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Industry calls for proactive approach to Emiratisation in hospitality at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC)

MEED ·19 April 2018
100+ Emiratis attend AHIC's first hospitality mini job fair in Ras Al KhaimahAhmed Ramdan, Founder of Roya International, Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer of Emaar Hospitality Group and Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority discuss Emiratisation as an opportunity for the industry.Dubai, UAE. 19 April 2018. Following a three year public-private sector initiative aimed at engaging the Hospitality industry in Emiratisation led by Ahmed Ramdan, founder of Roya International at AHIC 2017, and in line with this year's theme of Focus on the Future, AHIC hosted a seminar and mini job fair for 100+ young Emiratis interested in a hospitality industry career.UAE Nationals attending saw a compelling film with Emiratis now working in various segments of the industry. Following the film produced by DTCM/Medyaf and the Emaar Emiratization team, the students met with international hotel brands and regional hospitality leaders with the aim to explore career opportunities and further bridge the information awareness gap between Emiratis and the hospitality industry.On day three of the conference, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Co-Founder of AHIC, led a panel discussion on Emiratisation with Ahmed Ramdan, Founder of Roya International, Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer of Emaar Hospitality Group and Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.Commenting on where the industry is at, following the establishment of the board at AHIC last year, Olivier Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer of Emaar Hospitality Group said: "Emiratisation for us at Emaar is not a business issue, it's a matter of the heart.""We are working effortlessly to inspire and attract as many Emiratis as possible to the hospitality industry and to showcase the diversity this fabulous industry has to offer locally, regionally and internationally."Our target is to double the percentage of Emirati employees at Emaar Hospitality Group by the end of the year and we're looking to diversify the roles they have within the hotels."The panel agreed that the industry does face challenges in attracting Emiratis to work in hospitality, mainly because of the perception of the hotel industry, which they are collectively looking to change by visiting schools and colleges to talk about the opportunities the industry offers across all facets of hotel management and operations.Ahmed Ramdan, Founder of Roya International, a pioneer in Emirati led Hospitality said: "Thanks to the industry initiatives over the past few years and last year's formation of the industry group, we see things moving into the right direction. The industry needs to take a lead to find and develop talent, positioning UAE Nationals to lead the industry in the future."He continued: "Perceptions of the industry are changing and as younger generations are coming onto the job market, they have less fear about working in the hotel sector, which is a great sign. They now see the industry as a more sophisticated and serious business than before."Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, addressed Emiratisation from a government entity perspective. "Three years ago, we only had three percent Emiratis at the Authority, but we only had 19 employees. Now we have 80 employees and we have 35 percent Emiratis working at RAKTDA.""Some of the work we have done to encourage Emiratis to join the Authority is to show the opportunities they can explore in the sector and we have seen a great uptake, for example in disciplines such as marketing. We also work toward educating the Emirati population about the value of tourism to the overall value of the economy."This initiative will help us to encourage the hotels in Ras Al Khaimah to embrace Emiratisation further through a culture shift."The panel agreed that there is definitely more momentum when it comes to Emiratisation than in the past, but urged that the private sector need to be proactive and move the initiative forward.For more information, visit: www.arabianconference.com
Article by Olivier Harnisch

Demystifying hotel management agreements with focus on operator efficiency

MEED ·17 April 2018
While this agreement has worked well in the past, today there are several factors that raise questions, which are relevant to hotel owners and operators.Key among this is the transformational impact of digital technologies, especially the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), which are increasingly claiming a bigger share of hotel bookings. The growth of OTAs in the past two decades is well-documented. Today, reservations via OTAs and other online intermediaries account for over one third of global hotel room bookings. This means, a substantial share of room night bookings has transferred towards third-party players that did not exist before.Recently, global hotel operators launched expensive online direct booking campaigns to encourage travellers to book via hotel websites. However, the overall success of these campaigns has been limited. One reason is the sheer size of the marketing budgets OTAs have at their disposal, which dwarf even those of the largest global hotel operators.An alternative, more cost-effective, strategy adopted by smaller hotel groups has been to embrace OTAs as intermediaries for guest acquisition, then develop genuine loyalty by delivering outstanding and customised experiences - before, during and after the stay - thereby incentivising travelers to make their next reservation directly with the hotel group.Hotel owners rightfully question whether operators should be compensated for revenue generated by third parties who earn a commission funded through the hotel's (i.e. owner's) P&L. While the jury is out on the subject, the truth is that digital disruption has fundamentally altered the way hotels conduct business - from distribution to operations and reputation management.This invariably influences owner-operator relations, more so in a landscape that is increasingly dominated not as much by individual owners but by institutional investors who are more value-driven and assisted by competent asset managers who seek higher returns on their investment.While revenue generation is undoubtedly crucial in running a hotel, long-term profit delivery is a far more powerful indicator of an enterprise's success and its manager's performance. Hence it would be logical to use this basis to evaluate and compensate an operator who manages a hotel on an owner's behalf.While OTAs are here to stay and digital technologies will continue to reshape the hospitality sector, a shift in how management agreements are drawn out will contribute to the long-term benefit of all stakeholders. The incentive- fee-only-model developed by the Emaar Hospitality Group does exactly that. By eliminating the revenue linked component and increasing the percentage participation on GOP, the operator gets rewarded for the profit they generate for their owner, while not reducing their total fee income, as long as they perform well.Another aspect relevant here is the alignment of interests and the sharing of "pain and gain". Revenue is much less volatile than profit. Hence, operators' fees in traditional management agreements will fluctuate less than the bottom lines of the hotels they manage.During the last major global downturn in 2009-2010, disputes arose, as owners began to question their operator's motivation to reduce costs, given the shrinking top lines. The weight of the revenue - linked base fee component, within the total fees earned by operators, grew strongly, relative to the profit-based incentive fee. Today still, over 70 per cent of operator's fees globally are earned through revenue generation rather than profit delivery. The incentive- fee-only-model eliminates the safety net provided to the operator by the base fee and better aligns both parties' interests as it perfectly correlates the hotel's profit and the operator remuneration.This is especially relevant to the region as inventory supply continues to grow and markets are maturing, making an efficiency-oriented mindset and intelligent cost management more important in the future than it was in the past. In addition, with their fee income linked to profit generation, operators will be motivated to sign HMAs only for projects that are supported by strong feasibility studies, which are in all parties' interests.The third one, very relevant to the Middle East, is the rise of home-grown hotel groups which understand the region and the aspirations of the owners.The region's own hotel operators, by their very location and stakeholder interests, also have a larger social commitment. Their priorities are not set by short-term goals but long-term value creation for the entire local hospitality industry, which plays an increasing role in the economic diversification initiatives of the regional governments.The asset-light strategies adopted by some hotel operators have decreased their sensitivity towards issues such as asset value growth, debt service and cash flow - topics that are fundamental to hotel owners. Operators that also own real estate in local markets have maintained this perspective and are better positioned to put themselves into the "owners' shoes".This is where the Middle East region can set a new template for hotel management agreements. For the sustainable growth of the industry and to bring higher operational efficiencies to the hospitality sector, it is worthwhile to look at the incentive-only fee model, which will be driven by the operator's ability to generate profits rather than revenues. Revenue is only meaningful if it flows through to the bottom line, steered by effective management.The new model will contribute to better owner-operator relations, as the operator has greater onus to drive profitability, even in the face of challenging economic conditions, by focusing on minimising operating expenses and strengthening profits while delivering outstanding quality.Like all contractual arrangements, incentive-fee-only-management-agreements are not perfect. However, their advantages versus traditional HMAs cannot be overlooked.

