AHIC Day One: Make the most of disruption
AHIC Day One: Make the most of disruption
18 APRIL 2018 8:23 AM

A look at the opening day of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.

RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates—The theme of 2018’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference is “focus,” meaning a focus on operational excellence with an eye to the future. So it was apt that the first day concentrated on disruption and outside forces, thoughts and threats.

It was also apt that for the first time AHIC moved from its traditional hotel at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai and set up in a purpose-made conference hall built between the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah and the Arabian Sea.

If you could see far enough across that sea the next land visible would be Iran, perhaps another disruptor, but AHIC’s opening sessions concentrated instead on business concerns, the threats that can come from legitimate businesses more so than they can from malicious, hidden sources.

The main point from Day One was that disruption is increasing.

Thuy Tranthi Rieder, CMO for Rosewood Hotel Group, spoke on space as entertainment, experience as storytelling and community as culture. He said he believes his company is disruptive in the luxury space by focusing on guests’ desires, not their price points.

Jake Wright, investments, SmartCrowd, spoke of crowdfunding and the likelihood crowdfunders would more likely stay in a hotel they helped crowd-fund. His boss, Siddiq Farid, CEO of SmartCrowd, asked why hoteliers did not charge for loyalty when companies such as Amazon, with Prime, were so good at it.

The host of the day, former Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide CEO Frits van Paasschen, kicked things off with two statements: “Things that do not make sense get disrupted” and “(hoteliers) create all manner of pain points, and that creates opportunity for disruption.”

Sessions followed on data hacking attacks, questioning the status quo, not believing the misconceptions fed to us every day, such as the world is more dangerous, the health of the U.S. economy, and knowing how to correct mistakes and use crisis management as a way of engaging with customers, not seeing your stock market value plummet.

As Simon Taylor, CEO of Rant Consultants, said in his session on cyberattacks, data attacks now account for the “greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

The change of venue for this year’s AHIC more than helped concentrate minds on the lurking dangers but more importantly the need to be on top of things, forever innovate, surround yourself with the smartest employees and seize the opportunities of a world population that travels more and more and more.

Quotes of the day
“Do not be fixated with how Airbnb and Uber are doing things, as you will still be sucked into thinking in the same way everyone does. Remove the trappings. Do not be the next Uber.”
—Richard Fitzgerald, managing director and founder of Augustus, a new media publisher, speaking at a session titled “Challengers of the status quo,” which comprised non-hotel industry innovators on what hoteliers can learn from the outside.

“There are 350 million people in the Arabic world, and 100 million are under 30, so there is not always the need to invest abroad. Purchasers are here, as are a middle class and ex-pats with their discernible income.”
—Basim Al-Ahmadi, co-founder of global risks insight at consultant SET Advisory, with very much a direct message to Arabic investors during a session called “The world in flux.”

Photo of the day

One of the sessions that broke up the headache of always innovating and the potential woe of disruption was a talk on how to stay healthy and fit on the road from Mark Arnall. (Photo: Terence Baker)

Tweet of the day

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