Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time is ripe to invest in UAE, Saudi and Omani hotels say experts

Time is ripe to invest in UAE, Saudi and Omani hotels say experts

Investment experts at AHIC 2012 highlight opportune offers in GCC hospitality climate – post-Arab Spring resilience indicative of investor sentiment

Internationally renowned experts gathered at this year’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) and delivered a clear and consistent message: now is the right time to invest in the Gulf’s growing hotel industry – namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Commenting on the common thread to emerge from AHIC’s main sessions which addressed the changing geo-political landscapes in the Middle East, and its ramifications for investors and developers, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman & CEO Bench Events, Board Member STR Global said:

“Dubai is setting the standard in hotel occupancy rates and sustainability; Saudi Arabia is sagaciously tapping its oil funds to lead the way in religious tourism and prudently diversifying its contribution to GDP away from hydrocarbon revenues; and Oman – the often mentioned ‘dark horse’ at the conference – presents a landscape fertile for hospitality development.

“The investment that is now being directed into Oman’s hospitality infrastructure – such as the planned expansion of the Muscat International Airport, with the upgrading of the Seeb International Airport for instance – shows that the country’s ambition to flourish into a tourism hotspot is finally matching its unrivalled natural beauty and un-crowded, serene coastline.

Echoing Worsley’s sentiment, Kurt Ritter, CEO and President The Rezidor Hotel Group, said: “With the strong performance of the UAE and Saudi Arabia last year it is clear that now is the time to further invest in these key countries.”
Adding further weight to the case to invest in Oman, Salman Haider, Managing Director, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said: “Given the opportunities offered by Oman, we are currently working on three proposed hotels in The Wave – our master-planned community in the Sultanate.”

And concurring with the prevailing sentiment from the conference halls, Joe Sita, President, IFA Hotel Investments, promoting the new airport hotel brand YOTEL said: “Throughout the conference we saw interesting possibilities come to light in all three of these markets [UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman] – we see a future for the YOTEL brand in each.”

Meanwhile, in his introductory speech to the conference Nenad Pacek, Founder and President of Global Success Advisers Ltd. highlighting that competition is heating up in the Middle East hotel investment sector, saying speed and efficiency are vital for hotel developers and investors in the region.

“To accelerate your growth you need to embed speed and urgency into your response to the competitive challenge in high-growth emerging markets in MENA. Speed is of the essence,” he explained.

Pacek also said that the oil-exporting markets are doing very well by global standards, adding that the Middle East is not a homogenous region: “They have savings of about $2.2 trillion: a phenomenal amount of money. And their fundamentals are good.

“You cannot talk about the region as one entity. Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest growing markets globally: we are seeing growth in some Saudi businesses of more than 30 per cent.”

And in a nod to the other major player in the region’s hospitality industry Pacek remarked: “Dubai has recovered well and has been helped by the phenomenal growth in the emirate’s tourism.

“The UAE will grow by about 4 per cent in real terms in 2012, and perhaps this year and next we may see a return to some of the investments that have been postponed in Abu Dhabi.”

Following the seismic shift in the Middle East’s socio-political landscape in the wake of the Arab Spring, the ‘Investment Climate in the New Arab World’ conference at AHIC 2012 emphasised that the strong tourism fundamentals of the region are still in-place and recovery is only a matter of time.

“The fundamentals are the same. Sinai is still a great place to go for diving and the fish have not gone away,” Paul Pisani, Senior Vice President, hotel development, Corinthia Hotels, addressing delegates at the event.

Meanwhile at AHIC, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt's Minister of Tourism, discussing the impact of the Arab Spring and the popular uprisings against Hosni Mubarak that have inundated Egyptian society for more than a year now, said in the ‘A hard talk on demand’ conference that tourism numbers to the pharoanic capital are recovering.

“The tourism sector is too important for it to be jeopardised by this or that political party. We are hopeful that at the end of the electoral process in June we will see a substantial increase [in tourism numbers]. Our plan is to get back to the figures in 2010 and to get 14.5 million tourists this year and create the environment and capacity to receive some 30 million tourists by 2017,” he said.

A highlight at this year’s AHIC was the ‘A Focus on Investment Opportunities Outside of the Middle East’ conference, which considered demographics worth tapping outside the region.

During the symposium, Enrique Carillo Lavat, CEO FONTAUR said Mexico will sign a double taxation agreement with the UAE and aims to secure direct flights from Gulf destinations to the South American continent.

“Mexico hopes for direct flights from the Gulf – we are working on it,” Lavat remarked, as he noted that Mexico aims to double its number of foreign tourists from 23 million last year.

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline & Group, organiser MEED Events in partnership with Bench Events attracted more than 80 speakers and over 500 local and international delegates representing more than 40 countries who attended the three-day conference.

For more information on the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference:

Photo caption: Nenad Pacek, Founder and President of Global Success Advisers Ltd, sets the tone with introductory speech at AHIC 2012.

About MEED Events

MEED's comprehensive portfolio of events has been developed over the last decade to cover the region's key business issues and sectors. From large-scale summits and conferences to unique one-to-one networking opportunities, MEED Events provide high-profile speakers, relevant and critical business content and the latest news from across the GCC.

About Bench Events

Bench Events is one of the founders and organisers of several leading conferences for the hotel investment industry including the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF), the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), Central Asia and Turkey Hotel Investment Conference (CATHIC), the Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference (RHIC) and the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF)

About the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference

AHIC attracts over 550 industry leaders annually from over 40 countries, including many of the most influential names within the Middle East’s hotel investment community, as both speakers and attendees. Details of AHIC can be found on
Platinum sponsors: Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, IHG, Jumeirah Group, RCI & Wyndham Hotel Group.

Emerald sponsors: Corinthia Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, Jebel Ali International Hotels, Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development (SMIT) Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.

Gold sponsors : ACCOR, AECOM, Argentina - National Institute of Tourism Promotion, Clyde & Co, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Fonatur National Turst for Tourism Development, Golden Tulip Hotels, Suites & Resorts MENA, Horwath HTL, HVS, Hyatt International, IFA Hotel Investments, Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, Marriott International, MENA Hotels & Resorts, Orient-Express, Premier Inn , Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Investment and Development Authority, Rixos Hotels, STR Global, Turnkey Ventures, WATG.

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