Modern leaders, forward-thinking investors and bold new hoteliers take centre-stage at annual hotel investment event

MEED ·27 March 2018
Dubai, UAE -- The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) will provide unique insights into modern leadership, forward-thinking investment and new operating models via a stellar line-up of speakers confirmed for the annual gathering for the Middle East's hospitality investment community.Taking place from 17-19 April 2018 at the purpose-built AHIC Village in the grounds of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, this 14th edition of AHIC promises to address the critical issues of innovation, leadership, destination development and industry disruptors amid the macroeconomic outlook from the investors' perspective.The event will attract 700 hotel investors, major developers, leading financiers, and C-level hotel executives to attend three days of content, networking and events, including live-on-stage interviews with some of the world's most respected businessmen and hotel leaders and the first AHIC Global Project Showcase, featuring hospitality investment opportunities from around the world.Held in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), AHIC 2018 will be inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, who will give a keynote opening speech. His Highness will reveal further insights into the Strategy for Ras Al Khaimah, one of the world's fastest growing tourism destinations, and share anecdotes that will inspire fellow leaders at AHIC.Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority commented: "We are looking forward to showcasing Al Marjan Island at AHIC 2018 and to taking part in the dynamic conference programme.Tourism is one of Ras Al Khaimah's most important economic sectors and is considered a key engine for continued GDP growth and job creation. Our decision to support AHIC 2018 comes at a pivotal time in our three-year Destination 2019 Tourism Strategy, which aims to attract one million visitors by the end of 2018.To accommodate this growth in visitors, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is providing potential investors with a range of innovative opportunities to develop stand-out properties across the emirate. We have considerable opportunities within several development projects, including Al Marjan Island, which has been earmarked for an additional 16 hotels by 2025."His Highness' welcome will be followed by a keynote interview with one of the Middle East's most respected businessmen, His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar, Founder & Chairman, Emaar Properties, who has not only played a critical role in establishing Dubai's reputation as a tourism hotspot but is also renowned for his entrepreneurial outlook and passion for digital disruption.His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar said: "With its natural setting, diverse attractions and a fast-evolving hospitality infrastructure, Ras Al Khaimah is setting new milestones in the industry, and evolving as one of the popular tourism hubs in the region. AHIC 2018 will put the spotlight on the emirate and drive inward investments, and underline the diversity of tourism offerings that our nation presents to the world. Through the Conference, which discusses future trends, we can collectively contribute to strengthening the prospects of the tourism and hospitality sectors, and unlock their true potential."Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Co-Founder of AHIC, said: "We are delighted and proud to open AHIC 2018 with insights from two such respected business leaders. I've no doubt the contributions from His Highness Sheikh Saud and His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar will set the scene for highly relevant debate and discussion around the all-important topics of leadership and innovation as they impact the global hospitality investment industry."AHIC 2018 will also bring some of the world's leading hotel CEOs to Dubai for a 'Global CEO in the Hot Seat' series; Keith Barr, Chief Executive Officer, IHG; and Pierre-Frederic Roulot, CEO, Groupe du Louvre.Ahead of his session at AHIC, Keith Barr said: "This will be my first time at AHIC and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to be on stage to talk about our industry and IHG's role within it. I'm going to be talking about a range of things, but will be focusing on the way that digital and technological evolution has transformed the way in which we can deliver a truly personalized experience for our guests."The hospitality industry has experienced a great deal of change in recent years, not least in terms of the constantly evolving consumer environment and the rapidly changing digital and technological landscape. I don't necessarily see any one element challenging the industry more than it has done in previous years, but it's a case of the industry needing to continuously adapt, evolve and innovate during 2018. This isn't an industry where you can sit still for one moment; it's highly competitive and it's vital that we are as nimble and agile as possible."Commenting on what he forecasts to be the biggest disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018, Federico J. Gonzalez, President & CEO, Radisson Hotel Group, said: "There's no single aspect or issue that I see as being unique. The