BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: AHIC prepares for Dubai return

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The Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) returns to Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai live in person from September 20-22, bringing together four powerful, active investment communities from across the region.

For the first time, AHIC 2021, organised by Bench and Meed, will house the four close-knit investment communities of the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC), Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference (SHIC), Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) under one roof.

United by the theme ‘Rise Together,’ investors, owners, private equity firms, financiers, franchise owners, innovators, developers and government entities will meet to network, share insights and do business, with the potential for partnerships greater than ever.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, says: “To be able to bring together these four major hospitality investment communities for the first time, at our first live, in person event for this sector in the Middle East and Africa post-pandemic, is truly special.

“We have created a robust buyer and seller platform teaming with opportunity and developed a unique programme inspired by the key themes of ‘innovation, sustainability and the future’.

“With less than a month until we kick-off AHIC 2021, we are now working closely with our moderators, speakers and sponsors to ensure we spark conversations that will help this resilient and innovative industry rise from this pandemic towards a bright, successful future.”

The AHIC 2021 programme combines on-stage one-to-one interviews, roundtables, discussions and workshops with innovation pitches, off-stage individual meetings and networking experiences.

AHIC Intelligence

Many of these sessions will be underpinned by AHIC Intelligence, with industry data, insights and predictions for the region’s pipeline, performance and profitability expected to be key.

On day one on September 20th, Robin Rossman, managing director, STR, will present some of the key learnings from the past 18 months.

Speaking ahead of AHIC, Rossmann says: “The pace and shape of hotel performance recovery continues to vary significantly around the world, dependant on vaccination rates as well as the spread of the Delta strain.

“In the Middle East and Africa, performance has also varied significantly based on some markets’ greater reliance on international travel and corporate demand.

“The markets able to generate more demand from domestic leisure sources are further ahead in the recovery process.”

He adds: “Looking ahead, the balance between domestic and international travel is set to change fundamentally as the industry transitions to the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic.

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“Data shows the reality of current travel hesitancy contrasted by the significant pent-up demand that will emerge once Covid travel restrictions are eased.”

Meanwhile, Martin Berlin, partner and global deals real estate leader, PwC, will unveil exclusive research on the impact of Covid as a never-before-seen catalyst for innovation.

Berlin reveals that the pandemic has caused a loss of US$1.3 trillion in tourist receipts.

In a sneak preview of the data, he says: “International tourist arrivals declined by 74 per cent due to Covid in 2020, compared to only a decrease of four per cent after the financial crisis, while the global airline industry declined by more than half during Covid-19.

“This means that currently, 100-120 million jobs in the global tourism sector are at risk due to the pandemic.”

AHIC 2021 will explore how and when the industry can return to the status quo.

Meanwhile, Hala Matar Choufany, president, Middle East, Africa and south Asia for HVS, will launch the latest Valuation Index for the Middle East & Africa on day two.

In an exclusive preview of the report, Choufany says: “Hotel ownership and investment are considered as a long-term investment as the value is based on the future income that the asset is likely to generate, with valuers adopting the discounted cashflow method of valuation.

“As such, one year of minimal income does not mean the value of the asset has disappeared completely.

“The key will be the length of time it will take for the hotels/markets to recover and whether the recovery will surpass the previous levels of operation.”

She reveals: “Although there was a limited number of hotel transactions that took place in the MEA region during the last 18 months, the trading performance of hotels that remained opened or re-opened suggests that leisure and resort hotels have performed better than the corporate and commercial hotels.

“Specifically, cities that have better managed the pandemic and gradually re-opened their borders have registered lower decline in hotel values when compared to other cities.”

Saudi Focus

AHIC has already released its exclusive fourth annual AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast in partnership with Meed Projects.

According to this research, more than US $3.5 billion worth of new hotel projects in the GCC have been awarded over the past 18 months during the height of the pandemic, indicating that investors expect the market to return to normality in the next two to three years when the new projects are due to open.

Ed James, director of content and analysis at Meed Projects, says: “Longer-term, the industry is even more bullish, with US $27 billion worth of hotel investments in the pipeline.

“The majority of these are comprised of the ‘giga project’ tourism investments in Saudi Arabia led by the Red Sea Project, Neom, Amaala, Diriyah Gate and Al-Ula, to name but a few”.

These giga projects will have a major presence at AHIC 2021, with Jerry Inzerillo, group chief executive, Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), kicking off the Saudi Day on day three, September 22nd, with a live-on-stage morning talk with Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special advisor, ministry of tourism – kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

AHIC 2021 will also feature speakers from another of Saudi Arabia’s giga projects, Neom, with Andrew McEvoy, head of tourism sector, Neom, set to discuss the foundations of developing a future destination with sustainability at the core of investment.

Into Africa

AHIC 2021 will also feature several sessions focused on the African investment community, with an interactive debate moderated by Philippe Doizelet, director, hotels and real estate, Voltere by Egis, designed to analyse the concepts most ripe for investment based on the changing behaviour of consumers.

While Africa welcomed some 70 million tourists in 2019 according to UNWTO, following an average growth of about six per cent over the last five years, Doizelet says there are still barriers to entry, from visa policies to health requirements.

Therefore, sub regional tourism will stimulate the creation of tourism complexes and urban and peri-urban business and leisure centres that can become real destinations.

Doizelet predicts that over the next two decades, the following countries will emerge as the most credible regional players: Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal to the west; Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda in the east; and South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the south.

He says: “Finally, central Africa should rely rather on local demand and create opportunities for exclusive tourism clusters, particularly in Cameroon and Angola.

“From the above, it is clear that talking about African tourism in a global way makes little sense.

“National or sub-regional realities continue to prevail, thus reflecting the geographic, human, economic and political diversity of the continent.”

It is these realities that will be discussed in depth at AHIC, with leaders from this unique continent present to review the numbers and delve into the opportunity.

More Information

AHIC, now in its 17th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East’s hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench in partnership with Middle East business intelligence brand, Meed.

AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders.

Head over to the website for more.

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