Industry leaders from around the world are arriving in Dubai ahead of the annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), which begins tomorrow.
With over 500 industry professionals from across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Asia and US in town the focus of this year is on unlocking investment opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The mood is upbeat – despite recent turmoil – with one delegate noting: “Despite the current economic and tourism environment, developers are aware that hotel supply currently present in the Middle East & North Africa will not be sufficient to meet demand in the longer term.”
Confidence has also been boosted by figures released earlier this year by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecasting growth of five to nine per cent for the Middle East in 2010, compared to a forecast of three to four per cent for the rest of the world.
Jonathan Worsley, chairman of event co-organises Bench Events, commented: “The consensus appears to be that the worst of the global economic crisis is over, which makes the themes being debated at AHIC 2010 more important than ever.
“Intelligent and targeted investment is vital for the industry as the region recovers from the downturn, and the insight that will be offered by the group of speakers that will gather in Dubai in May will be invaluable for everyone involved in the industry.”
The conference will be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, chairman of Dubai Airports and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airlines.
Daily debates will be led by a selection of industry leaders, including: Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer of Etihad Airways; Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of Jumeirah Group; and Sarmad Zok, chief executive officer of Kingdom Hotel Investments.
The AHIC 2010 Leadership Award will also be presented to Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.
There are also signs the event could mark a turning point for the regional travel industry.
Recent figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed that MENA regional airlines grew overall passenger traffic by 11.2 per cent in 2009, and ended with growth of 19.2 per cent in December 2009 compared with December 2008.
This growth was led by significant expansion by Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways, which have taken strong positions in the markets between Asia and Europe, illustrating the importance of the region as a bridge between East and West.
Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer of Etihad Airways, added: “Air travel plays a vital role in bringing visitors to the region, and the growth in passenger numbers in 2009, despite the difficult industry conditions, is a positive sign for everyone involved in the MENA region’s hotel and tourism sectors.”
AHIC runs from May 1st-3rd, with more information on the complete programme here.