trend of disruptions and other macro and micro economic challenges will continue. As a leading hotel company, we need to be ahead of the curve and focus on delivering memorable moments. We need to be able to respond faster and better to customer needs. At Radisson, we want all of us to be obsessed with customer. That's the ultimate essence of hospitality and our business."We need to have relevant and meaningful innovation at all levels of business. We need to support and enhance a customer journey from A to Z, which makes sense to the customers directly. Brand, Product, Commercial & Marketing activities, Communication and Operations, all need to be aligned to serve one purpose - 100% Guest Satisfaction."The CEOs behind some of the industry's hottest new brands will also take to the stage, including Christoph Hoffmann, Chief Executive Officer, 25hours Hotel Company, Amar Lalvani, CEO & Managing Partner, Standard International; and Michael Bisordi, Owner - Tungsten Partners and Partner - Ace Group International.Christoph Hoffmann, who recently entered into a strategic partnership with global hotel giant Accor to further develop his brand, 25hours, said he forecast more mergers in the industry."In most markets, the number of hotel rooms is increasing and we still see mergers and new brands - especially in the lifestyle segment - arising. A CEO nowadays must be open for structural changes and not so much focus on the mere product to succeed," said Hoffmann.Commenting on the skills a hotel industry CEO needs to success in 2018, Amar Lalvani said: "Stop thinking like a hotel company CEO. It's a very insular industry with insular thinking. Think more creatively and move more quickly. Watch other sectors. Alternative accommodations, shared office, ride sharing. Understand how the next generation lives, stays and plays in order not to become a dinosaur."Michael Bisordi, who launched the Ace Hotel chain in US, said that he believes investors should "focus inward" and look at an asset on a local level, rather than as a brand."Our intent primarily is to create within the four walls of the building an 'instant classic'," said Bisordi."In a way we feel this actually transcends the concept of a brand. We feel that the development of the property to be the draw, more so than any brand, is where the industry is going. Customisation is an increasing trend and is a reaction against the wave of expansion of relatively homogeneous hotels in the latter half of the 20th century," added Bisordi.Meanwhile, the investor's perspective will be represented by the Middle East's leading hotel owners including Alain Debare, Chief Executive Officer, Action Hotels; Samih Sawiris, Chairman, ORASCOM Development; Jalil Mekouar, Chief Executive Officer - Hotels, Majid Al Futtaim; Sanjeev Agarwala, Chief Operating Officer - Hospitality andInvestment, Al Habtoor Group; and Dr Badr Al Badr, Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality.Commenting on how he sees the current operating environment, Alain Debare said: "Taking a wide lens, the hotel sector we have grown to know, is in a shift. A big shift. In recent months, we have witnessed a flurry of multi-billion dollar M&A activity. The reality is, this has taken Top Team attention away from core brand operations."For registrations and for more information, visit: www.arabianconference.comContact: Lisa Flanagan, Senior Communications Consultant, In2 Consulting; lisa@in2consulting.com Office: +971 4 455 8499; Mobile: +971 52 689 5509

"World's Greatest Living Explorer" to Address Global Hotel Investment Community at AHIC 2018

MEED ·27 March 2018
Dubai, UAE:. The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) has announced it will welcome the legendary Sir Ranulph Fiennes on Thursday 19th April, as the intrepid explorer completes the stellar line-up of speakers at the annual gathering for the world's hospitality investment community.Described by the Guinness Book of Records as the "World's Greatest Living Explorer", Sir Ranulph is world famous for being the first person to reach both the North and South Poles by foot and for completing seven marathons on seven continents (including Antarctica) in seven days - soon after receiving emergency heart surgery. He is also the oldest Briton to conquer Mount Everest, having made it to the summit at the age of 65.With teamwork, determination, patience, discipline and creative thinking critical in both expeditions and business alike, his keynote speech is set to give the 700+ hotel investors, developers, financiers, and C-level hotel executives in attendance a unique perspective on the parallels of surviving the challenges of an expedition in nature and surviving the business world.Held in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), the 14th edition of AHIC takes place from 17-19 April 2018 at the purpose-built AHIC Village in the grounds of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and promises to address the critical issues of innovation, leadership, destination development and industry disruptors amid the macroeconomic outlook from the investors' perspective.For registrations and for more information, visit: www.arabianconference.comContact: Lisa Flanagan, Senior Communications Consultant, In2 Consulting; lisa@in2consulting.com Office: +971 4 455 8499; Mobile: +971 52 689 5509
Article by Pascal Gauvin

