DUBAI- Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Al Maktoum, Executive Chairman of SHUAA Capital and the Chairman of Dubai International Holding Company delivered the opening remarks today at The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC 2014), that was held today (May 4th)at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.
Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum said: “The Middle East and the UAE in particular have witnessed a period of rapid social-economic development, which has fuelled the emergence of a dynamic and a very interesting hospitality and tourism sector, where the demand has become extremely strong, with world leading hotels establishing themselves in the region and putting their plans for expansion.”
He added: “The UAE is already among the top five countries in the world for new hotel openings over the past five years, where Dubai enjoys the region’s strongest occupancies levels at 88.4% and average room rates at US$ 398.71. Abu Dhabi is also witnessing consistent growth in demand with a significant number of hotels and projects launched in the Emirate. UAE hotel room supply will increase by 5.3% annually from 2012-2016, with the emergence of strong brands like Jumeirah and Rotana.”
The authorities estimate that 25 million people are likely to visit Expo 2020, of which 70% will come from outside the UAE. It’s also expected to support 277,000 jobs. Infrastructure works related to the Expo are estimated to have a value of AED 12.54 billion; this includes the Expo area as well as developments in surrounding areas.
On another key note, AHIC 2014 has presented the Leadership Award this year to Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President and Chairman of the Board of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), in recognition of his vibrant role in developing the hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia.
In his role as SCTA President and Chairman, Prince Sultan bin Salman has helped in driving the development of the hotel industry in Saudi Arabia with key initiatives that respond to the rowing domestic demand on hospitality. A strong corporate sector along to the continued expansion of religious tourism, have been fuelling the growth in this sector in the Kingdom.
The Conference today has included a number of roundtables and panel discussions, with one of the key sessions held under the title ‘ A Vision for the GCC & beyond’, which discussed the GCC governments’ plans for sustainable growth and partnerships between public and private sectors. The panel included Anita Mendiratta Founder and Managing Director of CACHET Consulting, in conversation with: Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, Fahd Al-Rasheed Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of King Abdullah Economic City, Amr Abdel Ghaffar Regional Director of Middle East of UNWTO, and Amine Moukarzel, President of Golden Tulip Hotels, Suites and Resorts MENA
Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi said: “One of the main things that has changed over the last 5-10 years it the increase in awareness of the importance of tourism. We need to start thinking beyond natural resources and move away from a reliance on natural resources. One important shift at the moment in Qatar is that we have been mandated to bring tourism to the main priority and a way of sustainable growth. There is a fundamental recognition of the critical position the tourism places in building up the region.”
Amine Moukarzel also commented: “Hospitality provides the skeleton for other sectors – transport and other logistics – required for the GCC’s development. We should look at the fundamentals that relate to private and public sector partnerships. If we don’t have PPPs, we can’t sustain the growth we want to see in the years to come and the construction of hospitality and 2020 Expo. We need to have 5 star luxurious properties as well as budget trustworthy hotels with 2020 and 2022 coming up. Dubai’s Tourism Board has demonstrated the importance of having standards and classification.”
Another session titled ‘The Evolution of Dubai over the last ten years, what is the next step?’, discussed the one year into Vision, and the plan to take Dubai from 10 million to 20 million visitors, where Anita Mendiratta Founder and Managing Director of CACHET Consulting was in conversation with: Helal Almarri Director General of DTCM, Paul Griffiths Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Airports, and Gerald Lawless President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Jumeirah Group.
Helal Almarri, said: “In the last ten years, under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai has been transformed into a must-visit destination; has shifted the focus of the global aviation map; and has become the connecting point of the world. With the Tourism Vision for 2020 providing a focus for government and private entities within the tourism industry, in the past year a number of significant steps have been made towards delivering the vision and achieving our target of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by the end of the decade. The UAE has won the right to host Expo 2020 in Dubai; the first phase of Dubai World Central has opened; and a substantial number of new hotels, attractions and events have opened or been announced. Further, a series of legislative changes have been made which will enable Dubai to attract more business and leisure visitors and make the emirate an even more attractive investment opportunity for hotel investors.”
A number of announcements were made at AHIC 2014 today, including; International hotel and real estate developer IFA Hotels & Resorts (IFA HR) joining forces with Kuwait-based Tijaria to launch their first-ever vacation club business. The USD$50million joint venture brings together two significant hospitality forces in the Middle East. IFA Hotels & Resorts’ global holdings include properties ranging from the cutting-edge YOTEL brand to hotels and mixed-use developments operated by Fairmont, Mövenpick, Four Seasons and Sheraton. Tijaria’s holdings include the stunning Hotel Missioni and Symphony Hotels in Kuwait.
Talal Al-Bahar, Chairman and Group CEO, IFA HR, believes the Club fills a gap in the current market:“Aria Vacation Club is the first Middle-Eastern backed vacation club with the capacity to dominate markets in MENA, South East Asia, Europe and North America. We have done our research and have addressed previous barriers to this market. We have a number of wold-class assets in our stable, a proven executive team in place, the capacity to leverage the region’s most comprehensive consumer finance solution and a well-respected JV partner in Tijaria. We are extremely happy that Tijaria has partnered with us on Aria and we hope that it will be the first of many exciting joint ventures between our two companies.”
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. have also today announced that it has signed an agreement with Century Park and Hotel Residences Ltd. to open a new Sheraton hotel in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Scheduled to open in 2018, Sheraton Kigali will mark Starwood’s entry into Rwanda and will be the company’s 50th hotel in Africa. With this signing, Starwood is on track to increase its African portfolio by over 30% with more than 15 new hotels to open over the next five years.
Michael Wale, President of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East, said, “We look forward to partnering with Century Park and Hotel Residences on this milestone entry into Rwanda as we continue to expand our presence in Africa. Our innovative approach to managing lifestyle brands continues to set us apart from the competition and, with the signing of this agreement, we are proud to debut Starwood and the Sheraton brand in Rwanda’s economic, cultural, and transport hub.”
Furthermore, JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, has released its 2014 Hotel Intelligence Report for the Dubai Market at AHIC today. The report showed that positive trend in tourism is expected to continue in coming years due to Dubai’s increasing global popularity as a destination backed by the government’s pro-tourism initiatives. Dubai is expected to retain its status as the UAE’s primary tourist hub by expanding its conferencing and business facilities, expanding leisure entertainment options and maintaining its regional retail dominance.
Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, Executive Vice President, and Head of Hotels and Hospitality Group, Middle East & Africa at JLL, said: “Dubai has strengthened 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.”