The ripple effect of the Middle East’s ongoing hotel investment boom proved a fitting theme for the 4th Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai, 3-5 May 2008.This year’s event, the busiest and most successful to date, attracted over 1,000 senior-level delegates representing 51 different nationalities. The glittering line-up of speakers included HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Chairman of the Board, Secretary General of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), and Ambassador Philip Lader, Chairman, WPP Group and Senior Advisor to Morgan Stanley.
The conference at the Madinat Jumeirah began with the inaugural India Summit, chaired by veteran news broadcaster & former BBC news presenter, Martyn Lewis CBE.
|Watch highlights from the India Summit presented by Martyn Lewis|
Despite its current infra-structure growing pains, India’s hospitality industry is poised for explosive growth which many experts predict will mirror the current boom in the Middle East. The billion-dollar question was ‘how could delegates tap into the potential investment boom?’.
Economics guru and keynote speaker Surjit Bhalla gave some insight: “Once upon a time, when the U.S. sneezed the world caught pneumonia. However history is unlikely to repeat itself because the world is now a significantly different place. The difference is China and India - they collectively contribute to 20% of global GDP compared to 9% just ten years ago.”
The driving force behind the current economic miracle in India is the middle class, which has grown from 2% in 1980 to over 40% today. The latest figures support this optimism with room rates in the major metropolitan centres rising nearly 40%, whilst global heavyweights including Marriott and Hilton are eyeing up major projects in India.
“The middle class demands changes in policies and structure, and only then do governments react and make reforms. It’s not a bird, it’s not a bird, it’s the Indian middle class,” Surjit Bhalla added.
The upbeat mood continued well into the evening as the Madinat Jumeirah played host to a memorable cocktails reception and sumptuous banquet.
On the following morning, the emphasis shifted to the Middle East, starting with an empowering speech from Phillip Lader, Ambassador and Chairman of WPP Group, who looked at how the rise of the Middle East and Asia will replace America in the global market place.
“We’re going back to the future. In 1870, China and India generated around 49% of world GDP. They are now heading for the same share in 2025. Muslims globally represent 20% of the world’s population and by 2030 will total 30%. These circles too will have a considerable impact on the region’s own ever increasing circle.”
|Watch highlights from Phillip Lader’s speech|
The highlight of the day belonged to one of the most influential leaders in transforming the Middle East into a tourist destination, H.E. Mohamed Ali Alabbar. The Chairman of Emaar Properties PJSC was presented with the prestigious AHIC 2008 Leadership Award by the patron of AHIC, H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
He then gave delegates a little insight into why he is where he is today, with a speech that both entertained and inspired. “In Dubai, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, we are in the business of truly dreaming - but also daring and doing it. We are blessed to be given this chance and also being born at the right place at the right time,” he said.
|Watch H.E. Mohamed Ali Alabbar receiving the AHIC 2008 Leadership Award|
The final day concluded with a closing speech delivered by Lewis Gordon Pugh, the so-called ‘Aqua Al Gore’. An inspirational finale to the event, his experiences of being the first human to swim at the North Pole will no doubt inspire many delegates to continue striving for and achieving what at first may seem impossible in their fields.
The consensus of AHIC 2008 was the industry’s optimism that dynamic investment in infrastructure, new markets, imaginative new entertainment and leisure projects would support the visitor boom in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.
“Not only did we set records in number of attendees, but we also saw major increase in the number of sponsors and partners,” said AHIC organiser Jonathan Worsley.
“We had a diversified group of delegates from the region and the conference programme mirrored in terms of diverse but complementary content and coverage,” he concluded.