Industry leaders set to examine at new opportunities and business models

Selim El Zyr

More than 800 leaders representing the ‘who’s who’ of the global hotel investment industry are set to meet for the third year running at this year’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), in Dubai from April 28-30.

AHIC has received the on-going patronage of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Group to lead a world-class speaker line-up; each briefed to stir debate on the issues and opportunities that come in the wake of rapid sector and market development. Everything from Middle East capital to luxury hotels to creating new destinations will be discussed and debated at the event. 
The global investment of Middle East capital raises many questions, including who the major players are, where the product is available and what investors need to know. A panel moderated by Blair Hagkull, MD, Jones Lang Lasalle MENA, will feature Tim Hansing, senior VP, acquisition and development, Kingdom Hotel Investments;
Richard A Johnson, MD Real Estate, Istithmar; Paul Macpherson, chief development officer, Jumeirah Group; and Rod Taylor, head of hotel financing, Europe-Arab Bank.
In terms of the shape hotels can take, the ongoing evolution of limited service hotels and the region’s hot markets will be debated by Patrick Dempsey, MD, Premier Travel Inn; Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, serial entrepreneur, EasyGroup; Christophe Landais, managing director, Accor Middle East; and Reas Kondraschow, SVP and managing director, Wyndham Hotel Group.
At the other end of the market, the future of independent luxury lifestyle hotels in a consolidating environment will be discussed by Welf J Ebeling, executive VP and COO, The Leading Hotels of the World; Sumit Guha, VP projects and development, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces; MPS Puri, VP, The Americas, General Hotel Management and Ronald Van Pelt, senior VP Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo. The panel will be moderated by Robert Riley, CEO, Emaar Hotels & Resorts.
Responsible development of hotels is on the agenda, too, with Lyndall De Marco, executive director, IBLF Tourism Partnership, moderating a discussion between David Etherton, executive director, industry development, Tourism Western Australia; Richard Hartman, MD, Europe, Middle East & Africa, IHG; Martin Rinck, executive VP and chief development officer, the Rezidor Hotel Group; and Sonu Shivdasani, chairman and CEO, Six Senses Resorts & Spas.
New product concepts and brands entering the market is a subject to be examined by Al Gosling, founder and CEO, Extreme Group; Christopher Hartley, CEO, Shaza Hotels; John Wagner, VP Staybridge Suites – EMEA, IHG; and Bill Walshe, chief marketing and business innovation officer, Jumeirah Group.
Whether residential real estate and hotels are the ultimate combination is a topic that will be discussed by Bruce Davidson, executive director, head of hospitality and leisure finance, WestLB; 
Piaras Moriarty, vice-president – vacation ownership, IFA Hotels & Resorts; Christophe Piffaretti, MD, Kempinski Residences; and J David Walmsley, executive director, development Europe, Africa and Middle East, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.
In terms of new markets, Ras Al Khaimah’s emerging presence on the tourism map will be discussed by Dr Khater Massaad, chairman
Rakeen; Sheikh Omar Bin Saqr Al Qassemi, chairman, RAK Airways; and Hilary McCormack, manager, RAK Tourism. Whether Morocco or Tunisia will be the new Spain is being debated by Hassan Ahdab, Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ VP and regional director of operations, Africa & Indian Ocean; Jordi Ferrer, managing partner, Tourism & Leisure Advisory Services; Jean-Luc Motot, COO, Accor Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean; and Imad Nesnas, counsellor,
Gulf Finance House. A panel comprising Rotana Hotels executive VP and COO Imad Elias, MIGA / World Bank global head for tourism Nabil Fawaz, Accor senior VP development Serge Hattier, and Rezidor regional director business development Middle East Shawki Khairallah will look at risk and opportunity in oil countries such as Libya, Iran, Syria and Algeria.