Motivational movers and shakers gather at AHIC

Jonathan Worsley, chairman, The Bench, one of the organisers of the upcoming Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and an advisor to the World Travel & Tourism Council, spoke to TTN

What are you expecting from this year’s conference?
It’s three-fold. Firstly, it is a content driven conference so a great event to learn about new developments, best practice and opportunities in the market.

Secondly, this is an ideal place to network and to meet those people who are taking the industry forward and to transact some deals.  With three receptions there is plenty of opportunity to introduce yourself to the movers and shakers in the industry! Thirdly and most importantly, we have a lot of fun!

What are the highlights?
The highlights!  We have many but I am so pleased with the depth and quality of speakers and this year we have plenty of owners from the region participating on sessions.  For example, we have a session, strictly with owners, who will provide us with an insight on their views of the hospitality industry.  Richard Hartman, who retired recently as managing director of InterContinental Hotels Group EMEA will moderate the panel.  Later that afternoon, the hotel industry captains will join a panel and reflect on what has been said in the earlier owner’s session and discuss their perspective.
The India Summit is certainly a highlight.  For the first time, we are hosting a half day summit on 3rd May which is a fantastic opportunity to learn about investment opportu-nities in India and personally meet project developers and investors.
The summit will be chaired by Former BBC News presenter, Martyn Lewis CBE, and will include a keynote presentation from Surjit Bhalla, chairman of Oxus Investments.  I am also delighted that speakers joining the Leaders’ Panel include Lenny Menezes, CEO of DLF Hilton Hotels; Raymond Bickson, managing director and CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces; Ed Fuller, president and managing director of Marriott Lodging International; Gaurav Bhushan, SVP Development Asia Pacific, executive director India, Accor Asia Pacific; KB Kachru, executive vice president, South Asia, Carlson Hotels Asia Pacific and Manav Thadani, managing director, HVS, India.

Any surprises or announcements expected?
This year the award will be going to Emaar Properties chairman HE Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties for his leadership and vision.  Following his award, he will be interviewed by CNN’s John Defterios.
So a really good mix of speakers from all sectors of the industry!  Our inspirational keynote speaker on the final day is Lewis Gordon Pugh.  Lewis was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean of the world and speaks of his adventures, perseverance and leadership from seeing firsthand the devastating effects of climate change.  The press call him the Aqua Al Gore!

What’s the significance of the title of the conference?
The theme for AHIC 2008 is Ever Increasing Circles which represents the influence, vision and impact that investment has had, and will continue to have, on the Middle East and the rest of the world.  The conference agenda is wrapped around this theme and topics were developed from an advisory board meeting we had in May 2007 with some 50 senior executives from the hotel investment industry. 

Numbers expected attendance wise?
We are planning for in excess of 1,000 delegates and they will be investors, developers, financiers, hotel executives, architects, tourism officials and advisors to the industry.  It is a great place to meet those leaders who are shaping the direction of the industry.