Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 22, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / More than 700 hospitality owners, investors, developers and operators from across the Middle East and Africa gathered today to kick off the 17th edition of AHIC, being held from 20-22 September 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, CEO and chairman, Accor; José Silva, chief executive officer, Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts; and Kenneth Macpherson, chief executive officer, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa, IHG.
“While conversation on the main stage has centred 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. This morning, we heard pitches from business start-ups that are transforming the industry, including the exclusive unveiling of an industry-first investment incubator, KUBE Ventures, created by entrepreneurs Michael Levie and David Keen. We’re expecting many more new launches to be announced over the course of the three days of AHIC, so watch this space” said Worsley.
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% 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 Dubai’s hotels are close to or exceeding 2019 ADRs.
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.
In a special presentation from Krush Brands, founder Ian Ohan revealed how the company was partnering with food-preneurs in the UAE to help them grow their businesses using its ecosystem of food technology, operations and delivery capability. Called Locale, the new platform is focused on discovering great food and offering small, local brands an alternative to third party networks. The successful graduates of Krush Brands’ Rise Up competition to seek out talented new players to work with Locale will be announced at AHIC on 22 September.
Also live on stage, The London Project announced global expansion, with outlets confirmed to open in Dubai Marina and London’s Canary Wharf next year, followed by Miami and Barcelona in 2023.
Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, co-founder GRIF and MD Middle East, Bench, said: “GRIF has championed the regional F&B industry throughout the pandemic and it has been brilliant to finally bring the leaders of this hugely resilient sector together. As an investment community, we are looking forward to several more sessions over the coming days that will address the numbers around hotel f&b, current eating trends, and how the Middle East can achieve global recognition of its ever-impressive food scene and the talented individuals driving it”.
About AHIC 2021
AHIC, now in its 17th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East’s hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench in partnership with Middle East business intelligence brand, MEED. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2021 will be held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from 20 to 22 September under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region’s tourism growth.