Advisory Board meeting of 40 leading hotel owners and operators signals impact of innovation, digitalisation and sustainability on pandemic recovery, while new data from STR reveals the progress made to date
Dubai, UAE. 30 May, 2021. The region’s leading hospitality investment conference, AHIC, will return live and in-person from September 20-22, 2021 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, facilitating much-needed conversation, networking and market insight to help hotel investors, owners and operators steer the post-pandemic hospitality landscape in the Middle East and Africa.
Reimagined for 2021 under the theme Rise Together, the new-look Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) will bring together the four close-knit investment communities of the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC), Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference (SHIC), Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF).
Key representatives from each of these communities gathered in Dubai earlier this month at the AHIC 2021 Advisory Board, a meeting of 40 leading hoteliers and investors invited to influence the content of AHIC, now in its 17th edition and organised by Bench in partnership with MEED. In addition, 20 of the region’s leaders in F&B gathered at a separate meeting to ensure the needs of the restaurant community are integrated into AHIC.
Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, said: “By the time AHIC opens in September, our delegates will have navigated 18 months of virtual meetings and business conducted behind screens. The Advisory Board, held at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, provided a mirror into the unmatched value of face-to-face networking, with hotel owners and operators beginning the AHIC conversation; sharing their problems, suggesting solutions, and ultimately coming together to develop a roadmap for the future.”
Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, managing director Middle East for Bench, added: “Together with our Advisory Board, we are shaping an AHIC that will bridge our investment communities in the Middle East and Africa, across hotels and F&B. There will be macro-economic plenary sessions, live debates between leading owners and operators and some incredible keynote speakers, with Accor chairman and CEO Sébastien Bazin already confirmed to attend, but we will also have more interactive content, specific breakout sessions for each community and prescheduled one-to-one meetings, enabling each delegate to create their own highly personalised event.”
Data will be a key feature of AHIC, with performance and pipeline analysis critical to planning future investments. Speaking at the AHIC Advisory Board, Philip Wooller, area director – Middle East and Africa, STR, gave a preview of the company’s analysis of the hotel sector’s pandemic recovery so far.
“When we compare RevPAR for March 2021 to the same month in 2019, China leads the way, followed by the Middle East, Australia and US. Our data shows that the Middle East is 66% of the way to being back to where it was pre-Covid. Arguably the biggest success story globally is Dubai, where the uber luxury segment has rebounded beyond expectation; hotels are commanding rates higher than in 2008, some of them well above pre-pandemic figures. Dubai’s commendable handling of the pandemic has clearly cemented its reputation as one of the safest cities in the world,” observed Wooller.
In light of the numbers, AHIC Advisory Board members highlighted the challenges and opportunities lining the path ahead. These included: access to capital; mitigation of risk for owners, operators and consumers; changing demands of travellers, with domestic tourism and long-stay segments growing; the impact of reduced corporate travel; the acceleration of digitalisation; and the evolution of sustainability.
The latter will be addressed at AHIC via the finals of the Sustainability Hospitality Challenge, organised in partnership with Hotelschool The Hague and the Sustainability Hospitality Alliance, and sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s master development Neom, in which top-tier student teams will pitch sustainable solutions for brand, real estate and hospitality to a prominent jury.
At the Advisory Board, Chris Newman, executive director hotel development – Neom, emerald sponsor of AHIC, said: “Neom is a hub for innovation built around people and nature, driven by sustainable and regenerative practices. The size of Belgium, it will be powered by 100% renewable energy, and include 45,000 hotel rooms across 200 iconic, design-led properties, all sharing our vision for the new frontier in travel. As we develop this unique model for sustainable living and tourism, we need ideas from the next generation, and are excited to see what the very talented finalists of the Sustainability Hospitality Challenge will present at AHIC.”
Also attending the Advisory Board, James Edmondson, director and head of global development at Jumeirah Group, said now was the ideal time for Madinat Jumeirah to host AHIC once again.
“It was evident from the positive energy at the Advisory Board how much we had all longed to reconnect in person with our peers across the region” said Edmondson. “Madinat Jumeirah offers the ideal space to facilitate AHIC’s networking and enable interaction that is safe, refreshing and immensely productive for all delegates.”
He continued: “As with all of us dedicated to the future of hospitality in this region, Jumeirah Group did not stop during the pandemic. Our stance has been one of calculated progression and capital investment, prioritising guest safety, product enhancements, integration of new technologies and exploring new markets in which to grow our portfolio. We see huge potential for further digitalisation in our sector and believe it will play a vital role in helping investors and operators alike come out of this crisis stronger, better and more successful than ever.”
Note to Editors:
About AHIC 2021
AHIC, now in its 17th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East’s hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench in partnership with Middle East business intelligence brand, MEED. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2021 will be held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from 20 to 22 September under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region’s tourism growth.
AHIC 2021 Sponsors
Sponsors include: Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts as Host Sponsor; Accor, Dur Hospitality and Hilton as Platinum Sponsors; Emaar Hospitality Group, Marriott International, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Neom, Radisson Hotel Group and Taiba Investments as Emerald Sponsors; Compass Project Consulting, The Indian Hotels Company, IHG Hotels and Resorts, Insignia, IT Hospitality Group, Katch, Louvre Hotels Group, OBMI Architecture, SSH, STR, Toggle Hospitality and The London Project as Gold Sponsors; Al Tamimi and Company, Hotstats, HVS, JLL, Opeco, PWC, Shangri-La Group, TIME Hotels and Voltere by Egis as Silver sponsors; The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, Hospitality Asset Managers Association, Sustainability Hospitality Alliance and WiH Global as Supporters; and JA Resorts and Hotels as Golf Supporter.
For more information about AHIC 2021, please visit: www.ahic.com
Press Contact: Anne Bleeker, Managing Director, In2 Consulting; email@example.com Office: +971 4 455 8499; Mobile: +971 566030886