guests, together with an improved midscale and budget hotel offering, have created a lot of opportunity in the region. The increased number of people travelling to the MEA region (due to cheaper airfares and the growing connectivity of budget airlines to this region) means that we are seeing healthy growth within midscale and budget markets as well as at the luxury end.But in this increasingly digital age, simply meeting guests' basic travel needs in terms of convenience and quality is not always enough. Visitors expect a fully connected, digital experience from placing a booking through to the moment they check out - or even beyond, when we consider elements of the guest's journey such as collecting loyalty points and leaving feedback or reviews after their stay. They demand a seamless experience at every touchpoint, and if a hotel doesn't deliver this - there's no doubt that guests will go elsewhere next time and the operator will lose out on valuable stays.On the other hand, if operators do invest in the latest technology and systems in order to build this unified customer journey, they can expect to reap the rewards in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty. A cloud-based central reservations and property management system, for example, helps hoteliers to effectively and efficiently manage daily pricing and inventory, resulting in a better experience for the end user.A hotel's marketing and communications must also be outstanding in order to cut through the noise and encourage bookings versus their competitors. Websites should be responsive, allowing guests to check real-time availability and pricing, and they should give visitors a true flavour of the brand through its look and feel - whether that's ultra-luxury or a limited service hotel.Of course all these elements of the customer journey must be mobile accessible too, through mobile-enabled websites or better still - an app for guests. Consumers are always on the go so want to be able to make, amend or check reservations easily from their phone, and a mobile app is the most convenient way for them to do this.If operators take their guests' digital experience seriously and invest resource into getting it right, they will certainly see their visitor numbers grow from both new and repeat guests. Giving visitors a seamless journey from start to finish will ultimately create valuable brand advocates, meaning operators' investment in the most up to date technology is worth its value multiple times over.
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How will you be a global catalyst for change? - Carlson Rezidor| By Ramsay Rankoussi

MEED ·21 March 2017
The ongoing digital revolution, emerging internet of things and advent of the sharing economy are having a profound effect on the way people do business across the world. It's high time they were seen as enablers, not disruptors, and hospitality investors, developers, owners and operators alike have the chance in 2017 to capitalise on these for future growth, profitability and success. In the lead up to the 2017 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners how they will be a global catalyst for change.In essence, change can be translated as welcoming new trends, either by adapting or by leading those shifts from the status quo. The interconnected world we live in, the instantaneous access to new information and the mobility we benefit from has resulted in a global environment already accessible from a finger touch.One way innovative corporations have succeeded is "to think globally and act locally" but one could now wonder if our global impact is de facto achieved given our social and often virtual exposure to the digital world at every instant.Technology has always been the instrument of progress, evolution or even revolution. Every era has witnessed an accelerated and exponential growth caused by the introduction of a new way of doing things, a philosophy of trying differently and a nature of taking risks. The industrial revolution was probably one of the biggest to impact globally in the 19th century, as we fundamentally changed the way we produced and manufactured goods with the help of machinery. In today's time, we are victims of the information revolution with internet soon a physiological need on the pyramid of Maslow.Hospitality has been an industry of limited changes as the true essence of the business remains a people business where ladies and gentlemen care about ladies and gentlemen. The use of technology is helping in learning more about our guests, their needs, their preferences but has also optimized our operations in becoming more efficient, monitoring productivity and controlling costs.Paradigm shifts are often caused by either challenges or opportunities ahead. Online distributions channels were the first disruptors and now new shared economies platforms have increased their competitive presence in the market. Asking how we could as an industry become catalyst of change might ideally force us to ask the question on how differently maybe the definition of service and hospitality needs to be reflected.Convenience has become the living rule of the new generation and leading change would be leading the path to a new way of experiencing hospitality. Living through an enjoyable moment is now the result of every moment of truth being met with simple perfection. Maybe the response to our industry is in mindfulness - allowing the guest to complete his journey smoothly and having the ability to live in his moment, at every moment.While we could look and debate on ways of reducing the investment cost of a hotel or how to increase our reach in sourcing new markets, maybe we should take that moment of living presently influenced by convenience, simplicity and perfection.Becoming the catalyst of change doesn't necessitate innovations or a technological revolution but rather accepting to face a new reality and translating it in an uninterrupted experience. The progress our industry can achieve would start from the moment a decision is taken and would never end.Imagine the journey of the individual deciding to travel from A to B who would have no complaints to share publicly because his booking was correctly processed, the taxi driver had respected the road code, the flight was on time, a friendly smile on arrival, the luggage on the belt and the room was ready - in essence, a simple and legitimate journey but yet never fully satisfied.Our industry is still too scattered with clear separation between airlines, hotels, transportation, public services and yet we are all under the same duty of service and all relevant to the world of tourism. Maybe we should then all agree to stop looking at ourselves in isolation and selfishly but rather focus on the consumer and ensure that one day their entire journey is taken care of, where every moment matters and where we all succeeded collectively and defended the cause of humanity.

