Hotel chiefs to make a point at AHIC

Fuller ... brands hold the key

The familiarity of international hotel brands continue to prove a major consideration of tourists travelling to Arabia, despite the increasing number of brands originating in the GCC, according to a senior hospitality figure.

Ed Fuller, president & managing director of International Lodging, Marriott International, said: “Traditional major global source markets like the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan have long relied on their familiarity with global brands to make appropriate travel choices.
“Global brands offer more robust distribution channels and services, rewarding guest loyalty programmes, and have the strategic alliances with complementary travel suppliers that make journeying to far off places virtually seamless.”
Fuller joins other hotel chiefs to discuss the advantages of using regional management companies versus international networks at the ongoing Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) at the Madinat Jumeirah.
Owners around the region have taken a keen interest in the arguments put forth by experts including Gerald Lawless, managing director of Jumeirah International, and Imad Elias, executive vice-president for Rotana Hotels.
Along with Fuller, their counterparts from the major global groups includes Jean-Gabriel Peres, CEO for Movenpick Hotels & Resorts and Kurt Ritter, president and CEO for Rezidor SAS Hospitality.
According to moderator, Jeff Weinstein, editor in chief of Hotels magazine and HOTELS’ Investment Outlook, the trend worldwide is for consolidation and specialisation in the arena of hotel management.
He said: “The global management chains are selling off their hotel assets and focusing on their own area of expertise, which is skilful operations and prudent financial costings.  At
the same time, we
are seeing more and
more hotels grouping together to expand their sales networks to tap new markets.”
In the Gulf, traditionally a strong market for the big hotel names, new management companies such as Jumeirah International and Rotana have altered the shape of the marketplace, and the panel will discuss the arguments for owners to opt for locally based operators or bring in new names, particularly at a time when all the major hotel chains are looking to establish a foothold in such a booming market.
Fuller concluded: “Several years ago, the World Travel & Tourism Council predicted an explosion in global tourism by 2020 as some 20 billion travellers were expected to cross their national borders. This groundswell is already under way and we are feeling the impact of tourists from emerging markets like China, India, Russia and Eastern Europe, through Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
 “Thanks to a consumer promise of consistent quality, service and integrity, these new tourists are familiar with a global brand, which increases their comfort and confidence when they venture far from their home base or geographic region.”
A curtain raiser to the Arabian Travel Market, the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference at Madinat Jumeirah conference centre in Dubai is organised by CB Richard Ellis Hotels, the largest commercial real estate firm in the world, and MEED Conferences.
The advisory panel includes among others:  Sarmad Zok, CEO Kingdom Hotel Investments; Salem bin Dasmal, CEO of Dubailand; Gerald Lawless, managing director of Jumeirah International; James Wilson, president of IFA Hotels and Resorts & CEO of Nakheel; Jurgen Baumhoff, CEO of Qatar National Hotels; Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of World Travel & Tourism Council; and regional directors from international hotel groups InterContinental, Marriott, Movenpick, Rezidor SAS and Rotana.
Platinum sponsors are: IFA Hotels and Resorts; Nakheel Company LLC; Kingdom Hotel Investments and Rezidor SAS Hospitality. 
Gold sponsors are: Arabian Travel Market; Deloitte; Dubai Festival City; Emirates; Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; Gullivers Travel Associates; HVS International; Interval International; Jones Lang LaSalle; Jumeirah International; InterContinental Hotels Group; Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts; Marriott International;  M A Kharafi Group; Movenpick Hotels & Resorts; RCI Middle East; Octopus Travel; RSP Group; Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Strategic Solutions.