Focus on the Future - IHG

MEED ·20 February 2018
In the lead up to the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners what their focus for the future is.Today, investors ultimately select brands based upon strong operations, distribution, production, revenue management, ADR, occupancy, and RevPAR achieved. However, in the immediate future and beyond, investors should be looking at hotel brands with more granularity. As competition across the industry becomes more fierce and more disruptors enter the market, investors should assess which hotel brands are more receptive to the changes in consumer behaviour and are likely to adapt and consistently remain relevant to the traveller of the future.Brands that will survive in the long run will be the ones that are intuitive about travellers' needs and their purpose of travel. This is applicable to brands across the travel spectrum; whether you play in the luxury sector or in select service as guests are becoming increasingly astute about their needs and precise in their articulation of these needs. This is why investors must focus on brands/operators that allow guests to design their own stay based on personal preferences and then train their guest delivery teams to adjust their service style to the customizations per guest.To deliver such intuitive and personalized service, brands will have to move away from rigid operational and brand standards and develop more experiential guest touch points. For example a guest that books a non-smoking room is also likely to want to be seated at a non-smoking table for meals at the hotel's restaurants and bars. The hotel's operations team must be able to deliver on this preference without any additional prompts or requests from the guest. Furthermore, the profile of this guest must carry forward to every hotel being managed by the brand across the world, empowering the guest to focus on the travel purpose while the brand consistently meets his/her needs and delivers a great guest experience at every stay.Other areas that need an investors' attention is how brands meet guests' food and beverage requirements today and how they plan to in the future. Today guests have varied requests for different ethinic cuisines, vegan or organic food options and spaces where they can unwind and have a relaxed meal. Such requests already require hotel operators to engage in detailed planning and cost efficiency management to keep their food and beverage operations profitable. In the future, consumers may be able to customize their own food menu and order based on nutritional value via menu apps on their smartphones. Brands must be able to cater to these demands with a seamless operation whilst maintaining owner ROI.Lastly, investors must investigate how brands hire and train people. Currently, across the world, there is a considerable gap between the hotel pipeline and suitable talent required to operate the new hotels. Specifically in the Middle East, a large segment of the new generation is unaware or unfamiliar with the hospitality industry and the rewarding career path it offers. Hotel operators must work diligently to increase the profile of the industry and position it as an attractive career option for the youth.More importantly, investors should look at partnering with brands that consistently adjust their employee training programs to cater to changing consumer trends, thus developing strong talent pipelines for the future.Brands that are receptive and adaptive to the changing consumer context are the ones that can be expected to deliver consistent ROIs over the next 10-20 years.
Article by Haitham Mattar

Focus on the Future - Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA)

MEED · 1 February 2018
In the lead up to the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners what their focus for the future is.This year, AHIC 2018 looks to the future, which it sees as being defined by "the Four I's"- intelligence, investment, Innovation and Inspiration. I've been tasked with looking at what our particular focus will be, and, for a rapidly emerging tourism destination, the answer is simple: all four must be balanced and work together in harmony if we are to steer a steady course through 2018 and beyond.Looking at intelligence first, in the simplest terms, increased competition and ever tighter margins means we must simply "be smarter" in how we conduct business. Digging down a little, I think accurate, customised business intelligence will be the single most effective business tool that separates the smart destinations, investors and operators from the mainstream. To be effective, any strategy needs to be built on a foundation of solid evidence. How can we convince businesses that a particular sector or region is ripe for investment? How do we persuade customers to choose one offering out of dozens, or even hundreds? Where should governments focus their budgets to get the best bang for buck? And, at the end of the day, what do customers - be they holiday makers or business guests - really want from a destination or a hotel? Customised market research answers all these questions. And, in our tech-focussed world, automated survey technology and big data analysis are bringing down the cost of bespoke market research for all.We still need to ask the right questions, and I think the most important question is simply: what do people really want? For example, the past few years have seen a rush for investment in technology in the sector. Smart rooms with curtains that close at the touch of a button; on-screen orientation for hotels, apps replacing room service calls and other labour-saving tricks and tools. But is this really meeting a real demand from customers? The result may be more convenience for operators and customers alike, but it comes with a loss of strong brand positioning that is going to be detrimental to hotels and guests alike. If every hotel offers the same tech-focused experiences, what are the differentiators? Will booking a hotel room just come down to "order by price" and clicking the lowest?I like to think that travel - be it business or leisure - is about collecting memorable experiences. When it comes to innovation, therefore, the old maxim applies: just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should. It's about understanding the audience mind-set and determining what will truly enhance their overall experience. One size does not fit all and investment in technology needs to drive differentiation and fuel a unique and unforgettable stay.If we get the above right, inspiration follows. Good market research will inspire operators to improve their customer offerings; investors will be inspired to put money into more unusual and ultimately rewarding offerings; and innovation will create richer, more rewarding experiences for customers, and staff alike, inspiring loyalty and fostering strong, clearly defined brand growth.
Article by Olivier Harnisch