Middle East hotel investment opportunities abound in the mid-market segment

MEED ·20 March 2017
Dubai, UAE. 20 March 2017. A variety of factors have aligned to make the mid-market hotel segment ripe for investment in the Middle East, a topic that will be discussed in depth at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from April 25 to 27.Speaking ahead of AHIC, the annual knowledge and networking platform for the hotel investment community, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, said: "Economic conditions impacting consumer spend and the current supply-demand ratio in many markets in the Middle East, which are saturated with luxury developments and underdeveloped in the mid-market, have combined to encourage investors to see the potential in midscale hotels."In our conversations with owners and operators alike, the mid-market has been identified as a major investment opportunity for 2017. We are, therefore, dedicating two panel sessions to this at AHIC: The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market on April 26 and Upscale is the New Luxury on April 27."The subject of mid-market expansion has been a hot topic at AHIC before but now, the compelling investment model for lower development costs, a result of bank liquidity, market volatility and lender caution, is finally putting the mid-market in favour. We are looking forward to a debate that will explore the current alignment with a long-term view, looking at costs, rate strategy and returns," said Worsley.A gap analysis from global hospitality firm HVS, a sponsor of AHIC, highlighted "the need for additional affordable accommodation in most major established markets such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jeddah and Riyadh", reported the company's President, Middle East and Africa, Hala Matar Choufany."A market-wide rate analysis further confirms the development opportunity for midscale and limited service hotels that require limited investments and provide higher returns than traditional upscale hotels and developments," observed Choufany.According to data and research specialist STR, also a sponsor of AHIC, there are 40,231 rooms in the Luxury Chain segment in the Middle East and 60,909 in the Upper Upscale Chain, compared to 17,914 rooms in Upper Midscale Chains and 15,991 rooms in Midscale Chains, as of January 2017.Looking at the STR Construction pipeline, there are 12,571 rooms under construction in the luxury chain segment and 2,897 rooms under construction in the midscale chains. The latest data on the current room stock and hotel pipeline will be revealed at AHIC by Robin Rossman, Managing Director of STR.Pascal Gauvin, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East and Africa at InterContinental Hotels Group, said that while there will always be a need for luxury hotels in this region, the company was focused on the mid-market segment "in order to fill the gaps in the market."It is clear that in the luxury segment, the capital costs are high and the ROI is not necessarily high and/or immediate. The mid-market segment on the other hand has lower capital expenditure and does provide high return on investment in a shorter span of time. Given that there is a lack of quality mid-scale hotels in the market, the returns can be delivered in a shorter period," Gauvin added.Elie Younes, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer, at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, a Platinum Sponsor of AHIC, observed that the need for equilibrium justified the growth in new supply in the mid-market.However, he said: "When one looks at the dynamics of this particular segmentation and its investment model, the yield factor is the main objective. Mid-market brands, to remain relevant to the investment community, have to be relatively cheaper to build, efficient in design and with minimum back of house. Equally, this lean and efficient design has to translate into lower operating costs and higher profitability - the sum of those two factors result into higher yield and therefore higher interest to investors given their basic objective of ROI."Rami Moukarzel, Vice President Development & Acquisitions MENA for Louvre Hotels Group, who is speaking on the Mid-Market session at AHIC, added "with tourism authorities seeking to establish more sustainable destinations, the need for midscale offerings is paramount to achieving the arrival numbers and receipts from travel and tourism."This, coupled with corporations and governmental authorities seeking more cost effecting lodging solutions for their people, has put further emphasis on creating quality branded budget hotels. One can't also discount the importance of offering leisure travellers, groups and transit arrivals an affordable option for their visits."For investors, Moukarzel said the benefits were low operating costs, low manning requirements and high profitability, with quicker ROIs."If designed well and with experienced midscale brands you expect very efficient, streamlined and concentrated spaces. GOP levels are usually 10 to even 20 points higher in percentage points to that of an upscale offering," said Moukarzel.One of the leading owners in the economy and midscale hotel segment in the Middle East, Action Hotels PLC which is listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, currently owns and operates 12 hotels and works closely with operators such as AccorHotels, IHG and Louvre Hotels Group with brands such as ibis, Holiday Inn and Tulip Inn who manage their hotels.Alain Debare, CEO of Action Hotels PLC, said: "We have developed significant experience in the sector. We ensure our hotels are designed and built efficiently, and managed in a way to drive early and resilient profitability. We focus on delivering attractive investments for our shareholders."He also added that in addition to the economy and the mid-market hotels sector being an attractive investment, "there are high barriers to entry in the ME with restrictions on ownership, compliance to local regulations and the ability to secure prime land in the right location."Debare explained: "Location is absolutely critical to the success of any hotel and access to prime locations are hard to come by unless you have the right contacts and connections. Action Hotels is spearheading the development of economy and mid-market hotels in the region using the experience and connections of our Board and our early commitment to the sector giving us access to the all-essential prime locations in key gateway destinations. In addition, we are very hands-on: as owners, we know how important it is to be actively involved at every stage of the project from the design development to value engineering moving into operations - to ensure that each element works together and each hotel drives superior returns."There is also opportunity for operators and owners alike to create brands to fill the market gap, such as Rove Hotels, a joint venture between Emaar Properties and Meraas, which is being rolled out to 10 locations in Dubai, and Mysk by Shaza.Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, sponsor of AHIC, commented: "Emaar Hospitality Group is leveraging this opportunity through our Rove Hotels, where we focus on delivering authentic urban experiences for our visitors. Such approaches - where we distinguish the brand by creating distinctive USPs - are important. As operators, it is imperative that we identify and create a new market niche that is not just based on affordability. Rove Hotels, for example, has been envisaged as a social and cultural hub for international explorers."Christian Nader, Vice President Development Middle East & Africa, Kempinski and Shaza Hotels, who is speaking at AHIC, said the company was seeing a continued interest in the midscale and upscale segments, especially in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE."Since the launch in April 2016 of our new four-star brand 'Mysk by Shaza', the large number of inquiries we received from investors interested in Mysk reflects the shift in market behaviour, investment appetite, and return expectations. Many markets are saturated in the five-star and luxury segment, and diversification of the hotel offering is becoming a necessity," he said.AHIC 2017 will bring together more than 700 hotel owners, investors, developers, operators, consultants and experts from professional services to debate the hospitality investment climate against a backdrop of global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic environment.The conference will feature panel sessions entitled: Global Catalysts for Change; The MacroEconomic Outlook for Middle East Hospitality; Do You Need An International Brand?; An A-Z of Reflagging Your Hotel; and Concepts for the GCC.Sessions specifically targeted at hospitality investors will tackle issues such as white label operations, asset management, alternative models of investment, how to exit a contract, overseas acquisitions, working with master developers and achieving ROI on F&B.The full programme for AHIC 2017 is available here.For registrations and for more information, visit:

