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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 05/05/2014
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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Rapid development in the middle east lifting hospitality and tourism sectors

preparations being made at the emirates and etihad airways pavilions for arabian travel market 2014 which opens today at the dubai world trade centre. - kt photos by grace guino

the middle east in general and the uae in particular have witnessed a period of rapid socio-economic development which has fuelled the emergence of a dynamic and very interesting hospitality and tourism sector according to a top official of shuaa capital.

shaikh maktoum hasher al maktoum executive chairman of shuaa capital and the chairman of dubai international holding company said the demand for hospitality has become extremely strong and world leading hotels establishing themselves in the region and putting their plans for expansion.

addressing the opening ceremony of the arabian hotel investment conference or ahic 2014 on sunday he said the uae’s hotel-room supply will increase by 5.3 per cent annually from 2012-16 with the emergence of strong brands like jumeirah and rotana.

“the uae is already among the top five countries in the world for new hotel openings over the past five years where dubai enjoys the region’s strongest occupancies levels at 88.4 per cent and average room rates at 398.71. abu dhabi is also witnessing consistent growth in demand with a significant number of hotels and projects launched in the emirate” shaikh maktoum hasher said.

the authorities estimate that 25 million people are likely to visit expo 2020 70 per cent of which will come from outside the uae. it is also expected to support 277000 jobs. infrastructure works related to the expo are estimated to have a value of dh12.54 billion; this includes the expo area as well as developments in surrounding areas.

the two-day conference included a number of roundtables and panel discussions with one of the key sessions held under the title “a vision for the gcc and beyond” which discussed gcc governments’ plans for sustainable growth and partnerships between public and private sectors. the panel included anita mendiratta founder and managing director of cachet consulting in conversation with issa bin mohammed al mohannadi chairman of the qatar tourism authority; fahd al rasheed chief executive officer and managing director of king abdullah economic city; amr abdel ghaffar egional director of middle east of the unwto; and amine moukarzel resident of golden tulip hotels suites and resorts mena.

mohannadi said one of the main things that has changed over the last five to 10 years has been the increase in awareness of the importance of tourism.

“we need to start thinking beyond natural resources and move away from a reliance on natural resources. one important shift at the moment in qatar is that we have been mandated to bring tourism to the main priority and a way of sustainable growth. there is a fundamental recognition of the critical position the tourim places in building up the region.”

moukarzel said hospitality provides the skeleton for other sectors — transport and other logistics — required for the gcc’s development.

“we should look at the fundamentals that relate to private and public sector partnerships. if we don’t have ppps we can’t sustain the growth we want to see in the years to come and the construction of hospitality and 2020 expo.”

“we need to have five-star luxurious properties as well as budget trustworthy hotels with 2020 and 2022 coming up. dubai’s tourism board has demonstrated the importance of having standards and classification.”

another session entitled “the evolution of dubai over the last 10 years what is the next step?” discussed the one year into vision and the plan to take dubai from 10 million to 20 million visitors. during the session mendiratta was in conversation with helal almarri irector-general of the dtcm; paul griffiths eo of dubai airports; and gerald lawless resident and group ceo of the jumeirah group.

almarri said dubai has been transformed into a must-visit destination as the emirate has shifted the focus of the global aviation map and has become the connecting point of the world.

“the uae has won the right to host expo 2020 in dubai the first phase of dubai world central has opened and a substantial number of new hotels attractions and events have opened or been announced. further a series of legislative changes have been made which will enable dubai to attract more business and leisure visitors and make the emirate an even more attractive investment opportunity for hotel investors” he said.

on another key note ahic 2014 has presented the leadership award this year to prince sultan bin salman bin abdulaziz president and chairman of the board of the saudi commission for tourism and antiquities in recognition of his vibrant role in developing the hospitality sector in saudi arabia.

on the sidelines of the event starwood hotels and resorts worldwide announced that it has signed an agreement with century park and hotel residences to open a new sheraton hotel in kigali the capital city of rwanda. scheduled to open in 2018 sheraton kigali will mark starwood’s entry into rwanda and will be the company’s 50th hotel in africa. with this signing starwood is on track to increase its african portfolio by over 30 per cent with more than 15 new hotels to open over the next five years.

alper can bulcum general manager of ramada plaza jbr and ramada sharjah said leisure and corporate markets have grown over a period of time.

“new markets are being eyed such as the asian segment and will work to keep and increase its share of the city’s key markets which include europe russia cis and the middle east” he said adding that ramada plaza jbr has very positive forecasts for dubai after the expo 2020 announcement.

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