Hotel investment soars but there’s still room for more

Zok, CEO, Kingdom Hotel Investments

THE Middle East region’s tourism growth potential is far from realised, says Jonathan Worsley, conference co-organiser AHIC.

“Although the Middle East is pegged to be the fastest growing region by 2020, with estimated growth of 7.1 per cent per annum, 69 million tourists arrivals and almost $4 trillion in tourism investments announced, there is more to come,” he said.
Worsley said that travel and tourism professionals and industry veterans were ready to debate the regional growth estimates at AHIC, now in its fourth year, which runs from May 3 to 5 at the Madinat Jumeirah Convention Centre. The conference is jointly organised by The Bench and Meed. 
Sarmad Zok, CEO, Kingdom Hotel Investments, a regular AHIC supporter said,  “The last few years have seen the Middle East emerging as a major player in the hospitality sector both in investment and development terms, and this is set to continue.”
Dubai’s hospitality sector, driven by growth in tourist arrivals, had another remarkable year in 2007 with the first half alone reporting 97 per cent occupancy in five star hotels and guest room nights rising by more that six per cent over 2006 , observed Marc Dardenne, CEO, Emaar Hospitality.
“This trend will be sustained in the coming years as the Dubai Strategy Plan still sees tourism as one of the major growth sectors and an on-going contributor to the emirate’s GDP,” he added.
Meanwhile Tom Rowntree, vice president, Commercial, Interconti-nental Hotel Group (IHG), Middle East & Africa, said, “The projects earmarked for Dubai’s tourism and hospitality pipeline stretch to 2020. By 2010 alone, an additional 80,000 hotel rooms will be available, requiring an additional 100,000 employees.”
Care must still be taken when developing hotel and leisure products according to Christophe Landais, managing director, Accor Middle East.
“As brand leaders, we must take heed and establish a real product differentiation not just adding new brands but more essentially by offering new concepts in new segments and thus providing a real pull to grab international exposure and demand. 
“In addition, a wide regional footprint or spread plus service differentiation is what will lead to top of mind brand recognition and uptake particularly as the regional markets feed from each other!” Landais said.