Focus on the Future - Emaar Hospitality Group

MEED ·30 January 2018
In the lead up to the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners what their focus for the future is.Let me ask you some not-so-rhetorical questions: Do you want to be greeted by a robot? Do you want a bot to respond to your queries? Do you want your holiday to be a virtual reality experience?While there are no definite answers to these questions - especially because people's preferences are varied - there is a bottom line that I wish to emphasise - and which, I believe, is mission-critical for the future of our industry. It is the power of the human mind; the gentle, unobtrusive 'human touch'; and the art of personalisation of service that has indeed been the very foundation of the hospitality industry.The future of our industry will be defined as much by the all-encompassing digital transformation we see today as by the extent to which we redefine our service standards for the digital era. It is a fine balance - and in achieving that lies in the art of hospitality.Striving for that, where the potential of digital technology will be leveraged to enhance the guest experience, and assuring every visitor - young and old alike - the true home away from home experience, will set the template for future success.Why is this approach inevitable?To start off, our industry's guest landscape has evolved and is changing dramatically. The millennials are rewriting the rules of hospitality and seeking experiences that suit their modern lifestyle aspirations. They are fuss-free, want to stay connected, be mobile, and seek enriching social experiences.For them, hotels are hubs where they connect and meet like-minded individuals. Be on leisure or business, they pursue convenience and value. They are eager to discover more, and seek not only in-room amenities that keep them connected but also dining and leisure selections that satisfy their soul-cravings.On the other end of the spectrum are the 'Boomers,' exploring the world at a more leisurely pace. While they may be more 'conventional' in their expectations of hotels, they nevertheless demand value and regard the service standards offered as the benchmark for a repeat visit.For the hotel industry, finding the balance in meeting the aspirations of both groups of travellers is further challenged by several other factors. The first is the emergence of newer 'feeder' markets. Young people with higher disposable income from the high-growth emerging markets are touring the world.Two, the rise of the MICE market - after a temporary dip in the past - demands higher levels of efficiency from the hospitality sector to serve larger-sized groups of guests. Three, a new group of culturally inclined guests are bursting into the scene with their interests centred on diverse cultural activities - be it a visit to the new museum or pursuing the trail of their favourite musician. There are also the industry's ever-so favourites - the business travellers, who are mostly on short-haul visits but demand utmost efficiency across every touch-point.Integrating the aspirations of all these segments is the true challenge before us as an industry. Of course, brand differentiation would help in addressing specific market niches.But the binding thread in the future narrative of our industry is how we relook our service standards. We need to bring in the possibilities offered by Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and the Internet of Things to have a specific customer interface.From relooking the regimens of check-in and check-out time to the amenities that are offered in-room, our focus for the future is to make digitisation as user-friendly as possible. To cut back to the questions I raised, a robot that greets you in your native language, and a Virtual Reality tour before you commence your journey are all possibilities that can elevate the guest experience.From an operational point of view, the future of our industry will be set by how efficient our internal processes are. The application of Blockchain technology and efficiency improvement tech-modules will be a driver of success. We are already relooking at how the guest experience can be further enriched through three key digital projects, while enhancing our operational efficiency.With the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference serving as a window on the industry for investors and other stakeholders, it is also important to take into consideration the investors' perspective. As hotel operators, how can we generate more value for owners and developers?We are addressing this through a new model in hotel management agreements that is based on an incentive fee and not a base fee as percentage of gross revenue. The incentive fee is based on gross operating profit, whereby operators are encouraged to generate more profits.All the shifts that we must make for the future are underpinned by that one differentiating factor: Your commitment to deliver the most efficient service, which is personalised for every guest, to ensure they return for the outstanding memories that you help create.
Article by Jerad Bachar

Focus on the Future - Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)

MEED ·29 January 2018
In the lead up to the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners what their focus for the future is.The major driver of innovation that everyone is discussing in the region is, of course, the creation of a sustainable post-oil future, as economic diversification creates exciting opportunities for international investors across sectors, including tourism and hospitality. Bahrain has been a pioneer of diversification for decades, as the first GCC nation to develop a diversification strategy back in the 1960s, and tourism, which contributed around 6.3% to non-oil GDP in 2016, is an important component of the Kingdom's post-oil vision.A 'focus for the future' at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is to realise the tourism sector's growth potential and build on its strong foundation. For 2018 we are looking at investing in infrastructure and development to inspire visitors to stay longer, and creating a supportive environment for innovation to flourish.At a time of uncertain economic prospects around the world, the Middle East has strong growth fundamentals: a young, fast-growing population, strong infrastructure and a location linking one of the world's major developed markets - Europe - with two of its most exciting growth markets - Africa and Asia. In the centre of this global crossroad, we have a fascinating and diverse region that attracts investment, business and visitors. The GCC economy is worth around $1.5 trillion - a figure forecast to reach more than $2 trillion by 2020 - and presents significant opportunities for businesses looking to expand.Bahrain's authentic, open culture, warm climate, beautiful natural islands and historical monuments, including two UNSECO World Heritage sites, puts it in a unique position to benefit from both intra-regional tourism and international visitors to the Gulf. We are working closely with Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority's (BTEA) and investors to inspire even more visitors to discover Bahrain. Building on the successes of 2017, where we saw the launch of new international tour operators, as well as a new tourism brand and slogan 'Ours. Yours. Bahrain'.We know that second-time visitors to Bahrain often stay longer and spend more, and Bahrain is adding even greater breath to its leisure offering to drive further growth across visitor numbers, length of stay, and spend. This includes the re-development of Manama Traditional Souk as well as new beach and island development projects at Qalali Beach, Al Qous Corniche, and Al Moatredh Island.With a population of just 1.5 million, Bahrain already has one of the highest visitor-per-capita ratios in the world. The first 11 months of 2017 saw 10.4 million tourism visitors attracted to the Kingdom, and by 2020 annual visitor numbers are expected to reach 15 million. This means there has to be a core focus on delivering the right strategic investments in infrastructure to support the accelerating growth in visitor numbers.At the beginning of 2018, we have a strong investment pipeline in place, worth $13 billion across 14 tourism related projects. This forms part of the Kingdom's wider, large-scale public and private infrastructure development valued at over $32 billion, with key investments including the $1.1 billion Airport modernisation and expansion project, which will increase capacity by 65% to 14 million passengers a year by 2020.These infrastructure investments will naturally stimulate growth across sectors including manufacturing, logistics, trade, real estate, transportation, and financial services - creating new jobs in the Kingdom which in turn will fuel further opportunities for hotels, restaurants and leisure providers.The Kingdom's hotel and restaurant sector was already the strongest growing sector in the first half of 2017, experiencing 12.9% year-on-year growth. We will continue to build on this huge potential by attracting new international franchises as well as supporting home-grown businesses. Currently, there are 15 new five and four-star hotels and resorts in the pipeline as well as a number of shopping malls including Dilmunia Mall and Marassi Galleria, which will join the recently opened $159 million Avenues Mall at Bahrain Bay - a buzzing and popular edition to Manama's dynamic leisure scene.Bahrain has the optimum conditions for investment, with particular advantages for tourism-based enterprises, through 100% foreign ownership in most business activites, ease of setting up business, a low tax environment and highly skilled local talent. As we look forward, we believe that Bahrain's technology infrastructure and capability, including powerful assets like Amazon Web Services (AWS) first regional base, paired with its growing culture of entrepreneurism, will create a testbed environment for innovative new technologies in the tourism sector to develop and then scale regionally and globally.Our vision is an increasingly productive economy, where growth is driven by our unique fundamentals and supported by a forward thinking government that is committed to putting the private sector at the forefront of development.