Top 10 Catalysts For Change Impacting Middle East Hotels

MEED ·26 February 2017
Hospitality industry experts shared their insights on trends, opportunities and challenges ahead of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from April 25 to 27, in a series of exclusive webinars.The experts included Khalid Anib, CEO, Abu Dhabi National Hotels, who will be speaking at AHIC on the subject of 'Abu Dhabi in the Spotlight'; Richard Thompson, Editorial Director at MEED, who will moderate the Hotel CEO panel session entitled 'Catalysts for Change; and Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and co-organiser of AHIC, who will host a live interview with Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels in the closing session for AHIC 2017.The 10 top trends, covering everything from distribution and disruptors to artificial intelligence and innovation, are highlighted with video testimonials, here:1. Diversification of tourism revenueFollowing the decline in oil price that shaped the economic outlook for the Middle East in 2016, hospitality markets with a reliance on business from the Oil & Gas and Government sectors, such as Abu Dhabi, Doha and Riyadh, experienced a decline in room revenue. Thus, these markets needed to diversify their target segments and revenue sources, as Khalid Anib, CEO, Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH), explains.For more on this topic, don't miss the session entitled 'The 2017 Macroeconomic Outlook for Middle East Hospitality on 26 April at AHIC.2. Demand for more affordable, quality accommodationAligned with the current economic outlook for the Middle East and many of its target markets, including Europe and Asia, the industry is experiencing demand for more affordable accommodation. More quality upscale and mid-market accommodation is expected to come online to meet this need. ADNH, owner of some of the UAE's most luxurious resorts including The Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas and The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, is seeking to develop in the entry-level five-star segment, as CEO Khalid Anib reveals. This topic will be debated in depth at AHIC in the session entitled 'The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market'.3. The distribution battle rumbles onOwners argue that it's time for operators to address the ongoing cost of OTA commissions and take innovative, proactive measures to drive direct bookings. Operators need to engage with the consumer and understand better what drives the customer to book online. Otherwise, from the owner's perspective, these commissions are not only painful; they also significantly reduce the operator's value proposition. According to Khalid Anib, operators need to take initiative to bring back the value of distribution to the owners.4. A New Era of disruptorsJonathan Worsley, Chairman at Bench Events, observes that tools are coming into the market to help operators offer transparent rates and bring confidence back to the consumer. Worsley says hotels are beginning to move in the right direction and drive back distribution to their business models, helped by the recent merger and acquisition activity in the industry.5. Operating model efficiency under fireThe current business environment provides opportunity for hotel brands to revise their operating models. According to Khalid Anib at ADNH, they need to put aside historical trends and focus on how to become efficient in the current market scenario. Here, Anib recommends operators in the UAE follow the example of hotels in Paris or London when it comes to staffing, or alternatively, consider clustering.6. An Explosion of BrandsWe have witnessed an explosion of brands in the hotel marketplace in recent times, a trend that has defied industry critics who have long argued that the market is saturated. From the consumer perspective, there has never been as much choice in the lifestyle sector, with both independent, niche operators launching boutique brands and the large chains also competing in this space with their own products, spearheaded some years ago by Starwood's successful debut and growth of W. Here's our panellists' take on the trend.7. Artificial IntelligenceLooking forward at the trends set to impact hospitality investment and development over the next five to 10 years and Jonathan Worsley identifies artificial intelligence as one to watch. It's a sensitive topic and one that will be addressed at AHIC's first-ever Pecha Kucha night on 25 April, where leading designers and entrepreneurs will present their insights on the 'hotel of the future'.8.. Staffing and superstarsWhen forecasting the outlook for the Middle East hospitality industry, hotel development needs to be considered alongside talent development, of both the global hospitality workforce and local GCC nationals looking to make a career in the industry. Jonathan Worsley discusses the role models for future hoteliers as he ponders where future heroes will come from.9. Smart developmentFrom feasibility and concept creation through to operations and staffing, smart development will be critical for the future of the Middle East hospitality industry. This includes capitalising on the digital revolution to develop a business that can be streamlined or up scaled when needed, says ADNH's Khalid Anib. Don't miss the Pecha Kucha presentations at AHIC on 'Building Smart Hotels' to get insights from more experts on the topic.10. Innovation, but not to reach the moon!Finally, looking forward, the desire for innovation remains one of the top priorities for hotel owners and investors. However, they are quick to point out it shouldn't be innovation for the sake of change, but innovation to help determine efficiency, manage cost components and drive revenue. It's time to forget historic business performance and adapt to the new normal, say the experts. Current innovations, game changers, and disruptors will be discussed further at AHIC 2017 in the opening CEOs' panel session, being held on the morning of 26 April and featuring Stefan Leser, Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group; Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group; Steven Daines, COO New Businesses and CEO HotelServices Africa and Middle East, AccorHotels; and Jean-Gabriel Peres, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kerzner International.This session will tackle the impact of the ongoing digital revolution, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), the advent of the sharing economy and the changing face of the consumer on today's hotel businesses. The speakers will share their insights, learning and predictions on these so-called disruptors.For registrations and for more information, visit: Contact: Frances Barton, Media Relations Director, In2 Consulting;; Office: +971 4 455 8499; Mobile: +971 50 650 3900About Bench EventsGlobal event organiser Bench Events has a long track record of delivering multiple premium hotel investment conferences and forums across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.Market leading annual conferences include the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai, now in its 13th year, the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) the new Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC), The Summit in London and the Latin American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conferences (SAHIC).Bench Events' extensive portfolio also includes the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) in Dubai and AviaDev, designed to promote the future air connectivity in Africa.Bench Events' mission is enabling prosperity by facilitating growth, networking, and thought leadership in the hospitality industry worldwide. About MEEDFor 50 years business leaders have been relying on MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) to give them a wealth of factual, unbiased business information that they need to be successful. The MEED brand represents an unrivalled portfolio of high calibre business information products, online services and premier networking events. MEED Conferences is part of the leading information brand in the Middle East working to provide delegates with the very latest business sensitive information. Over the past 12 years, MEED Conferences has organised events attended by senior government officials and thousands of international business people.The conference series is aimed at companies actively seeking business in the markets of the Middle East. MEED is well established as the source of strategic and accurate regional information placing it in a unique position to bring together high-calibre speakers. SponsorsSponsors of AHIC 2017 are: Al Marjan Island, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Jumeirah Group, and Katara Hospitality as Platinum Sponsors; AccorHotels, Emaar Hospitality Group, Hilton, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Marriott International, Bahrain Economic Development Board, Club Med, Wyndham Hotel Group, SMIT Morocco, and IFA Hotel Investments as Emerald Sponsors; Action Hotels, Alkamal International, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, HVS, Langham Hospitality Group, Egyptian Resorts Company, Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces, Jabal Omar Development, Melia Hotels International, Louvre Hotels Group, Modul University Dubai, Shaza Hotels and STR as Gold Sponsors.

Global hotel industry CEOs from Hilton, AccorHotels and Louvre Hotels Group to headline the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017

MEED · 9 February 2017
Keynote speakers including Chris Nassetta, S ebastien Bazin and Pierre-Fr ed eric Roulot descend on Dubai to offer an international perspective on the dynamic Middle East hospitality industry Global leaders from some of the world's largest hotel chains will take to the stage at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC), being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from April 25-27, in a series of CEO keynote sessions.The annual knowledge and networking platform for the hotel investment community is set to welcome Chris Nassetta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hilton; Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels; and Pierre-Frederic Roulot, Chief Executive Officer of Louvre Hotels Group, as it takes on a distinctly international theme for its 13th edition.Speaking ahead of AHIC, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, said: "As the Middle East plays an increasingly important role in the international hospitality industry for owners and operators alike, it seemed only right to bring a global perspective to AHIC. We are delighted to welcome our keynote speakers to the conference and look forward to hearing their take on the current state of the hospitality industry and their plans to adapt to an ever-evolving marketplace."The AHIC conference programme will open on Wednesday 26 April with a one-to-one interview with Chris Nassetta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hilton, live on stage hosted by Richard Dean, Presenter of The Business Breakfast on Dubai Eye.Speaking ahead of the conference, Nassetta said: "The Middle East is a very important market for the hospitality industry, and Hilton sees tremendous growth potential here in the years ahead. I am honored to keynote AHIC this year, and I look forward to a great conference and many productive conversations with the region's key leaders."The opening keynote will be followed by a panel session entitled Global Catalysts For Change, featuring Stefan Leser, Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group; Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group; Steven Daines, COO New Businesses and CEO HotelServices Africa and Middle East AccorHotels; and Jean-Gabriel Peres, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kerzner International.This session will tackle the impact of the ongoing digital revolution, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), the advent of the sharing economy and the changing face of the consumer on today's hotel businesses. The speakers will share their insights, learnings and predictions on these so-called disruptors.Stefan Leser, Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group, commented: "Jumeirah Group's partnership with Bench Events was instrumental in getting The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference established and we have been proud hosts at Madinat Jumeirah since the first conference in 2004. I am a firm believer in collaboration and AHIC is a significant opportunity for industry leaders and influencers to connect, and work together, to further grow and develop the Middle East hospitality sector both regionally and internationally."On Thursday 27 April, Pierre-Frederic Roulot, CEO of Louvre Hotels Group, which is owned by Shanghai-based Jin Jiang International Hotels (Group) Co., will present a keynote session on the growing influence of the East on the international hotel industry.In advance of AHIC, Roulot said: "Today, we are witnessing record travel between Asia and the Middle East and Louvre Hotels Group is positioned to play a strategic role in the regional travel growth."Our established presence across Europe, along with the expansion in China with new build hotels such as the Campanile Shanghai, in addition to the acquisition of Indian hospitality chain Sarovar highlights our commitment. Connectivity between key Asian and Middle Eastern markets in which we are well represented, offers us a compelling and exciting challenge".AHIC 2017 will close with a much-anticipated keynote interview with Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels, live from Paris via video conference.In this session, Bazin promises to reveal insights behind the diversification of AccorHotels and his outlook for the future.Bazin commented: "We operate in a world where change is the only constant and obviously our industry has been tremendously disrupted in the recent past years in many aspects, economy, technology, cultural, etc. Those changes bring amazing opportunities provided we are agile and dare to take risks. This is what we have been undertaking for the past three years at AccorHotels: opening one new hotel every 36 hours to expand our presence while inventing new products and services away from a hotel room to increase our market share into something different from what we are accustomed to."The full programme for AHIC 2017 has now been launched and is available here.AHIC 2017 will bring together more than 700 hotel owners, investors, developers, operators, consultants and experts from professional services to debate the hospitality investment climate against a backdrop of global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic environment.The conference will feature panel sessions entitled: The MacroEconomic Outlook for Middle East Hospitality; Do You Need An International Brand?; An A-Z of Reflagging Your Hotel; The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market; and Concepts for the GCC.Speakers on the topic of the MacroEconomic Outlook include Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International; Amine Moukarzel, President MENA, Louvre Hotels Group; Dr Badr Al Badr, Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality; and Jean-Paul Pigat, Senior Economist, Global Markets and Treasury, Emirates NBD.Sessions specifically targeted at hospitality investors will tackle issues such as white label operations, asset management, alternative models of investment, how to exit a contract, overseas acquisitions, working with master developers and achieving ROI on F&B.For registrations and for more information, visit:

AHIC's Regional Briefing in Qatar Pinpoints Diversification in the Hospitality Sector as Key to Future Success

MEED · 7 February 2017
This year's Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) will focus on diversification in the hospitality sector in response to the challenges faced by the region, according to the conclusions of a regional briefing in Doha in the run-up to the event.A review of asset management was also a key theme at the briefing in the Qatari capital, Doha, on 24 January, where some 40 hoteliers, hospitality investors and owners came together to shape the discussion at AHIC, which is running from 25 to 27 April 2017 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai."The dominant issue at AHIC this year will be how the GCC hospitality sector can retain its attractiveness to investors in spite of all that is happening in the region," said Andrew Humphries, Chief Operating Officer of Katara Hospitality, who will be speaking at AHIC 2017."Following the discussions here at the Doha regional briefing, I think that the diversification of the GCC hospitality sector will be a key theme at AHIC. It is essential that diversification happens at all levels and that we have flexibility in our business models. The traditional model is changing and a new model must be found. One that is more aggressive on the sales side and more thoughtful on the costs side, while retaining the best of what we have", said Humphries.Mohamed Al Mahmeed, Head of Tourism Investment Promotion at Qatar Tourism Authority, who apprised the delegates on the strides made by the authority in recent years and its plans for the future, said: "Qatar has a clear strategy to develop a sustainable tourism industry through 2030. The past year saw several key developments: the growth of the cruise tourism sector, measures to ease entry to Qatar - including the introduction of a new transit visa - and a new hotels grading and classification system. The focus for us moving forward is to support the diversification of the hospitality sector's offering and the development of new tourism products."Another key theme at AHIC, according to Saahil Lalit, Colliers International Associate Director, Hotels, will be asset management: "With revenues falling, we need to discuss how we can get more out of our properties."He went on to highlight the rise in popularity of Airbnb in the region, calling for the need for the region's hospitality sector to respond to the challenge of the newcomer "which can add significant volume to the market at short notice, and at low prices," he added.Commenting on the regional briefing's value to the Qatari hospitality sector, in preparation for the April AHIC conference, Amruda Nair, Joint Managing Director & CEO, Aiana Hotels & Resorts, said: "It was valuable to be given access to performance data and trends data from across the region, to hear about different approaches, and to be able to have a dialogue with authorities."As an operator, it is great to be able to take a step back and get a big picture view. And in times of challenging market conditions, it is great to see how the industry can come together to respond. I think AHIC is an opportunity to look at investment criteria, and to discuss strategic collaboration between investors, operators, authorities and airlines," she said.The full programme for AHIC 2017 has now been launched and is available here.AHIC 2017 will bring together more than 700 hotel owners, investors, developers, operators, consultants and experts from professional services to debate the hospitality investment climate against a backdrop of global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic environment.The conference will feature panel sessions entitled: The MacroEconomic Outlook for Middle East Hospitality; Do You Need An International Brand?; An A-Z of Reflagging Your Hotel; The Investment Climate Warms Up to the Mid-Market; and Concepts for the GCC.Sessions specifically targeted at hospitality investors will tackle issues such as white label operations, asset management, alternative models of investment, how to exit a contract, overseas acquisitions, working with master developers and achieving ROI on F&B.For registrations and for more information, visit:

Middle East Hotel Industry Experts Forecast Strong Investment Opportunities Ahead of AHIC 2017

MEED · 7 February 2017
Hotel investors, owners, consultants and operators alike share a positive outlook for the Middle East hospitality industry in 2017, with strong market fundamentals in place and attractive investment opportunities on the horizon.In the lead-up to the 13th edition of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from 25 to 27 April 2017, key speakers and sponsors at the annual knowledge platform and networking event revealed their forecast for the year ahead.Jonathan Worsley, Founder of AHIC, Chairman, Bench Events and Board Director, STR, said: "With AHIC 2017 just months away, the debate is already beginning among our speakers. As usual, we expect AHIC to be thought-provoking, topical and at the forefront of promoting hospitality investment in the Middle East and beyond. From discussing global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic outlook to asset management and outbound investment, AHIC 2017 promises to present the latest market intelligence and inspire the investment community, globally as well as locally."The experts acknowledged that while aspects of both development and operations were challenging in 2016, the market remains robust with investment potential.Olivier Granet, Chief Operating Officer HotelServices Middle-East and Africa, a speaker at AHIC, commented: "Despite the oil price, the spotlight on elections globally and otherwise volatile regional conditions, our key partners in the region still identify in present market conditions attractive opportunities to invest. Investors may be cautious with their real estate investments in light of RevPAR contractions across certain markets in the region, however, many markets in the region are just beginning to mature and still represent attractive investments across many asset classes."Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, Chief Executive Officer, Katara Hospitality, Platinum Sponsor of AHIC 2017, said that 2016 "will be remembered as a challenging year for hospitality investors as a mix of global geopolitical and economic issues has resulted in a more cautious approach towards investment decisions."Looking forward, he added: "The Middle East hotel market remains a vibrant and exciting one for investors. The region's fundamentals are strong, making it an attractive investment destination. In Qatar for example, the outlook for the hotel industry is especially promising. According to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, in 2015, income from tourists amounted to QAR18.3 billion, nine-times the QAR2.1 billion recorded in 2010, demonstrating the clear opportunity for proven investors like Katara Hospitality in the region."Joe Sita, CEO, IFA Hotel Investments, who is speaking at AHIC, added: "I would agree that 2016 has been a more challenging year particularly with respect to rates. Occupancy has remained robust in prime areas, however, supply dynamics have led to an element of price competition that was previously absent from the market. Notwithstanding this, we still feel that, most specifically in Dubai, the market remains robust and continues to generate higher yield than competitor arenas. We therefore still see further investment in this sector in the medium term."One of the hotel markets viewed as being particularly robust is Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), which reported a 14 percent year-on-year increase in RevPar between June and August 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, and an increase of 15.9 percent in occupancy during the same period, according to Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.Hotel owners and developers in RAK remain bullish for the year ahead, bolstered by the emirate's attractive investment environment, a topic that will be discussed in depth at AHIC 2017.As the emirate continues towards its target to attract one million annual visitors by 2018 and three million visitors per year by 2025, speaker at AHIC Yannis Anagnostakis, CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding LLC, said: "As a company that is deeply rooted in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, we are certainly biased towards RAK, and rightly so. The emirate is living proof of the tremendous success witnessed in its hospitality and tourism sector."What increases the appeal of the Emirate on the tourism front is that the growth in demand for its hotel rooms is exceeding the growth in supply, which creates attractive opportunities for investors. Additionally, the demographic mix that has evolved in recent years underlines the momentum that the emirate is generating outside the GCC."Another market with potential for further growth is Bahrain, reported Jerad Bacher, Executive Director, Tourism and Leisure at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, who is speaking at AHIC on the topic of 'Concepts for the GCC'."In Bahrain, we have seen somewhat less volatility in hotel performance mainly due to a lower inventory of supply paired with a consistent volume of demand. We expect market stability to continue in 2017 with moderate supply growth and continued advancement in demand. We have a strong pipeline of new inventory coming into Bahrain over the next five years; however, the products that are in development will be demand simulators and have an aggregated inventory that the market can withstand," he said.The AHIC speakers and sponsors agreed that future investment would be focused on exciting master developments, new brands and gaps in the market, from growth in the economy, mid-market and upscale segments to luxury at scale, such as all-inclusive premium resorts.AHIC 2017 is the premium knowledge and networking platform for hotel investors in the Middle East. For more information, visit:

Arabian hotel investment conference (AHIC) witnesses a strong opening with over 600 attendees

MEED · 6 May 2015
The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference witnessed a strong opening today with over 600 delegates attending an extensive programme of panel discussions and sessions on variable topics on the hospitality industry, taking place this year from 5-7 May at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench events said in his opening speech: "I would like to thank our patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Dept for Civil Aviation, and Chairman and CEO of Emirates on his ongoing support for AHIC and I would like to thank all of our attendees today, it's exciting to see this number of industry leaders together under one roof attending this amazing Conference.This year's theme is 'Hotel Development for Tomorrow's Traveller', we are here today to discuss what the future generation are looking for and what growth expectations are for this industry."Daniel Silke, renowned South Africa's leading Political Analyst said in his presentation to the AHIC audience that by 2016 88% of the world's population will live in the emerging marketing and 2/3 of the global GDP growth will happen there as we. He told the attendees that much of the growth witnessed in the Middle East in the hospitality and tourism industry is due to the massive expansions of the Gulf region airline companies. Silke explained: "By 2025 the world will welcome nearly 1.8 billion visitor per year, an 58% increase from the 1.1 billion international visitor arrivals who crossed boarders in 2014."According to JJL 2015 Middle East Hotel Intelligence Reports which was released today at AHIC, the Middle East and Africa region continues to witness solid hotel development activity and destination building. The UAE is expected to retain its status as the region's main tourist hub with active and differentiated strategies being implemented in other countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar. Hotel assets continue to be favoured by sophisticated investors and require the right level of professional expertise whether internal or third party provided.Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, Executive Vice President - Head of Hotels & Hospitality Group, Middle East & Africa at JLL, said: "While Dubai hotels ADR's and occupancy rates have been declining, their levels remain strong and healthy and can be expected to improve the competitive position of the city compared to other competing and established destinations in Europe and Asia. Dubai continues to strengthen its position as a leading tourism destination in the Middle East due to its ease of access, quality branded hospitality offering, modern infrastructure, leisure and entertainment options and safe environment. Long term hospitality development in Dubai has been bolstered by the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for Tourism for 2020, supported by the planning and implementation efforts of DTCM."A number of significant announcements were made today at AHIC, including:IHG and Bukhamseen Group Strengthen 30-Year Relationship with Multi-Deal Signings in Kuwait -Includes two new builds; one conversion and contract renewal of Holiday Inn Kuwait SalmiyahIHG and Dur Hospitality Announce First Hotel under Master Development Agreement - Holiday Inn to open in Tabuk this yearDubai World Central Expands Hospitality Offering with Three New Strategic Partnerships - Additional 1,300 rooms to Cater to Business and Leisure Travelers around Al Maktoum International Airport and Expo 2020Shaza Hotels to open Bahrain hotel in 24 months - Shaza Seef Bahrain will be the first Shaza Hotel to open in BahrainColliers International Presents MENA Hotel Market Forecast at AHIC - Egyptian markets witness largest forecasted increases in RevPar while Abu Dhabi looks set to benefit from demand side driversDusit Builds on Existing Partnership with Three New Agreements - in the EmiratesFRI Hotels and Resorts pursues Robust Residential portfolio as part of the Aggressive Global Expansion Strategy

Ivanka Trump To Keynote at Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC 2015)

MEED ·20 April 2015
The organisers of AHIC 2015 announced officially today that Ivanka Trump will speak at this year's Conference on the topic of "The Future of Luxury and the Next Generation of Luxury Traveller." The world renowned real estate executive and entrepreneur will share her unique perspective on the luxury hotel market as founder and operator of the Trump Hotel Collection. The keynote Q&A session will be led by Susan Harmsworth MBE, Founder and Chairman of ESPA, on Thursday 7 May at 9.30 am at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.The Trump Organization is the world's foremost luxury real estate developer with a portfolio that includes the world's most recognizable developments. The Trump Hotel Collection is one of the fastest growing luxury hotel brands in the world with 16 properties in its global hotel portfolio, including 12 operational, four scheduled to open in 2015/16 and a strong pipeline of projects globally. Ivanka Trump will engage in a dialogue on various aspects of the luxury travel sector through the lens of her experience with the Trump Hotel Collection, sharing insight on the keys to success, such as a new generation of style, inspired design and uncompromising service and amenities."I'm thrilled to be a keynote speaker at this year's AHIC and share my thoughts on the future of luxury travel and Trump's approach to delight the next generation of luxury traveler," said Ivanka Trump, EVP, Development & Acquisitions for the Trump Organization. "We're dedicated to bringing the finest projects to the market, in terms of both physical properties and the highest caliber of service. And, success is only achevied through vivid attention to detail. There is a point in time when you really can't build a taller building or a better amenitized project. Then comes the refinement of all of those things."Ivanka is a frequent visitor to Dubai as she continues to oversee the development of Trump International Golf Club, Dubai, the super-luxury residences, Trump Estates and Trump PRVT. The Trump Hotel Collection has established its regional headquarters in Dubai, and are expanding their portfolio, targeting Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Jeddah, among other major cities in the region.Commenting on the session with Ivanka Trump, Susan Harmsworth MBE, Founder & Chairman of ESPA said: "As leaders in luxury spa, wellness and lifestyle, ESPA have spent over 20 years sharing our visionary services with some of the finest hotels across the world. I am therefore delighted to be leading a discussion on luxury with revered businesswoman and industry expert Ivanka Trump, who no doubt will share her fascinating insights with us."According to recent reports, the UAE has been identified as the top "up and coming" luxury experiences and destinations for 2015, among other countries including Africa Safaris, South Africa, Croatia,Vietnam and Cuba.AHIC 2015 takes place this year from 5-7 May at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The programme has an exciting line up of speakers this year and includes insightful panel discussions and breakout sessions. Full agenda can be found here: www.arabianconference.comThe Conference is organised by Bench Events and MEED, and will include key participants such as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Jumeirah Group, Platinum Sponsors, Accor, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors. Centara Hotels & Resorts, Citymax Hotels, Colliers International, Crystal International Standards, ESPA, Faithful + Gould, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, Golden Tulip, Hodema Cosulting Services, HVS, Insignia Worldwide, Invest Tourism Maldives, JA Hotels & Resorts, JLL, Melia Hotels International, Premier Inn, PwC, Roya, Shaza Hotels, STR Global, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces and Yas Marina Circuit as Gold Sponsors.

