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Hospitality leaders at AHIC say technology and innovation is key for next generation

Global leaders at The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) agreed that technology and innovation is very important in developing hotels for the next generation.

AHIC morning witnessed a strong interview with Ivanka Trump, Executive Vice President of Development & Acquisitions of The Trump Organization, who was in conversation with Susan Harmsworth MBE, Founder & Chairman of ESPA on the future of luxury and the next generation of luxury traveller. Ivanka said that “attention to details is key in building luxury hotels, and it can only be up to the level if the developers are highly involved in the design and construction process.” Ivanka also expressed that “leadership has to be strong in hotel management, and that cultural sensitivity has been growing in the past few years in hospitality shifting from the standardisation that hotels used to adopt few years ago.”

Ivanka added: “Dubai’s standards are very high, which raised the bar to other countries, we don’t have those standards all over the US in most of the hotels, so here design has to be spectacular to meet people’s expectations. She confirmed that innovation is key for high end brands, because people are pushing themselves to try new experiences.”

In an update on the transactional market of hotels globally, JLL explained that $68 billion worth of global deals expected, the third highest on record and a 15% increase on 2014 levels. Mark Wynne-Smith, Global Chief Executive Officer, Hotels & Hospitality Group at JLL elaborated: “It’s a very active market at the moment, and we are seeing a huge amount of cross-border transactions – we reckon about 30% of deals taking place this year will be capital moving from one region to another.”

Mark Shea, Head of Hospitality for Faithful+Gould Middle East, said at one of the key sessions today: “The hotel industry has seen an increase in diversification largely due to rise in demand from price-conscious international tourists and business travellers who want something other than a full five-star luxury experience at premium  prices in the form of mid-market hotels. Medical and religious tourism are also fuelling the growth of the mid-range market which could provide profitable long-term investment opportunities. And each key location has its own supply & demand characteristics however all markets have room for mid-range provisions. This year’s AHIC has proven to be very useful to meet with other interested parties including an increase in attendance from the wider middle-east leading exposure to those that would look into diversifying their offerings and investments in mid-market properties.”

At the Global Leaders Panel Discussion, Gerald Lawless, President & Group CEO, Jumeirah Group said: Jumeirah has had a solid Q1 and is on track to open 430 new rooms by June next year. He said: “Governments are beginning to realise the need to open up visa regimes. We are seeing a move in the right direction and need to keep up this momentum. It’s up to us hoteliers to keep it on the agenda.”

Jean Jacques Dessors, CEO Mediterranean of Middle East, Africa and Caribbean Islands at ACCOR also said: “When it comes to Africa, you need to focus on a specific area or city. Too often we generalise about Africa and this is a mistake. You also need to have a diversified strategy to mitigate any upheavals that may occur – it’s the safest way.”

At AHIC, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Sisban Holdings announced the signing of a new 350-room luxury hotel in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The new hotel is scheduled to open in late 2018. Fairmont Jeddah Hotel & Resort will be built in a contemporary design on over 12,500 square meters of space on the North Corniche. The property will reflect the vibrant waterfront of the area. Featuring 350 spacious guestrooms, it will also be home to 100 Fairmont Residences. Guests will enjoy a selection of dining venues, as well as a Willow Stream Spa and swimming pool. Groups will be able to host gala events and meetings within 2,900 square meters of function space, including one of the city’s largest ballrooms.  The property will also feature a range of business services including video conferencing, media services and an interpretation room.

‘The Kingdom of Tomorrow’ is one of the key new panels hosted at AHIC this year to particularity focus on Saudi Arabia. The Panel discussed tourism infrastructure and hotel development in the Kingdom. Eng. Tariq Al Essa, Executive Director, Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau said that Saudi Arabia has many potentials away from the oil industry, for example the conferences and sports industries are growing very fast, and government is aware of the hospitality growing industry and improving required infrastructure and regulatory framework.

Roya International also presented today a unique platform for students who listened to leader’s experiences and success stories in the hospitality business. Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events started by assuring the audience that hospitality career provides security and stability, because it is in an ongoing growing industry.

Ahmed Ramdan, Roya International Founder and Group CEO, an Emirati pioneer in the hospitality industry, who headed the Symposium said: “the growth we see in this industry is tremendous. With the diversity strategy in most of the GCC countries, the hospitality sector is becoming more and more essential.” Ahmad continued: “We are short in GCC talents, the UAE for example has the lowest rate with only 3% Emirati employees working in this industry. Jumeirah has one of the highest National employees with 300 working in its hotels across the countries.” Ahmad urged that all hoteliers need to be more proactive in attracting GCC nationals to work in this wonderful industry and explained to the students its advantages in details.

AHIC was organised by Bench Events and MEED, and included key participants such as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Jumeirah Group, Platinum Sponsors, Accor, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors. Centara Hotels & Resorts, Citymax Hotels, Colliers International, Crystal International Standards, ESPA, Faithful + Gould, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, Golden Tulip, Hodema Cosulting Services, HVS, Insignia Worldwide, Invest Tourism Maldives, JA Hotels & Resorts, JLL, Melia Hotels International, Premier Inn, PwC, Roya, Shaza Hotels, STR Global, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces and Yas Marina Circuit as Gold Sponsors.

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.