Focus on the Future - Wyndham Hotel Group

MEED ·26 January 2018
In the lead up to the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), we asked a number of industry partners what their focus for the future is.I believe the future of the hospitality sector is set for unprecedented changes led by the technology evolution, a younger traveller demographic, as well as the rise of newer feeder markets. These shifts will not only transform the industry but also help create lasting value. This is particularly true for the Middle East region where the hospitality sector has evolved considerably in recent years, with its full potential still to be unlocked.But to achieve that, we need to take bolder, and more innovative approaches. We must look beyond what has worked in the past, and be future-ready to address the needs and aspirations of the next generation of travellers. From being established providers of hotel services, we must look at hospitality as a lifestyle choice that takes into consideration the social, demographic and technological changes that will shape its industry's future.The context of 'future' is not something set in a distant time. It is very much how we deliver hospitality services now - in the short-term - because the changes I mentioned are already 'real' and happening.The rise of social media has already changed the rules of the game. Free-flowing comments online and guest reviews that reach millions with the click of a mouse or swipe of the mobile have fundamentally altered how the hospitality sector operates. One negative review on a travel website is all it takes to challenge the credibility of hospitality providers.But there is a silver lining to it. More open conversations have created new opportunities for hotel brands to learn about guests and address their requirements. For example, business guests have long called for late check-out times, and the industry is responding to it, offering greater flexibility.However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach; hospitality providers must focus on a one-size-fits-one approach, where different hotels in different locations catering for distinctive guest profiles must tailor their offering to the customers' needs.The young population is the new and future guest demographic. These tech-savvy professionals, entrepreneurs and leisure-travellers demand a new level of service that is personalised, and it is imperative that we evolve and adapt to meet their aspirations.Nowhere is this change more relevant than here in the Middle East and Africa region, where over 60% of the population is below the age of 30, according to the United Nations Development Programme, Arab Human Development Report 2016 Naturally, the primary focus of our business for the future must be on how we can integrate digital technologies to enhance their guest experience covering every touch-point - from building a strong online presence, engaging in online conversations to supporting them with effortless online booking and planning their itinerary and stay.But the digital transformation of the hospitality sector does not mean merely putting in place a few online tools; it means, integrating technology as part of your organisational DNA and creating your hotels not just to be design-savvy but also to serve as social hubs for people to connect. The hotels must be places for young travelers to be 'connected,' entertained and mobile.However, the focus on youth shouldn't deter us from a demographic of the more seasoned and senior travelers, who wish for the true 'home away from home' experience, seeking the comfort of hotels for the room service and concierge facilities.While technology is a great leveller that adds value to both younger and older generations, it is also important to keep in mind the different needs of all guests, from the requirements of the business traveller, who might call out for a late check-out time, to the demand of large families for connecting rooms.Not to be ignored is the need for delivering a new midscale value proposition. With new feeder markets such as China, India, Africa and the wider Middle East and Africa region the hospitality sector needs a more diversified proposition from premium to affordable hotels to suit any traveller.As hospitality providers adapt to the new requirements, they must, however, not compromise on the fundamentals. It is important to ensure the highest standards of guest service, quality food & beverage offering, efficient concierge services, in-room amenities and a loyalty programme that adds value to the guests. As we gaze into the future, the industry must also consider the need for how we can evolve as better corporate citizens by pursuing sustainable practices. There is an urgent need to focus on energy and water efficiency, and to strive for green certifications.Putting all the above together, I believe, this is the democratisation of the industry that we need - where travellers, young or old, leisure or business - get amazing experiences that meet their needs and their budget.Our focus for the future must be to deliver relevant, innovative and digital-savvy offering to customers any locations they prefer, at price-points they seek, and in doing so, create memories they cherish.

AHIC 2018 unveils dedicated 'Day of Disruption' to inspire and challenge the hotel investment community