Hoteliers say Saudi Arabia is developing as a destination outside of religious tourism

MEED · 1 April 2015
AHIC speakers were at another Saudi City this week exploring hotel investment opportunities and expanding the hoteliers network across the region. The Riyadh Regional Briefing took place this week at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.Hosted by Marriott International Inc., the Briefing was attended by a number of industry leaders and renowned experts including: Costas Verginis, Vice President Development Middle East, Marriott International and The Ritz-Carlton Company., Philip Wooller, Area Director of Middle East & Africa at STR Global, Christopher Lund, Associate Manager of Hotels MENA Region at Colliers International, Saad Alqahtani, Manager Accommodation at The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), and Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, Executive Vice President and Head of Hotels & Hospitality of Middle East & Africa at JLL. Costas Verginis said:"The Kingdom remains a top priority for Marriott International, as the future outlook of the hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is very positive. With strides by the government to diversify the economy through major infrastructure projects and other initiatives, including a major focus on tourism and hospitality, the Kingdom is creating opportunities to further develop cultural, religious and business tourism targeting domestic, regional and international visitors. "Attendees at the Riydah Briefing discussed plans for the development of tourism within the Kingdom to become a destination outside of religious tourism. Chiheb Ben Mahmoud said:"Endowed with a unique and diverse heritage of natural and archaeological sites, Saudi Arabia could potentially attract, to its various destinations, the most sophisticated global travellers. Not mass numbers but the few hundred thousands of discerning travellers from across the world and for whom travel is closer to a scientific and academic endeavour than a leisurely tour. Saudi Arabia is in the best position, to redefine tourism."Chiheb added: "Saudi Arabia international tourism is yet to find its own model, it's own paradigm, although the achievements of the SCTA are impressive in laying the foundation of a sound tourism and hospitality sector."Licencing, regulation and government support play a major role in transforming the country into a more attractive destination. SCTA has recently announced the new hotel licensing and classification requirements for hotel operators in Saudi, which aims to streamline the facilities and services related to tourism in general and to guide their activities besides protecting tourist interests.The audience also listened to a Project update by Richard Thompson, Editorial Director of MEED, with an overview of the large scale projects underway in the Kingdom, and how thisreflects on investment into the tourism sector.According to Colliers International MENA HOTEL 3 Month Rolling Forecast Mar - May 2015, Riydah Occupancy Rate reached 64%, ADR registered $268, and RevPAR reached $172. YoY RevPAR Variance was up by 3%.AHIC Regional Briefings this year visited Oman, Jeddah and Cairo, Qatar and Riyadh, ahead of the main Conference in Dubai. AHIC 2015 Conference will take place this year from 5-7 May 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.AHIC 2015 is organised by Bench Events and MEED, and will include key participants such as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Jumeirah Group, Platinum Sponsors, Accor, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors. Centara Hotels & Resorts, Citymax Hotels, Colliers International, Crystal International Standards, ESPA, Faithful + Gould, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, Golden Tulip, Hodema Cosulting Services, HVS, Insignia Worldwide, Invest Tourism Maldives, JA Hotels & Resorts, JLL, Melia Hotels International, Premier Inn, PwC, Roya, Shaza Hotels, STR Global, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces and Yas Marina Circuit as Gold Sponsors.

Saudi Arabia Hospitality Sector Witnesses Strong Growth

MEED · 4 February 2015
The event was hosted by Makarim Annakheel Hotel and Resort in Jeddah, and the gathering was addressed by industry leaders including: Denis Soren, CEO Advisor, Dur Hospitality, Philip Wooller, Area Director for Middle East and Africa at STR Global; Filippo Sona, Director, Head of Hotels MENA Region at Colliers International; Edmund O'Sullivan, Chairman of MEED Events; Munir Ahmed, Director Hospitality, Naseel Holding Company Ltd.; Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, Executive Vice President- Head of Hotels and Hospitality, Middle East and Africa at JLL; Dr. Ahmed El-Fakharany, Executive Managing Director at Alesayi Hospitality Company, and Hala Matar Choufany, Regional Managing Director at HVS.Commencing with a market overview from STR Global Middle East and Africa for year-end 2014 results, the first session of the Saudi Briefing revealed that the region had reported positive performance results during December 2014, when reported in U.S. dollars. The Middle East and Africa reported a 3.9-percent increase in occupancy to 61.9 percent, a 3.2-percent increase in average daily rate to US$183.35 and a 7.3-percent increase in revenue per available room to US$113.53.The overview presentation was given to the attendees by Philip Wooller, who said: "As the whole Middle East witnessed positive results in 2014, Jeddah specifically has had an overall successful end to 2014 and continues to improve its reputation as a destination for business and leisure. Demand growth was able to climb 2.9% for year-end 2014, with the supply increase of 1.9%. This resulted in positive occupancy growth achieving a level of 74.3% occupancy for the year."Phillip added: "Room rates also achieved an increase of 8.9% to SAR968.73 for year-end, which resulted in a RevPAR increase of 9.9%. Jeddah has been able to achieve rate increases consecutively over the past 32 months, with the highest ADR achieved for the city since 2000. Jeddah also continues to increase the amount of rooms under construction, with the most recent report showing over 2,000 rooms in the pipeline (2,728)."On the holy cities of Makkah and Medina, Phillip said: "Looking at the holy cities of Makkah and Medina on a 2014 year-end basis, they achieved RevPAR increases of +4.3% and +8.6% respectively. Medina also reported a significantly higher year-end occupancy growth (+9.8%) compared to Makkah's +5.8%." said Philip Wooller, Middle East & Africa Area Director of STR Global."These cities are driven by religious tourism, being the birthplace of Islam. In recent years there have been restrictions put in place in terms of numbers allowed in the cities, with the vast majority of restrictions due to huge redevelopment plans, primarily in Makkah. At this stage it simply can't take any more visitors due to the redevelopment and pending infrastructure changes, so it is currently a 'controlled demand' environment. Medina's hotel market is smaller in comparison, thus it has more opportunity to grow as pilgrims travel to Medina and then to Makkah.""It is difficult to compare the two cities as their numbers are so diverse- Medina's occupancy for the month of December increased 28.3%, in contrast to Makkah's -0.0 flat year-over-year comparison rate." Wooller said. "On the other hand, Makkah is still showing the higher year-end RevPAR (SAR529.04) against Medina's SAR345.26, both driven by occupancy rather than ADR."Colliers International, who recently launched MENA Hotel Market Forecast, also emphasised in their report that the MENA region is offering significant opportunities to the global investors. The report also showed that Jeddah is currently witnessing a consistent demand and delays in new supply to stabilize the market. They anticipate that the occupancy rate will reach 76%, ADR $262, RevPAR $200, and YoY RevPAR of 2% over the next 12 months.Commenting on the forecasts for the region, Filippo Sona, Director, Head of Hotels at Colliers International, who also attended the Jeddah Briefing, said: "Investors and industry stakeholders are continually looking to understand the powerful factors shaping the MENA hospitality market. The forecast will provide industry professionals with a basis for budgeting and pricing strategies as the sector undergoes significant development, including the delivery of properties scheduled to come online in the mid to long-term. Colliers International has conducted valuations of 32-35,000 keys and asset management of 7800 keys in the region; this has provided us with a unique insight into what lies ahead for this dynamic sector."Dur Hospitality who hosted Jeddah Briefing this week has recently launched their new identity. Denis Soren, CEO of the Company, said: We developed the new identity according to best practices and trends, with the support of best in class brand consultants. Yet, we would like to emphasize commitment under the new brand to our corporate values including Honesty and integrity, Responsibility, and Creativity.Through the new identity, we wish to serve as an exemplar for the successful and responsible development of the hospitality assets and for outstanding hospitality service, and accordingly, we aim to become the unequivocal partner of choice for any local, regional or international partner in Saudi."Jeddah Briefing was held by the organisers of AHIC 2015 Conference, which will take place next year from 5-7 May 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The Conference is organised by Bench Events and MEED, and will include key participants such as: Carlson Rezidor Group, Jumeirah Group, Accor, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group(IHG), Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group, ESPA, Insignia Worldwide, Melia Hotels International, Premier, Premier Inn, Shaza Hotels, Crystal International Standards, JA Hotels & Resorts, Faithful + Gould, JLL, Golden Tulip, HVS, Colliers, STR Global, Centara International Management Co, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Invest Tourism Maldives and FRHI Hotels & Resorts.

