How the GCC economies will drive the leisure and business travel sectors and how hotels will deal with the pressure to fine-tune their offerings to deliver long-term growth will be among the major talking points at the Gulf & Indian Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit taking place until January 30th.
Delegates will also examine the creation of new demand drivers that will be critical in ensuring the region’s hospitality sector continues to grow despite the challenges of mounting competition and continued low oil prices.
The Middle East represents a significant opportunity for the hospitality sector due to the ongoing drive for economic diversification away from oil and gas, but with the world’s highest pipeline of new hotels set to come onstream, the need to differentiate and create new offerings is more important than ever.
Haitham Mattar, chief executive of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Destination Authority noted: “The fundamentals for industry growth in the region are good but it is vital that we challenge ourselves as an industry to respond to the needs and expectations of our customers in new ways.
“In RAK, we are creating not only new beach resorts but also adventure tourism experiences including the world’s longest zip line.”
The region is surging ahead with innovative resort projects, such as the proposed new Red Sea islands planned for the Saudi coast, while new industrial sectors are also being stimulated such as new logistics and manufacturing hubs in Bahrain.
Moreover, having focused largely on luxury up to now, many of the region’s leading developers like WASL in Dubai are now moving into more midscale offerings.
Jerad Bachar from the Bahrain Economic Development Board, added: “Bahrain, along with all countries in the GCC, continues to make great strides in economic diversification.
“Bahrain’s economy depends on strong contribution from financial services, manufacturing, and tourism.
“We are currently witnessing approximately $32 billion worth of development investment in the Kingdom, with $10 billion directly connected to tourism including the airport modernisation program and several resorts and retail destinations.”
For the third year running GIOHIS will bring many of the region’s top hotel owners, developers and operators together at the Yas Viceroy in Abu Dhabi.
Here they will discuss topical issues which are top-of-mind for many of the sector’s leading executives – around 90 of whom will be there – including examining whether Dubai is in danger of being overbuilt and could it be heading for a hard landing?
Being run by hotel owners’ alliance Hoftel, rather than a commercial media or conferencing company, means that GIOHIS can be upfront about addressing the issues which keep owners and their key service providers awake.
Simon Allison, Hoftel chairman, warned: “This will be a year where the Gulf and Indian Ocean market faces challenges like never before – the continuing rise of the online travel agents, the spread of home-sharing and serviced apartments, the consolidation of brands, significant supply increases and, in some places, a tough economic environment.”