MEED ·23 January 2018
Dubai, UAE. -- The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) will kick off with a 'Day of Disruption', designed to shake-up traditional ways of thinking and bring insight to the hospitality investment industry from forward thinkers operating in various sectors, from cybersecurity and cryptocurrencies to marketing and motorsports.Taking place 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), this 14th edition of AHIC promises to harvest knowledge from outside of the hotel industry and challenge the status quo.Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, explained: "The hospitality industry is often criticised for not keeping ahead of trends or driving innovation. That's because hotels are a rooms-based business model, offering bed and breakfast - something that will always be needed, as long as people continue to travel. There is little motivation, quite understandably, to change this."However, as the hotel market in this region matures, competition increases, putting performance and profitability under pressure, so investors are quite rightly focusing on the future and carefully analysing the potential of current and future assets alike," continued Worsley. "Many of the hotel owners we speak with at AHIC invest in other industries as well and are keen to see how the hospitality industry will adopt new technologies and create alternative operating models."This is why we are kicking off AHIC 2018 with The Day of Disruption, which will bring together CEOs from some of the world's most forward-thinking companies, such as Winding Tree, Vayner Media and TINT, to share their knowledge with the industry. This will no doubt fuel the debate for the rest of AHIC, which will address business-critical issues including the macro economic outlook, global leadership, destination development, international investment opportunities, value engineering and asset management," said Worsley.Headlining The Day of Disruption on April 17 is Frits Dirk van Paasschen, author of The Disruptor's Feast and former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. According to van Paasschen, established interests, change-blindness and set ways of working mean hotel brands will wake up too late to disruption, making it nearly impossible for incumbents to survive."There is so much change still to come, and most of the industry is still asleep," said van Paasschen, who believes "lodging capacity in the space between traditional hotels and first-generation peer-to-peer accommodations" will be the major disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018.In this highly-relevant kick-off to AHIC, van Paasschen will present his own thoughts - including those on how the hospitality industry can lead the way to a carbon-neutral future - and welcome other experts from outside of the industry to share their essential insights for hotel owners and operators.Speakers include Maksim Izmaylov, CEO, Winding Tree, specialist in blockchain technology, who holds a similar view to van Paasschen."There is no innovation in the hospitality industry, that's the main problem. There are no and will be no new disruptors in the industry until we break the monopolistic grip on it," said Izmaylov, who will present how blockchain can be used to circumvent OTAs.He added: "We live in a technology-driven world. Any CEO of a travel company has to really come to terms with this. His/her company has to transform into a technology company as soon as possible. If they don't do that, they will be delegating their technological expertise to some intermediary that will abuse it."Tim Sae Koo, CEO of social media marketing company TINT, who will share his experiences as a "digital nomad" with AHIC delegates, agreed that investors should be investing in "digital technologies early on"."Hotel operators lagged a little behind, but there are quite a few companies now that are refreshing the business model and trying new things, such as Yotel, Citizen M, and Generator Hostels. People still want the human experience, but what that means is evolving and a lot of times includes more technology," said Sae Koo.Partner of AHIC 2018, Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, said technology would be the biggest disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018."I am referring to technology that improves the customer experience, and tech that improves operator efficiency. The ultimate disruptors will be tech that achieves both," said Mattar."The UAE's leadership has a clear plan to build smart cities, and a smart society. They are investing heavily in all the pillars that will enable this vision, including smart transportation, crowd management, smart buildings and smart tourism. Investors need to be aware of these developments, and align with them," he added.The Day of Disruption will also include a live hack of the AHIC 2018 audience, led by Richard Neale of Counterhack; modern leadership advice from Ferrari's Mark Arnall, Trainer of F1 star Kimi Raikkonen; and a panel session featuring 'Challengers of the Status Quo' moderated by Eric Fulwiler, Executive Director - London of VaynerMedia.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: hwww.arabianconference.comAbout AHIC 2018AHIC, now in its 14th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East's hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench Events in partnership with MEED Events. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2018 will be held in a purpose-built AHIC Village on the beach of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from 17 April to 19 April 2018 in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, AHIC 2018 will be co-hosted by its founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region's tourism growth.AHIC 2018 SponsorsAHIC 2018 is hosted by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Sponsors include: Al Marjan Island, Hilton and The Rezidor Hotel Group as Platinum Sponsors; AccorHotels, Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Dur Hospitality, Emaar Hospitality Group, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), IWG (Insignia Worldwide Group), Marriott International; The Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development - SMIT and Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors; and Action Hotels, Colliers International, Louvre Hotels Group, Melia Hotels International, STR, Time Hotels and Roya International as Gold Sponsors.About 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 14th 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. www.benchevents.comAbout MEEDMEED is a remarkable senior management media brand, that encompasses subscription to the MEED Business Review publication and website, www.meed.com, as well as organising the MEED Quality Awards for Projects, AHIC and Innovation Live! MEED also works with clients on bespoke content, events, broadcast and digital offerings. MEED also has two high-value content businesses, MEED Projects and MEED Insight. MEED Projects is the Middle East's premium project tracking database and MEED Insight offers tailored research and in-depth analysis. Established in 1957, MEED, has been integral to delivering business information and news, intelligence and analysis on the Middle East economies and activities ever since. www.meed.comAbout Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA)The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) was established in May 2011 under the government of Ras Al Khaimah. In order to achieve target growth of one million visitors by the end of 2018, the authority aims to develop the emirate's tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination for leisure and business travel, creating sustainable investment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. In order to achieve its goals, the RAKTDA has a government mandate to license, regulate and monitor the emirate's tourism and hospitality industry.

The Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference launches as the Kingdom is poised for massive growth in the hospitality sector

