More to come from Middle East

The region’s tourism growth potential is far from realised, according to Jonathan Worsley, conference co-organiser, Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC).“Although the Middle East is pegged to be the fastest-growing region by 2020, with estimated growth of 7.1 per cent per annum, 69 million tourists arrivals and almost US$4 trillion in tourism investments announced, there is more to come,” he predicted.

Worsley said that travel and tourism professionals and industry veterans are ready to debate the regional growth estimates, at AHIC, now in its fourth year.

Sarmad Zok, CEO, Kingdom Hotel Investments, a regular AHIC supporter agreed:  “The last few years have seen the Middle East emerging as a major player in the hospitality sector both in investment and development terms, and this is set to continue.”

Dubai’s hospitality sector, driven by growth in tourist arrivals, had another remarkable year in 2007 with the first half alone reporting 97 per cent occupancy in five-star hotels and guest room nights rising by more that 6 per cent over 2006, observed Marc Dardenne, CEO, Emaar Hospitality.

“This trend will be sustained in the coming years as the Dubai Strategy Plan still sees tourism as one of the major growth sectors and an on-going contributor to the emirate’s GDP,” he added.

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Meanwhile Tom Rowntree, Vice President, Commercial, Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), Middle East & Africa, said: “The projects earmarked for Dubai’s tourism and hospitality pipeline stretch to 2020. By 2010 alone, an additional 80,000 hotel rooms will be available, requiring an additional 100,000 employees.”

However, care must be taken when developing hotel and leisure products, warned Christophe Landais, Managing Director, Accor Middle East.

“As brand leaders, we must take heed and establish a real product differentiation not just adding new brands but more essentially by offering new concepts in new segments and thus providing a real pull to grab international exposure and demand.

“In addition, a wide regional footprint or spread plus service differentiation is what will lead to top-of-mind brand recognition and uptake particularly as the regional markets feed from each other!” Landais said.

Recent reports suggested more than $3.63 trillion is being invested in hotels, leisure projects, aviation developments, cruise lines, tourism promotion and supporting infrastructure across the Middle East.

AHIC 2008 will review this funnel against the demand generators, among other hot issues, including a day one summit session with the spotlight on India.

The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference will run from May 3-5, 2008 at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah Convention Centre and is jointly organised by The Bench and MEED.
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