Oman Poised For Huge Tourism Growth But Needs More Flights And Cheaper Hotel Rooms, AHIC/Meed Oman Tourism Day Told

MEED · 3 November 2014
Oman Air is expanding its fleet to bring more tourists to OmanAbout 4,000 hotel rooms are to be delivered in the sultanate in 2015-16The stock of affordable hotels needs to increaseDhofar's rising on the global tourism agendaUAE, Sunday 02 November 2014: The Oman Tourism Day in association with the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference at the Bustan Palace Hotel in Oman on 29 October heard that Oman has a superb tourism product in the form of more than 3,000 kilometres of pristine coastline, rugged mountains and a rich history.The conference was attended by more than 50 industry leaders and professionals. Speakers included Oman Air chief operating officer Abdulrahman al-Busaidy, chief executive officer of the Dhofar Tourism Company Edward Chaaya, Issa Sultan Al Ismaili, an Omani tourism entrepreneur and executive director of Oman World Tourism and Raza Ashraf, partner at Abu Timam Grant Thornton.In a keynote speech, Oman Air's Al-Busaidy said that the airline aims to increase its fleet to 70 aircraft in its present 10-year plan from 40 now and that it will accept 13 new aircraft in 2015 alone. He said that the number of passengers using Oman Air is forecast to rise to about 4.8m in 2014 from 4.7 million in 2013, but less than 20 per cent are flying directly to Oman. Al-Busaidy said this was partly due to the lack of affordable hotel rooms.He added: "I hear some five star hotels have occupancy of 15 per cent and yet charge 90 riyals per night," Al-Busaidy said. "There is an opportunity here for the winter and summer to promote tourism. If we had decent rates we could attract people from the GCC who would come for a couple of days and go to Salalah."Oman Air has launched a hotel stopover programme that provides Oman Air passengers with affordable room rates, where Al-Busaidy called on more Omani hotels to join the programme."If hotels could invest in five rooms per night in our stopover hotels scheme, it would make a big difference." He said.Government figures show Oman has 282 hotels of all types with 22,404 bedrooms. The majority were small and family-owned hotels and residences. STR Global Area Director for the Middle East and Africa Philip Wooller said that occupancy for 4 and 5 star hotels was more than 70 per cent. The ADR rose by 7.6 per cent in the year ending September to $200. Wooller said STR's September hotel census showed that there are plans to build 6,000 new hotel rooms in the sultanate.Dhofar Tourism Company's Chaaya said the Salalah's tourism potential is unlimited and that government action has increased the attractions of investing in projects in and around the port city."There has been great improvement in infrastructure including industrial and touristic projects with upgraded facilities, such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, shopping malls and recreational facilities," Chaaya said. "Three mega projects were partnered by the Ministry of Tourism and more are in pipeline, all helping in creating multiple employment opportunities for local talent and new graduates."Chaaya also called on international hospital brands and resorts to allocate marketing funds to promote the destination. A Dhofar destination committee should be founded, Chaaya added.Ramzy Fenianos, Development Director at Starwoods Hotels & Tourism also said:"We are confident that Oman's tourism sector backed by the ongoing major projects will bring many hotel developments opportunities for Starwood both on the Midscale and Luxury segments in addition to potential opportunities for conversions considering the large number of unbranded Hotels in Muscat."Oman Tourism Day was held in association with AHIC 2015 Conference, which will take place next year from 5-7 May 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The Conference is organised by Bench Events and MEED, and will include key participants such as: Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Jumeirah Group, King Abdullah Economic City, ACCOR, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development - SMIT, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group, AECOM, Argentina Ministry of Tourism, Citymax Hotels, Colliers International, Drake and Scull International, ESPA, Faithful + Gould, FRHI Hotels and Resorts, Golden Tulip Hotels Suites, Hotel Partners Africa, HVS, IFA Hotel Investments, JA Resorts & Hotels, JLL, Melia Hotels International, Premier Inn, Roya International, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA), Schneider Electric, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Shaza Hotels, STR Global, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Tourism Finance Corporation Kenya, and Worldhotels.

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) 2010 Participants to Discuss Growth Opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

