AHIC 2021: Industry gathers in Dubai as confidence returns | News

More than 700 hospitality owners, investors, developers and operators from across the Middle East and Africa have gathered to kick off the 2021 edition of AHIC.

The event is being held from September 20-22 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai live in person.

For the first time, AHIC 2021, organised by Bench and Meed, has brought together 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.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, said: “After months of careful planning, we are thrilled to be here in Dubai today to launch this very special edition of AHIC, just a few days before Expo 2020 Dubai begins.

“United by the theme Rise Together, more than 700 investors, financiers, franchise owners, innovators, developers, brand leaders and tourism officials are here to network, share insights and do business, with the potential for partnerships greater than ever.

“We are excited to present our delegates with a programme featuring close to 200 speakers, including keynote interviews with hoteliers such as Sébastien Bazin, chairman, Accor; José Silva, chief executive, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts; and Kenneth Macpherson, chief executive, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa, IHG.

“While conversation on the main stage has centered on how to recover and rise up from the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve also had a roster of workshops, numerous networking opportunities and a host of special features including the Sustainability Hospitality Challenge and the AHIC Innovation Den.

Day one of AHIC 2021 has been underpinned by AHIC Intelligence, with industry data, insights and predictions for the region’s pipeline, performance and profitability setting the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Robin Rossmann, managing director, STR, presented some of the key learnings from the past 18 months.

He revealed that 97 per cent of Middle East hotels have now reopened, with some markets tracking a full occupancy recovery by the end of the year, and highlighted that half of the hotels in Dubai are close to or exceeding 2019 average daily rates.

Rossmann said: “Rate has been the big surprise.

“Typically, we see rates take three to four years to recover after a downturn, but many markets are close to 2019 levels already.

“We think rates will be back to 2019 levels by the end of the year and continue into next year.”

AHIC day one was also jam-packed with sessions dedicated towards the GRIF community, with focus groups exploring how to expand concepts beyond the GCC, customer trends, the potential of food halls, and flexible destination dining.

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