Top industry executives are attending the annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai to discuss investment opportunities in the Gulf.
Top of the agenda are plans by local governments to plough billions of dollars into tourism infrastructure.
Flush with petrodollars, with oil prices consistently above $120 a barrel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all embarked on aggressive hotel and transport development programmes as they seek to diversify their economies away from oil and boost revenues from the tourism sector.
In the United Arab Emirates, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP is expected to hit $19.9 billion this year, or 6.1 per cent, compared with US$16.6 billion, or 6.6 per cent, in 2009, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
“Hotel revenues in the UAE are growing steadily despite the economic and financial uncertainties in Europe.
“GCC governments are cash rich and we see the UAE as a key hotel investment destination,” commented Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, executive vice president and head of hotel advisory, Middle East & Africa, at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels.
Some of the Gulf state’s major tourism infrastructure investments include the US$8 billion expansion of Dubai International Airport, as the emirate seeks to increase its capacity from 60 million passengers to 90 million by 2018 to become the world’s busiest airport.
Complimenting its airport expansion, Dubai added a second metro line last year to connect the city east to west and is scheduled to open a tramline in 2014.
Meanwhile Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad Airways continues to expand aggressively as the UAE capital continues to build its reputation as a tourist hub developing projects such as Ferrari World, an amusement park on Yas Island, and Saadiyat Island, home to the planned Louvre and Guggenheim museums.
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chief executive, Emirates Group, organiser MEED Events in partnership with Bench Events has put together a three-day programme designed to explore the outlook for hotel investment in the Middle East’s changing landscape.
As well as focusing on the Middle East’s investment landscape after the Arab Spring, AHIC will hold a session that looks at the issues facing Egypt, while key industry figures will address the challenges of developing and operating in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
There will also be a separate dedicated session exploring investment opportunities outside the Middle East.