The Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) in Dubai has recently come to an end, but after cultivating the region’s A-list of hospitality stars and brands – many of whom chose the event as a platform to see deals signed in the worth millions of dollars to announce.
FHS Dubai, held at Madinat Jumeirah from 19th to 21st September, was hosted by Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts and co-organized by MEED and The Bench. The event combined the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), African Hospitality Investment Forum (AHIF) and Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF). Ultimately, over 1,072 participants gathered to hear what some of the 200 speakers had to say about the industry roadmap.
The theme of the event was ‘Lead The Change’ and in keeping with this not only were speakers given a platform but several delegates were invited to speak for up to three minutes on how they are personally and professionally driving change to have.
Just ahead of FHS, Knight Frank, along with hospitality analytics and market insights provider STR, released research numbers that suggest the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector is likely to exceed 100 million tourist arrivals and over $270 billion in tourism Revenue will be revenue this year and is firmly on track to attract 160 million tourists by 2030.
It’s the same level of lively optimism that Jonathan Worsley (pictured left), Chairman of The Bench, observed throughout the delegates and speakers present at the event. “The recovery we saw was surprising. What really excites me is the way we have adapted this event to not only be about investments but also about the future. Hence the renaming of the event to Future Hospitality Summit, which includes AHIC and GRIF. We welcome the idea of looking to the future and bringing in startups, hosting competitions, getting delegates to participate and providing a platform for innovation.”
According to Knight Frank’s report, there are over 600,000 hotel rooms in the planning and development phase in the Middle East. At FHS Dubai, regional and international brands announced their plans for expansion in the Middle East. Rotana said at FHS that it will open two hotels in Dubai under its new Edge brand — the 328-room Arabian Park Hotel and the 295-room Damac Hills 2 Hotel. Radisson – Elie Younes, its executive vice president and chief global development officer, and Elie Milky, vice president of development, were panelists at the event – confirmed a portfolio of 77 hotels in operation and development in the Middle East. It added that the portfolio target is to reach 150 properties and 30,000 keys in the region by 2030.
Equally ambitious were FHS by Marriott’s plans, which say the company will expand its presence in the Middle East by over 20 hotels and more than 5,000 rooms across the region over the next 15 months. Its current Middle East portfolio includes over 150 properties and more than 40,000 rooms across 21 of its brands in 11 countries.
Likewise, Hilton said it is targeting a staggering 140 percent growth for its Middle East portfolio over the next three to five years — it has about 100 properties in the pipeline. The company recently opened its 608-room Hilton Dubai Palm Jumeirah in the United Arab Emirates, a Waldorf Astoria in Kuwait and a DoubleTree by Hilton Riyadh Financial District in Saudi Arabia.
At FHS, the growth of Saudi Arabia and its potential as a tourism destination was a topic of discussion that was revisited by several speakers. Earlier this year, FHS Riyadh, held in May 2022, was completely sold out. “It’s terribly exciting, there [Saudi’s] Economy is turning into a multi-faceted economy with tourism as one of its pillars. I love what they are trying to do on the front lines of sustainability and human resources. At Riyadh FHS earlier this year we had to stop registration which I have never done before. We had to pull the emergency brake because we couldn’t fit more people into the venue at the Riyadh Airport Marriott Hotel where we were staying with Dur Hospitality,” Worsley revealed.
FHS is known as a platform for announcing mega deals and at the Dubai issuance, Abu Dhabi National Hotels, listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, confirmed that they are acquiring a prime property on Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah have to develop a US hotel resort property valued at US$272 million. Ras Al Khaimah featured prominently at FHS with Chris Gordon, President of Wynn Development, and Abdullah AlAbdouli, Chief Executive Officer of Marjan, along with Alison Grinnell, Chief Executive Officer of RAK Hospitality Holdings, in a day two panel discussion with the Title “Integrated Resorts”. and its impact on the economy.’ Here it was announced that the multi-billion dollar Wynn Resorts in Ras Al Khaimah are expected to open in late 2026.
In addition to the Middle East, there were panel discussions such as “Focus on China – Are you ready for the largest tourism market?”. and ‘An Overview of Africa’s Travel and Tourism Potential’, which discussed markets where the Middle East could play an important role in growth.
On the third and final day of FHS, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Founding Patron of AHIC; President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority; Chairman, Dubai Airports; Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group; and the Chairman of Dubai Holding take the stage for the FHS 2022 Awards Ceremony. The Lifetime Award for Services to the Industry was presented to the late Ranjan Nadarajah who served as General Manager at Le Méridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Center for over 35 years and also as Senior Advisor to Wasl Hospitality. Assia Riccio, Founder and CEO of Evolvin’ Women, won the Be The Change Award for her support of unemployed women from underprivileged backgrounds and farmers in developing countries, while Amit Nayak, Vice President of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA) Middle East and Africa, received the Leadership Award in recognition of his career spanning over two decades in wealth management and private equity in the region.
There’s more to come from the team behind FHS. The Africa Hospitality Investment Forum (AHIF) in Morocco will take place from 2-4 November 2022, while dates and confirmation of next year’s FHS edition are expected shortly.