150 hotels to open in GCC this year; 450 in the pipeline, say AHIC organisers
WAM DUBAI: More than 600 delegates from across the world attended the ninth annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), which kicked off today at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai.
The opening day of AHIC saw significant announcements from a number of leading hotel groups, including, Wyndham Hotels, the world's largest hotel company, which said it plans to develop its first property in the UAE. The Wyndham Dubai Marina is expected to open within the next three years with 497 guest rooms, including 251 luxurious suites, and The First Royal Tulip in the MENA region.
Starwood Hotels '&' Resorts Worldwide announced the debut of its Four Points by Sheraton brand in Saudi Arabia with the new Four Points by Sheraton Riyadh Khaldia. The hotel will feature 376 guest rooms including 138 suites. Starwood also confirmed that the Grand Hills Hotel '&' Spa in Broumana, an upscale mountain resort town near Beirut in Lebanon, will join its iconic Luxury Collection portfolio when it opens in 2015 following a complete renovation.
Hilton Worldwide confirmed that it is expanding its presence across the Middle East with the addition of Bahrain to its portfolio of operating countries. The news comes following the signing of a management agreement with Tashyeed Properties Company to open the new DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bahrain in late 2015. The 350 room hotel is a five star property and will be located in Bahrain's capital Manama in the upscale residential area of Juffair.
These announcements support comments made by John Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events, who told AHIC delegates, that "there will be 150 hotels opening this year in the GCC and 450 in the pipeline so we are going to have a lot of construction in the sector in the next few years." The various hotel deals and project announcements made at AHIC appear well-timed given the latest findings in Visa's Global Travel Intentions Study 2013. According to the report, which surveyed 12,631 travellers from 25 countries, the average global travel budget of US$2,390 per trip is set to increase to US$2,501.
Commenting, Ross Jackson, Head of Cross-Border in Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa at Visa said: "Global economic woes have been well-documented over the past few years but our Visa Global Travel Intentions Study 2013 hints at a change in both the financial landscape and consumer mindset, suggesting either economic recovery or a growing appetite for larger travel budgets. Both provide excellent news for everyone involved in the global travel and tourism industry." During the first day of the Conference, delegates attended a range of sessions, including key note speeches, presentations, networking roundtables and panel discussions - one of which featured Egypt's Minister of Tourism, Hesham Zaazou. All of these were focused on addressing key industry issues, such as aviation cooperation, environmental protection, the importance of undertaking feasibility studies before committing to hotel developments, and the need for governments to work in partnership with the private sector.
"The number of in-bound tourists rose to 11.5 million in 2012 from 9.8 million in 2011," Zaazou said. He said that the number of Arab tourists visiting Egypt hit a record of 2.3 million compared with 1.8 million in 2011 and 2.1 million in 2010.
Zaazou said that the Egyptian tourism industry is continuing to grow and that President Morsi has declared that tourism is a government priority. He continued: "Egypt has 200,000 hotel rooms, most of them located in the Red Sea and Sinai, and another 208,000 are under construction. Almost of 50 per cent of service exports are due to tourism; 14.4 per cent of foreign currency earnings and 11.3 per cent of GDP are directly and indirectly due to tourism." Speaking at AHIC about the need for greater collaboration between international airlines, Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive of Dubai Airports, said: "There are huge opportunities where we can get huge efficiencies by working together. Other industries have worked on supply chain integration and improved efficiency. There are, of course, certain things about travel you can't change; airliners have to take with them entire fuel load they use in their journey. But the fuel efficient airliners we are seeing over Dubai are carrying a much higher passenger load. And we can see that aircraft manufacturers are making major inroads into this issue." In a separate session, Gary Chapman, President of Emirates Group Services and DNATA, spoke about ways to radically cut carbon emissions. He told delegates: "The biggest issue is the overflying and air traffic control issues. Governments have the power to improve that by 5-10 per cent if they could replace the archaic air traffic control systems they have at present." Participants at AHIC 2013 include: Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, IHG, Jumeirah Group, Corinthia Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, IFA Hotel Investments, Marriott International, SMIT, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, ACCOR, Aecom, Argentina National Institute of Tourism Promotion, Citymax Hotels, Digivalet, Ernst '&' Young, Fairmont Hotel '&' Resorts, Golden Tulip Hotels MENA, HVS, JA Resorts '&' Hotels, Jones Lang LaSalle, Kenya Tourist Development Corporation, Melia Hotels International, Minor International PCL, Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development, Orient Express Hotels, Premier Inn, Quadriga, Raffles Hotels '&' Resorts, Saudi Commission for Tourism '&' Antiquities, STR Global, Turnkey Ventures and WATG.