MEED · 5 April 2010
Key opportunities to be discussed include growth in leisure tourism and Islamic tourism marketsInternational companies such as The Rezidor Hotel Group, Wyndham Hotel Group, InterContinental Hotel Group, Accor Hospitality and Rotana are all expanding their presence in the Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaDr Salah K AlBukkayet, Vice President - Investment for Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), to speak on The Country Forum panelConference being held from 1 - 3 May 2010 at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; full programme can be found at As part of the focus on 'Unlocking Investment Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa' at AHIC 2010, the participants will be discussing opportunities for hotel investment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is placing an increasing focus on developing its tourism market, in a targeted and structured manner, as it seeks to diversify away from oil. There is significant investment being undertaken in tourism infrastructure, including airport expansions and high-speed rail lines, as well as government financed training programmes and public-private partnerships, whilst visa procedures have been eased for non-religious and business visitors. Furthermore, being home to two of Islam's holiest cities, Al Madinah and Makkah, which attracts millions of Muslims each year for hajj, the world's largest annual pilgrimage, the hotel market is underpinned by Islamic tourism. There is also a high rate of domestic tourism, and the government has put in place initiatives to increase the number of Saudi's that holiday within the Kingdom. This focus means that, according to a recent report by Business Monitor International, tourist arrivals to the Kingdom are forecast to grow by 5% year on year to 12.91 million in 2010, having remained steady in 2009, at just over 12 million. Year on year, arrivals per annum is expected to average 6.5% growth through to the end of 2014. A report in March 2009 by the World Travel & Tourism Council, forecast that in 2009 the travel and tourism sector was expected to generate US$27.2 billion (SAE 102.0 billion) of economic activity, equivalent to 7.2% of total Gross Domestic Product, and this is set to rise to 9.2% (SAE 293.4 billion or US$78.4 billion) by 2019. Direct industry employment was expected to rise from 7.3% of total employment in the Kingdom in 2009 to 9.4%, equating to around 922,000 jobs, by 2019. The potential is illustrated by government plans, announced in February 2010, to build a $13 billion 'tourist city' in Al-Oqair, just south of Al-Khobar on the Kingdom's eastern coast, and on the Red Sea coast, the government has identified sites for development in Tabuk, Yanbu, Makkah, Asir and Jizan provinces. The SCTA has stated that the planned Red Sea resorts would lead to a total of 557,000 hotel rooms being brought online, creating 413,000 jobs in the process.A number of major international brands are already expanding their presence in Saudi Arabia. The Rezidor Hotel Group has already opened six hotels in the Kingdom, in Jeddah, Riyadh, Yanbu, Al Madinah and Al Khobar, totalling over 1,323 rooms, and has a further four hotels, with over 1,000 combined rooms, under development, across three different locations. Kurt Ritter, President and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, commented:"Saudi Arabia is a hugely important market for us, and in 2009 we were delighted to open a further two developments in the country. The key aspect for us is the diversity of the market, allowing us to introduce different brands into the Kingdom, which include Radisson Blu and Park Inn at the moment, with a particular focus on serving religious and cultural visitors. I have no doubt that the opportunities will keep growing, which is why we have a number of additional hotels in the pipeline."One of the world's largest hotel companies, Wyndham Hotel Group, is also expanding its presence in the region. In November 2009, the Hotel Group signed an agreement for the first Wyndham(r) branded hotel in the Middle East, the Wyndham Riyadh located in Saudi Arabia. That property will join the company's growing portfolio of 28 hotels already operational in the Middle East, including Ramada Worldwide's largest hotel, the 998-room hotel in the holy city of Makkah. Eric Danziger, President and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, commented:"The Middle East plays a significant role in Wyndham Hotel Group's global growth strategy. We are so pleased to already have a significant presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and numerous properties throughout the region. We have focused our efforts in the market and in the last year we announced some of our newest developments including the 299-room Ramada(r)Plaza Kuwait hotel and the 183-room Ramada Hotel and Suites Amman hotel. We also celebrated the signing of an agreement for the Ramada Encore Doha hotel, a first in the Middle East for the brand".Kurt Ritter and Eric Danziger will be speaking on the 'Leaders' Panel - Global and MENA Hotel Investment Opportunities' at AHIC 2010 (Day 2, Sunday 2 May 2010)Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events which co-organises AHIC, commented: "The hotel investment market in Saudi Arabia is extremely exciting, with a need for quality product, ranging from high-end luxury resorts to mid-market and budget hotel developments. The government is working hard to put in place measured tourism expansion plans, but it is important that investors understand what opportunities are there and how they are accessed, and our line-up of speakers will be able to offer significant insight on that front. "The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), the national authority responsible for the planning and development of domestic tourism, is also leading government efforts to promote more inbound travel, and will be represented at AHIC by Dr Salah K AlBukkayet, Vice President - Investment.

Oman's Rapidly Growing Tourism Sector to be Highlighted at Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) 2010

MEED ·29 March 2010
HE Dr Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali, Minister of Tourism for the Sultanate of Oman will be speaking on investment opportunities in Oman during The Country ForumOman's tourism sector is one of the fastest growing in the world, and market evolving with increasing mid-market brands entering alongside existing high-end investmentsConference being held from 1 - 3 May 2010 at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; full programme can be found at As part of the focus on 'Unlocking Investment Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa' at AHIC 2010, the Country Panel will look at the direction of tourism and hotel investment in the Sultanate of Oman, as well as featuring government representatives from Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Morocco. Oman has one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world, but the focus on development, following the creation of the new Ministry of Tourism in 2004, has been on sustainable growth leveraging the Sultanate's rich cultural heritage. According to a March 2009 report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism sector is set to achieve annualised growth of 7.8% per annum, in real terms, over the next ten years, to reach almost $7 billion by 2019. Despite a broader trend of dampened international travel demand during the economic downturn, Oman saw a year on year increase of 5.8% in international passenger arrivals in 2009, exceeding 2.5 million. The Ministry of Tourism is aiming to attract 12 million visitors per year by 2020. This growth is partly driven by significant government investment into tourism infrastructure. The first phase of the expansion and modernisation of Muscat International Airport has been launched, which will increase handling capacity to 12 million passengers by 2014, and three subsequent phases will ultimately boost capacity to 48 million passengers by 2050. Between 2005 and 2009, international arrivals grew by 13% per annum, to reach 1.3 million passengers last year. There are also plans for new airports and expansion projects in other key tourist destinations, including the development of Salalah Airport which will lead to a capacity of 1 million passengers by 2013.The airport expansion projects have been carried out alongside the transition of Oman Air into an international carrier; the launch of non-stop services to Munich, Frankfurt and Paris in the last quarter of 2009 led to a 77.7% increase in passenger arrivals from Germany and 84.1% from France. The new expanded Port Sultan Qaboos passenger cruise ship terminal, in Muscat, was also inaugurated in February 2010; activity grew rapidly in 2009 with a 22% year on year increase in cruise ship vessels, totalling 185 vessels, and passenger arrivals are expected to exceed 350,000 in 2010. To date, hotel investment has principally been focused on high-end, luxury brands, and whilst the pipeline of projects in this sector remains strong, there is also an increasing number of mid-market brands entering the Sultanate. During the Country Forum panel, HE Dr. Rajiha will highlight the clear vision for growth that has been developed by the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the key projects that are currently in place to create fresh investment opportunities in the Sultanate. The conference will also feature 'Ask the Experts' roundtable sessions, which will feature an opportunity to get practical advice on Navigating the Market in Oman.HE Dr. Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali commented at her participation at AHIC this year saying:"I cannot emphasise the importance of this conference enough, given the difficulties created by the global economic downturn, and for the tourism industry in particular. The theme of this year's conference is extremely timely, as there is an urgent and profound need for exploring ways, means and incentives to open up investment opportunities in the hotel sector in the Middle East and North Africa region. Therefore, taking into consideration the large number of renowned and world class hoteliers who are expected to participate in the conference, I am optimistic that a number of deals might be arrived at during the event.My participation in the event through The Country Forum will avail me the opportunity to address a key audience on the investment opportunities in the Sultanate's tourism sector and highlight the conducive investment climate and safe and stable economy enjoyed by Oman. The doors are open for investors from overseas and from the Arab region if they are looking for strong and rewarding investment opportunities."Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events which co-organises AHIC, said: "Oman has succeeded over recent years in positioning itself as a high end leisure destination, thanks to a clear international marketing strategy by the Ministry of Tourism, significant investment in key infrastructure projects by the government and a competitive operational environment. As the market matures, new opportunities are emerging and we are delighted that HE Dr. Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali will be attending AHIC to help increase understanding of how Oman's hotel and tourism sector will continue to evolve."


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