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Optimism despite unrest characterises AHIC 2011

More than 500 industry leading delegates have been gathering at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai for the seventh Arabian Hotel Investment Conference.

Welcoming guests to the 2011 event, Jonathan Worsley, chairman of hosts Bench Events, sounded an upbeat note at a challenging time for the Middle East.

Political unrest, originally in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain has now spread to Yemen, Syria and across the region, with infrastructure investment in the tourism sector suffering as a direct result.

However, Worsley was quick to point to research from MEED Projects which revealed GCC countries alone saw $95 billion in tourism infrastructure spending in 2010.

“Against a backdrop of unrest, it is encouraging for us to see there is a wave of good news below the surface,” Worsley said.

Saudi Arabia was the main beneficiary of this investment in 2011, attracting nearly a third, but Iraq – for a long time off the hospitality radar – also received a boost to investment and remained on a “positive trajectory”, argued Worsley.

(Edmund O’Sullivan, Meed Events, on the AHIC stage with Gerald Lawless, Executive Chairman, Jumeirah Group)

Dubai – as host to the event – was also top of many agendas, with delegates keen to point out the emirate may actually benefit in the political situation, with guests choosing the destination over local rivals.

Dubai International Airport has also seen a boom in demand for passenger traffic.

Guests have been arriving from around the world, with the 50 per cent from the UAE joined by large delegations from the United Kingdom, United States of America and Saudi Arabia.

Another key topic for delegates was Qatar 2022.

Having been chosen to host the competition by FIFA late last year, Qatar confirmed it would need 70,000 new hotel rooms over the next decade.

This represents an enormous increase in capacity from the present 10,000 available in the country – a huge opportunity for the hotel industry.

AHIC 2011 closes today – May 2nd.

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