The next edition of Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) will address the most pressing issues impacting the hotel market in a post-pandemic world, when it returns to Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, live in person from September 20 to 22.
Under the theme Rise Together, event organisers Bench and MEED, in collaboration with the AHIC Advisory Board, have designed the AHIC 2021 programme around the key themes of ‘innovation, sustainability and the future’.
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, said: “As the industry strives to emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever, we want to facilitate real and genuine conversations around the best ways to do this. This year’s program features more than 50 opportunities for our delegates to deliberate, learn and network over three exciting days. There will be a focus on industry transformation and collaboration with debates, data and trend reports written exclusively for AHIC, interviews with industry leaders, smaller breakout sessions for specific communities, such as investors focused on Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects, and spectacular evening receptions.”
Also making its return will be the off-the-record ‘AHIC Interactive’ workshops, including Breakfast with the Bankers, Roya’s Owners-Only Majlis, an in-depth look at owner-operator agreements with Al Tamimi & Company, and the HAMA Asset Management Members workshop.
“We are also proud to present the finals of the Sustainability Hospitality Challenge, in partnership with Hotelschool The Hague, the Sustainability Hospitality Alliance and NEOM, and look forward to seeing the finalists’ vision for ‘The Future of Hospitality 2050’ as they pitch their sustainable solutions to our prominent jury,” said Worsley.
AHIC 2021 will present a series of ‘Hard Talk’ interviews with industry leaders live on stage, including Sébastien Bazin, CEO and chairman, Accor; Samih Sawiris, chairman, Orascom Hotels and Development; John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA; and José Silva, chief executive officer, Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, host sponsor of AHIC.
The ‘Hard Talk’ series will span the three-day event and also include keynotes with Jerry Inzerillo, CEO, Diriyah Gate Development Authority; Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special advisor, Ministry of Tourism – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Puneet Chhatwal, CEO, Indian Hotels Company Limited; and Simon Vincent, President EMEA and EVP, Hilton.
Vincent, who will be addressing the role of workplace culture in attracting the next generation of hoteliers, commented: “As our industry emerges from the greatest challenge we have ever faced and customer confidence continues to rise, we are now in a position where guests are returning to travel but perhaps with different expectations than before. Ensuring that we meet these needs ultimately comes down to our team members and their passion for delivering hospitality and creating memorable experiences. At AHIC I look forward to discussing how we as an industry can achieve this, by creating an environment where people of all backgrounds want to work and in doing so feel connected to a broader purpose.”
‘AHIC Intelligence’ forms another valuable series on the AHIC program, with Pat Thaker, editorial and regional director, MEA, The Economist Intelligence Unit, presenting a session entitled ‘Shifting Sands on the Future of Investment’. Dr Martin Berlin, partner & global deals real estate leader, PWC, will unveil exclusive research on the impact of Covid as a never-before-seen catalyst for innovation, while Hala Matar Choufany, president – Middle East, Africa and South Asia for HVS, will launch the company’s latest Valuation Index for the Middle East & Africa.
Several sessions will focus on operating models post-Covid, specifically in relation to profitability, with a presentation from Michael Grove, COO, Hotstats set to be followed by a debate between owners and operators, including Hassan Ahdab, president of hotels operations, Dur Hospitality.
Commenting on the topic ‘The new normal for profitability’ ahead of AHIC, Ahdab said: “In spite of the unprecedented challenges, the sector has benefited from a rapid shift towards higher standards on multiple fronts, be it digitization, sanitation, health, customer service, and more. It has become clear that innovation, not only adaptability, holds the key to increased profitability and success for our industry as we strive to offer guests highly personalized accommodation experiences that fulfil their ever-changing needs and expectations.”
He added: “Dur utilised the pandemic period by training its employees in a range of skills to enhance their flexibility, adaptability and readiness to serve across a multitude of functions and enable them to react positively to any unforeseen events or spikes in demand. As a result, we were able to uncover numerous hidden talents that added value to our offerings and allowed us to pursue a strategic reorganisation of staff throughout our properties. Furthermore, the high level of cooperation, transparency, and support offered by property owners boosted our efforts in overcoming challenges and emerging with greater strength and resilience”.
Innovation will be another major theme of AHIC 2021, with the highly-anticipated launch of Kube Ventures, an incubator for change in the industry; the AHIC Innovation Den for business start-ups transforming the industry; and the AHIC Operators’ Pitch Den, which will see global brands and newcomers alike present their most innovative brands for the new normal.
Reimagined for 2021, the Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) will bring 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).