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 SHIC showcases opportunities in hospitality investment industry
 ( Published On Saturday 10 March 2018, 23 Jumada II 1439, Time: 10:31)

SHIC showcases opportunities in hospitality investment industry


The Saudi Hotel Investment Conference (SHIC) 2018, which made its debut last week under the aegies of Prince Sultan Bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), was held under the theme “Focus on the Future”. The conference, hosted by strategic partner Dur Hospitality in cooperation with SEMARK and Bench Events, showcased the latest opportunities in the hospitality investment industry. It highlighted the investment opportunities and growth in the hospitality and tourism sector of Saudi Arabia where 143 hotels are expected to open in 2018 with an estimated investment of SR144 billion by 2020.


Delivering the opening speech on behalf of Prince Sultan, Dr. Hamad Al-Ismael, vice president of SCTH, praised the Kingdom’s progress in the tourism and hospitality sector through mega projects implemented within the National Transformation Program (NTP) and Vision 2030.


He explained the vital and dynamic role played by SCTH in creating a suitable development and investment environment, which contributes towards the increase of tourism establishments and investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, alongside the entry of more than 40 global brands operating in different regions of the Kingdom.


SCTH encourages the private sector to play a bigger role in the industry by providing them with beneficial incentives, in order to further boost investments in the industry, he added.



Dr. Badr Al Badr, CEO at Dur Hospitality, set an excellent example of indigenous talent and achievements while speaking of what he and his team were doing to contribute to the growth of tourism in the Kingdom. He impressed the audience with his intelligent insights while on a panel loaded with the heads of international brands such as Accor, Marriott and IHG. These leaders of leading international brands too were upbeat about the promising future of hospitality and tourism in the Kingdom and spoke of the current and future plans and perspectives that are paving the way to realizing Vision 2030.


Dr. Al Badr said, “Despite the challenges we have witnessed, the demand for hotel rooms, which currently stands at 84,000, is expected to increase with the addition of 64,000 new rooms, out of which 40,000 are under construction.” He laid out his sustainability-oriented strategy of bracing the short term challenge of huge supply and low demand and how Dur is working on developing local talent to run the hotels.


Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events and founder of SHIC 2018 and its parent event AHIC, was all praise for the efforts that are contributing to the growth of the hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia, especially in the two holy cities that are witnessing a high demand for religious tourism. In its first edition, he spearheaded SHIC to a successful start in Saudi Arabia with an upwards of 250 attendees.


The conference attracted distinguished speakers and industry leaders like Gerald Lawless, chairman, World Travel & Tourism Council, Philip Wooller, area director STR, Dinky Puri, founding partner, Eaglewing Estates & Hotels, Abdellah Essonni, chief hospitality officer, Maad Investment Co, Faisal Shaker, chief investment & development officer of Jebel Omar Development Company, Filippo Sona, director, head of hotels, Colliers International, Olivier Granet, chief executive officer, Middle East and Africa, Accor Hotels, Pascal Gauvin, managing director, India & MEA, IHG and Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director MEA, Marriott International, amongst others.


Panel discussions highlighting the journeys of these titans were indeed interesting. The speakers offered an overview of the hospitality investment environment in Saudi Arabia and explored the potential avenues of development in the industry.


Wooller, who spent over two decades in hospitality spanning several senior positions in hotel operations and management, sales, marketing and revenue management for a variety of hotel companies, enlightened the august audience with the key KPI's of occupancy, ADR and RevPAR in 2017 for hotels in Saudi Arabia.


It was apparent that in the short term the industry would face the challenge of increased supply and declining demand. However, Wooller pointed out that Saudi Arabia stands at the same crossroads where Dubai was in late 90s. “So no reason why we can't be there,” he said. “What with the impressive line-up of projects via a vis NTP 2020 and Vision 2030. New hotels are needed to support the Economic Strategy of Saudi Arabia.”


Speaking to executives of Review Riyadh on the sidelines of the conference, the hospitality moguls shared some good ideas.


Lawless suggested how easing the visa process and issuing visa upon arrival etc. can boost tourism and destination development. In his address, he shed light on how Saudi Arabia can develop into a destination with world-class offerings to hold their own against the best in the region?


Puri, having over 40 years of stellar international experience in management and operations of hotels, gave good advice on how right finance, investment and asset management can save precious time and money for the developers and operators alike. He is heading the impressive Warifat, entity of Jebel Omar Project in Makkah, and setting an excellent example on how we can bring synergies and best practices together in the development of talent and valuable hospitality assets.


Essonni, an accomplished real estate and hospitality specialist with over 25 years of managerial experience in operations and development spanning four continents and encompassing the industry’s various facets, informed how Maad International is preparing to deliver the largest hospitality complex in Makkah with 21 towers and almost 11,000 rooms in close vicinity to the Holy Haram. He appreciated the tremendous growth in supply, specially in Makkah, and said "the more you build, the more they will come".


The day saw a series of discussions on investments and initiatives in the Kingdom that are, and will, drive domestic tourism across the country.


—The writer is a veteran hospitality and aviation professional. He has worked in the Kingdom for over two decades and has extensive corporate and social network. – SG

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