AHIC Day Two: Hard talk on owner-operator relationship
AHIC Day Two: Hard talk on owner-operator relationship
19 APRIL 2018 7:53 AM

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

RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates—The second day of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, which for the first time was held outside of Dubai, included some combative conversation on the role of brands and the owner-operator relationship.

Much of the credit for that goes to television presenter Stephen Sackur, host of the United Kingdom political program “Hard Talk,” who brought his trademark no-nonsense question style to the day’s panels before a record AHIC audience of more than 900 delegates.

Back-to-back sessions on the owner-operator relationship, from the perspective of each party, epitomized that frank approach.

At one point, Sackur asked whether owners got ripped off by brands. That produced an audible gasp from attendees, as did his follow-up: “How does the rip-off work?”

“Being ripped off? That would be a very strong statement, and we are jointly responsible for our industry,” said Yannis Anagnostakis, CEO of ownership company RAK Hospitality Holdings. “But it has happened. The aspiration is for a 5-star hotel, and you compete fiercely with the brands, but then you get a 4-star flag as that brand cannot open another 5-star, and then what happens when that operator delivers a 3-star customer?”

Simon Vincent, EVP and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Hilton, is no shrinking violet either.

“It all works best when our goals are aligned,” he said. “Sixty-five percent of our pipeline investors are repeat investors, and that does not sound like an unhappy camper to me. Tourism equals 10% of world (gross domestic product), and our success runs in parallel with that. (Brands) have collectively produced incredible results.”

The outcome of all of this was sincere, structured, open conversation.

Maybe I am wrong, but could you imagine Pepsi and Coca-Cola and their rivals sitting down together and willing to debate so openly?

Photo of the day

The second day of AHIC 2018 got off to a very lively start with traditional Emirati drummers and then a rousing rendition of the UAE’s national anthem by a costumed marching band. (Photo: Terence Baker)

Quotes of the day
“We like the glamour. We’re emotional. We like 5-star. But on every Emirates Air flight, 75% to 80% of the passengers are economy. How do we look after them? … I don’t think I will build too many more 5-star hotels.”
—His Excellency Mohamed Ali Rashed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Emaar.

“The Middle East will follow suit with the idea of midscale and economy dominating markets, but the customer is demanding something more unique and more boutique.”
—Keith Barr, CEO, InterContinental Hotels Group.

Tweet of the day

Slide of the day

Robin Rossmann, managing director of STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, said in his presentation at AHIC that while supply is still a concern in Dubai, demand remains very robust; and if the destination continues to be marketed the way it is to the right consumers, the future is a lot more rosy than many people make it out to be.

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