The 14th edition of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) was inaugurated today by AHIC Host and Patron His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, with a record number of registered delegates from the regional and global hospitality investment industry.
The annual knowledge and networking event for the global hospitality investment community, held in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), took place at the purpose-built AHIC Village on the beach of the Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah.
“In a relatively short period of time, Ras Al Khaimah has changed dramatically, from a quiet, agricultural town, where a formal education was hard to come by, to a thriving city with a diverse economy and great educational institutions. Our Emirate, our people, our economy and our industries have been on quite an incredible journey,” said His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah in the official opening address.
Speaking about the importance and growth of the hospitality and tourism sector, His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr said: “We aim to increase tourism’s GDP contribution to 10 percent by 2025. Already, the sector has been growing at a rate of about 19 percent year-on-year. We aim to have one million visitors by the end of this year in Ras Al Khaimah and we have a target of 2.9 million per year by 2025.”
“Our Leader His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr has always encouraged us to pursue greatness in everything we do and as a result, we never stop striving to turn things from good to great, to exceed even our own targets and expectations, and to always go above and beyond. This first edition of AHIC in Ras Al Khaimah is a great example of that philosophy,” Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), said in his welcome remarks.
“The United Arab Emirates has always presented great opportunities, and we have taken those opportunities and made them even more accessible, and by hosting this conference here today we truly embrace sentiments behind the title of the event – particularly with the third word, Investment”.
In 2017, Ras Al Khaimah saw an average year-round occupancy of 74 percent, an average length of stay of 3.4 days and total revenues showing double digit growth year on year, whilst visitor satisfaction is at an impressive 90 percent. Today at AHIC, RAKTDA announced its Q1 2018 performance, which recorded the Emirate’s highest ever hotel occupancy in a quarter at 79.4 percent.
“These are all numbers I believe all point to an extremely bright future for the industry here in Ras Al Khaimah” said Mattar.
In his opening keynote discussion with BBC HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur, His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar, Founder and Chairman of Emaar Properties, discussed the future of hospitality, the region and the opportunities of tomorrow, before announcing the launch of the company’s first hotel and residences project in Ras Al Khaimah.
Located in the Views island of Al Marjan Island, a four-island mega-development, Address Al Marjan Island hotel and residences will be managed by Emaar Hospitality Group’s premium lifestyle brand, Address Hotels + Resorts. The hotel will have 249 rooms, including suites, while Address Residences Al Marjan Island will comprise 234 high-end apartments. As part of Views, the largest of the four islands that make up Al Marjan Island, residents will be in close proximity to the ubran core of the master-planned community as well as the town centre. With direct access to over 600 metres of beachfront, residents and guests will have uninterrupted views of the sea in addition to a range of lifestyle amenities.
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Co-Founder of AHIC said: “When we first started AHIC 14 years ago, we were the first event at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. Today, we are the first to hold a conference on the beach here in Ras al Khaimah and we have a record number of delegates this year, which just goes to show that the decision to bring AHIC to Ras Al Khaimah was the right one.”
“The theme of this year’s conference is all about Focus, which is so important nowadays, given all the headwinds around us. We need to focus on our business, we need to focus on our families and loved ones, and we need to focus on connections, experiences and opportunities. Speaking about opportunities, I am delighted to announce that Taj Hotel Group signed an agreement for a new hotel in Mecca yesterday.”