More private equity and government initiatives are necessary to facilitate increased investment in developing Arabia’s tourism infrastructure, says Sarmad Zok, Chief Executive Officer of the region’s largest private hotel investor.Kingdom Hotel Investments, an affiliate of HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Adbel-Aziz al-Saud, will join other regional tourism leaders in debating investment issues at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, from April 30 and May 2 in Dubai.
According to Zok, demand from both intra-regional and overseas leisure markets has focused attention on the attractions of Middle East destinations.
“While we see Egypt, Lebanon and Dubai as the hotspots of the industry, there is also potential in destinations such as Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, long-term in Libya and, farther afield, in the African continent and Indian Ocean,” said Zok.
“Visitor numbers are up across the board,” said Zok. “The World Tourism Organisation is predicting significant growth for the Middle East region, and both governments and the hotel sector have to position themselves to capitalise on this surge in interest.”
However, he warned that destinations must not focus on any one sector to the detriment of others: “In our hotel portfolio, by adopting a diversification strategy we are careful to mix both leisure and business properties and cater to all market requirements,” he said, pointing to the phased opening of Four Seasons’ hotels in Egypt.
“Here, we opened a property in the gateway city of Cairo, followed by a resort in Sharm El Sheik, a second city hotel in the capital and will follow this by opening up in Alexandria, adding a deluxe option to the hospitality sector in that city for the first time.”
A global player noted for his astute investments, Prince Al Waleed has substantial holdings in Four Seasons, Fairmont and Movenpick hotel groups, and it is with these brands that Kingdom is expanding through the Middle East, moving in to both established and new markets to sustain region-wide growth.
KHI has substantial developments underway, including Four Seasons hotels in Beirut and Damascus, while Fairmont’s flag is due to be planted in Cairo, and The Palm, Dubai. Movenpick also has extensive expansion plans covering the entire region.
A curtain raiser to the Arabian Travel Market, the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference at Madinat Jumeirah conference centre in Dubai is organised by CB Richard Ellis Hotels, the largest commercial real estate firm in the world, and MEED Conferences. Details of AHIC can be found on www.arabianconference.com.
At the event, industry leaders will discuss the future of the hospitality industry in the region and the drive to encourage inward investment.
The advisory panel includes among others: Sarmad Zok, CEO Kingdom Hotel Investments; Salem bin Dasmal, CEO of Dubailand; Gerald Lawless, managing director of Jumeirah International; James Wilson, president of IFA Hotels and Resorts; Wahid Attala, executive director of Nakheel; Jurgen Baumhoff, CEO of Qatar National Hotels; Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of World Travel & Tourism Council; and regional directors from international hotel groups InterContinental, Marriott, Movenpick, Rezidor SAS and Rotana.
Already signed up as platinum sponsors are: IFA Hotels and Resorts; Nakheel Company LLC; Kingdom Hotel Investments and Rezidor SAS Hospitality.
Gold sponsors are: Arabian Travel Market; Deloitte; Dubai Festival City; Emirates, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; Gullivers Travel Associates; HVS International; Interval International; Jones Lang LaSalle; Jumeirah International; InterContinental Hotels Group; Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts; Marriott International; Movenpick Hotels & Resorts; RCI Middle East; Octopus Travel; RSP Group; Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Strategic Solutions.
Media sponsors are: AME Info, CNBC Arabia, CNBC Europe, Global Hospitality Resources, HOTELS, Sleeper and TTN.
Supporters are: Dubai Convention Bureau, Emirates Academy of Hospitality; International Hotel & Restaurant Association; Villeroy & Boch; the World Travel & Tourism Council and WOW Travels.