Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2019 synchronized for success

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2019 synchronized for success


Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2019 synchronized for success

AHIC 2019, launching on April 9 till the 11th will feature 100 speakers from around the world who are expected to attract more than 900 delegates in total. This year’s theme has been curated around the topic titled, ‘Synchronized for Success’. The program will uncover innovative approaches to business, analyze market trends, foster harmonious relationships between all stakeholders and help them future-proof against evolving demands.

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events, previews the major topics to be discussed at AHIC 2019, which will bring the critical need for alignment among hospitality industry developers, investors, owners and operators under the spotlight. Participants will debate and discuss numerous demands on the Middle East’s hospitality industry and the need for investors, owners and operators alike to be aligned as they tackle these.

According to the latest data from STR, there are 740 hotels in the total pipeline for the Middle East: 431 under construction; 117 in final planning; and 192 in planning. This equates to a total of 197,823 upcoming rooms in the region. In the second annual AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast, conducted by MEED Projects and released in January this year, it was revealed that close to US$ 30 billion worth of hotel construction contracts will be awarded in the Middle East and North Africa between now and 2023. The UAE leads the way, with almost US$11 billion worth of planned and un-awarded hotel projects. Egypt, which has a long-established tourism sector, is the second largest future market with just over US$ 4 billion worth of hotel projects and is closely followed by Saudi Arabia at US$ 3.9 billion.

There are multiple areas in which synchronization will be important to the sector’s success, but three key areas to consider are: sustainability, innovation and real estate development.


With ever-increasing demand for sustainable tourism, a pivotal topic will be the role the industry’s major stakeholders have to play. In highlighting this topic, two of KSA’s giga-projects will be showcased; Amaala, a bespoke hospitality experience located within the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve and The Red Sea Project, situated along the Western coast. The Red Sea Project will be created around an archipelago of more than 90 islands surrounded by thriving coral reefs, dramatic desert canyons, dormant volcanoes and heritage sites. Master developer The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) has already undertaken more than 30 ecological studies throughout the design and development phase to ensure all plans actively enhance the local environment.

John Pagano, CEO of TRSDC sums up the rationale behind such pioneering practices: “Our objective is to set new standards in sustainable development, respecting the species that were here before us, creating opportunities for the local communities and enhancing the destination for the future. We aim to be the world leader in environmental sustainability across all phases of development – planning, construction and operation – so that the site will actually benefit from being opened up to tourism and will flourish as a result. And we will share the knowledge we gain and the lessons we learn with the rest of the world in the hope that we can inspire other destinations around the globe.”


Success is likely to come not solely from within the industry, but via collaboration with others. This is why AHIC opens with a ‘Day of Disruption’, with experts in a variety of fields invited to share their experiences and how they might well relate to the hotel business. Julie Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer – The Coca- Cola Company, will be sharing how the global conglomerate is innovating, disrupting and playing the long game; while Jess Houlgrave, Founder and Trustee, Foundation for Art and Blockchain and Menelaos Petrovas, Director, Digital Marketing – Airport Hotel Basel AG, will debate whether blockchain will provide the transparency, trust, and accountability to revolutionize the hotel industry.

Meanwhile, tech experts, including Google’s Travel Industry Analyst Maria de la Fuente Corrales, David Sjolander, COO, HTNG and Ted Horner, Information Technology and Services Consultant and Owner, E Horner and Associates, will be reviewing how the smarter adoption of technology can future proof the hospitality business.

As Sjolander points out, currently challenges come from a lack of alignment. “The industry is fragmented; most hotels have an owner, a management company and a brand, all of which are usually multiple entities. By the time a new technology can be rolled out, it’s often outdated”, he says. Being a first mover or early adopter can reap rewards, but Sjolander warns this only works if it fits with the vision of all stakeholders.


Eng. Abdulla Al Abdouli, CEO of Marjan, the leading master developer for freehold land in Ras Al Khaimah, says that “Innovation, positivity, tech-adoption and creativity,” are four critical drivers in the new ‘synchronized model for success’ that every business must consider. “These are not just options but imperatives in today’s changing market dynamics. Innovation must become part of an organization’s DNA and a work culture, whereby every stakeholder identifies new ways to do things more efficiently,” says Al Abdouli.

Real estate

While sustainability and innovation are bound to be two of the hot topics at AHIC, as always, the core debate will revolve around hospitality investment trends, challenges and opportunities. Topics here include ‘Valuations in the Middle East’; ‘Speeding up the development process’ and ‘How do you bring in capital to hotel investments’. AHIC will also analyze the latest developments when it comes to hotel management models, looking at the growth of asset managers, the future of franchising and the potential for third-party management companies – and how each impacts owner and operator.

Ahead of the event, Marloes Knippenberg, CEO, Kerten Hospitality, throws a new perspective on this relationship. “There should not be a differentiation between an owner and an operator,” she asserts. “Operators need to start thinking more like an owner, to customize, mix, match and deliver on all requirements and individual needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. When operators start taking real ownership, then the line between both is blurred, then the partnership becomes a win-win. This is what we believe in and constantly nurture,” says Knippenberg, who is presenting a session at AHIC entitled ‘Creating more than hotel rooms – looking at blended real estate solutions for living’.

The Grand RAK Project

HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and AHIC Patron, is offering attending operators the chance to win a fully-funded beachfront hotel project in Ras Al Khaimah. The competition aims to create a new resort unique to Ras Al Khaimah and the Middle East. Working in teams of hotel designers and operators, entrants will until July 2019 to prepare a preliminary concept vision supported by a high-level feasibility appraisal. Entries will be judged on commercial feasibility, innovation and sustainability. The winning project will be backed and funded by HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi and allocated a coveted beachfront location.

The owners’ view

Ahead of AHIC 2019, some of the Middle East’s major developers and owners share their views on this year’s theme, ‘Synchronized for Success’.

Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority: “Everyone who works either directly or indirectly in hospitality must have the same common aim and all factors must work together in harmony to ensure all aims are successfully met. With the synchronized support of our partners, RAKTDA’s strategic investments over the past three years have accelerated the Emirate’s progress, surpassing regional growth trends and planting it among the fastest growing tourism destinations worldwide.”

Dr. Badr Al Badr, CEO, Dur Hospitality: “Catering to the traveler of the future is key in any market, but it is absolutely essential in Saudi Arabia where the pace of change is so fervently rapid. Working in partnership with like-minded owners and investors to pioneer innovative hospitality concepts, while simultaneously harmonizing corporate and commercial goals, is essential in this dynamic environment. It is an exciting juggling act where synchronization skills will constantly be put to the test.”

Seven unmissable sessions

  1. AHIC Leadership Talk – Sustainable investment tourism development for the future
  2. Creating a world-class resort destination
  3. Outward investment and travel from China
  4. The benefits of management companies vs. third party companies
  5. Dubai 2020 – What is in store for the hotel industry
  6. Midmarket resorts and non-traditional midmarket investment opportunities
  7. The Edge of Wildness – Adventure tourism luxury concepts

Click on the program and speakers for the complete list

AHIC 2019

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