MEED ·22 January 2018
Dubai, UAE -- Under the theme of 'Focus on the Future', the Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference (SHIC) will present industry insights into how to capitalize on the multitude of hospitality investment opportunities arising in the Kingdom.Organised by Saudi Event Management and Marketing (SEMARK), co-organised by Bench Events and MEED and hosted by strategic partner DUR Hospitality at the Riyadh Marriott Hotel on 26 February 2018, SHIC will bring together around 300 hotel investors, owners, developers and operators to help further the growth of the hospitality industry in the Kingdom.The inaugural event will be headlined by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, President, Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage and Her Royal Highness Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairwoman, Global United Centre for Research and Analysis, who will deliver an address on 'The Future of Saudi Tourism - Transitioning to Tomorrow', sharing insights into Vision 2030 and opportunities for hospitality investment and development in line with the government's vision.Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Co-Founder of SHIC, said: "We are delighted to have the support of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Her Royal Highness Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the inaugural edition of SHIC."He added: "Having organized the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) for the past 14 years, we have witnessed phenomenal interest from our delegates into hospitality investment opportunities in the Kingdom. Now, as the country's drive for a more diversified economy highlights new tourism and hospitality infrastructure, we believe it is the ideal time to connect investors and operators at SHIC, with an event dedicated to discussing and debating the issues most impacting the hotel industry's growth in Saudi Arabia."Programme highlights include Gerald Lawless, Chairman, World Travel & Tourism Council, presenting 'Destination Development' as well as Jaan Albrecht, Chief Executive Officer, Saudia together with Abdellah Essonni, Chief Hospitality Officer, MAAD International and Yasser Faisal Al Sharif, Chief Executive Officer, Jabal Omar Development Company discussing 'Transformational Development in the Holy Cities'.Worsley concluded, "The SHIC programme will also feature data from STR whose latest Pipeline Report reveals that Saudi Arabia currently has 40,020 rooms across 89 projects in the construction pipeline. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia has the largest number of hotel rooms under construction in the MENA region at present, making the Kingdom the region's most active hotspot for investors and operators alike."The total value of hospitality investment projects in Saudi Arabia stands at US$1.9bn according to a forecast by MEED Projects. Dr Badr Al Badr, CEO of Dur Hospitality and strategic partner of SHIC, believes that the Saudi economy will witness a positive shift in the coming years when the government executes the recently announced initiatives bolstering confidence in tourism investments."The Public Private Partnerships drive in Saudi Arabia is presenting new opportunities to attract investment into hospitality," said Al Badr."Following the announcement of the KSA Vision 2030, a more attractive investment environment is opening the doors for private investors into new areas of the Saudi Arabian economy. This creates significant opportunities for hotel investors," Al Badr continued.He added: "A large percentage of Saudi Arabia's hotel pipeline focuses on the Holy Cities as economists are anticipating 30 million religious tourists by 2025. But hotel development will also be prompted by non-religious destinations, cultural cities and archaeological sites."According to the Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs, tourism's contribution to the GDP will go from a current 3.5% to over 10% by 2030.Access to the Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference is available in conjunction with the AHIC VIP Package which includes other high-end experiences and access to exclusive content at AHIC 2018. To register your interest for this high-level invitation-only event, please visit www.arabianconference.com/shicAbout SHIC 2018SHIC is a one-day knowledge and networking event for hotel investment industry leaders and influential figures from government, technology, construction and design to discuss and share hospitality investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Organised by Saudi Event Management and Marketing (SEMARK), and co-organised by the team behind AHIC, SHIC's mission is to connect hotel investors owners, developers and operators to help further the growth of the hospitality industry in the Kingdom. The inaugural edition of SHIC will be hosted by strategic partner DUR Hospitality on 26 February 2018 at the Marriott Convention Center at the Riyadh Marriott Hotel.About AHIC 2018AHIC, now in its 14th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East's hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench Events in partnership with MEED Events. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2018 will be held in a purpose-built AHIC Village on the beach of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from 17 April to 19 April 2018 in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, AHIC 2018 will be co-hosted by its founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region's tourism growth.AHIC 2018 SponsorsAHIC 2018 is hosted by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Sponsors include: Al Marjan Island, Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Hilton and The Rezidor Hotel Group as Platinum Sponsors; Dur Hospitality, Emaar Hospitality Group, (IHG) InterContinental Hotels Group, IWG (Insignia Worldwide Group) and Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors; and Action Hotels, Colliers International, Louvre Hotels Group, Melia Hotels International, STR and Time Hotels as Gold Sponsors.About 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 14th 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. www.benchevents.comAbout MEEDMEED is a remarkable senior management media brand, that encompasses subscription to the MEED Business Review publication and website, www.meed.com, as well as organising the MEED Quality Awards for Projects, AHIC and Innovation Live! MEED also works with clients on bespoke content, events, broadcast and digital offerings. MEED also has two high-value content businesses, MEED Projects and MEED Insight. MEED Projects is the Middle East's premium project tracking database and MEED Insight offers tailored research and in-depth analysis. Established in 1957, MEED, has been integral to delivering business information and news, intelligence and analysis on the Middle East economies and activities ever since. www.meed.comAbout Dur HospitalityDur Hospitality is a publicly listed Saudi hospitality company established in 1976, that owns, develops, and manages a broad range of hospitality and residential properties across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its 2.37 billion Riyals diversified portfolio encompasses more than 20 properties, in addition 21 projects under development. In 1983, Dur hospitality launched its first Saudi Hotel brand, "Makarem Hotels", the award winning local brand specialized in delivering Saudi authentic hospitality services as per the international standards, in the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina. Additionally, Dur operates hotels across Saudi Arabia through its franchise agreements with IHG and Marriott International.In the real estate sector, Dur designs, develops and manages residential communities, employing its extended background in hospitality to offer integrated facility management services under its own Brand "Dur Communities". www.dur.sa/ar

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: www.arabianconference.com

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; lisa@in2consulting.com 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: www.arabianconference.com

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 repetitive...you 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: www.arabianconference.com
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: www.arabianconference.com

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: www.arabianconference.com Contact: Frances Barton, Media Relations Director, In2 Consulting; frances@in2consulting.com; 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. www.benchevents.com 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. www.meed.com. 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: www.arabianconference.com

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: www.arabianconference.com
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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: www.arabianconference.com

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

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