Region’s hospitality industry must maintain global confidence by holding hands; UNWTO and WTTC predict a stagnant market

Published January 19th, 2009 - 06:49 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

In the wake of predictions of stagnant growth in global tourism by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Jonathan Worsley, co-organiser of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), calls for the region’s hospitality sector to stand firm and together.

He stressed that it is prudent for hospitality leaders to join hands and work together in managing the destination as a whole, and not just the projects under their remit.

“It is again time to look at destination management as a collaborative effort and not just at individual property or project management. Industry leaders need to discuss the big picture and look at how they can collectively manage in-bound traffic and maintain consumer spending levels.”

Meanwhile, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) forecasts a downward shift in global Travel and Tourism Economy GDP contribution to one percent for 2009, in contrast to ten percent in 2008.

However, WTTC also expects the Middle East to buck this trend, suggesting that regional tourism will grow by one percent in 2009. This would place the Middle East as the second growth region in world, behind Asia.

Worsley encourages the industry to be vigilant and proactive in the current economic climate stressing that under such conditions there is little room for error.

“The region’s tourism and hospitality leaders need to be particularly alert in these unprecedented times. With tourism long-since stamped as the catalyst of economic growth for a number of regional markets, the sector needs to be quick off the mark and show maturity in handling the current cycle,” he said.

Worsley promised that the upcoming Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) 2009 (May 2-4 2009) will provide a timely platform for such debate.

“This year’s AHIC theme ‘The Challenge of Maintaining Growth’ is quite apt at a time when target setting is presently a moveable feast.

“We are working now to ensure that the 2009 agenda is relatively fluid in structure so that content and topics can be right up-to-the-minute and in-line with market movements in May,” he promised.

Edmund O’Sullivan, the event’s co-organiser, said early interest for AHIC 2009 looks strong from both within the region and overseas.

“This is a critical stage in the world markets, and the hospitality investment sector must show confidence and creativity in vision while holding steady in riding the wave.

“AHIC is set to deliver a buoyant platform where leaders can discuss issues in real terms, and together be a force to support ongoing development.”

The 2009 conference includes a half-day summit with spotlight on Saudi Arabia, networking receptions, plus a world-class speaking faculty including HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Chairman of the Board, Secretary General of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA); Dr. Henry Azzam, CEO Middle East & North Africa, Deutsche Bank AG; Paul Griffiths, Chief  Executive Officer, Dubai Airports; Sarmad Zok, Chief Executive Officer of Kingdom Hotel Investments; Sheikh Fawaz Alhokair, Chairman & Founder, Fawaz Alhokair Group; John Defterios, Host, CNN Marketplace Middle East and Gerald Lawless, Executive Chairman, Jumeirah Group among others.

The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference is organised by Bench Events and MEED.  Details can be found on


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