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80005 11 Apr 2019

AHIC 2019 Kicks off with ‘Day of Disruption’ in Ras Al Khaimah

Speakers from Coca Cola, Google, Accor, PwC and many more urge hospitality professionals to modernise their businesses and face digital disruptors head-on

Dubai, UAE. 10 April, 2019. The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2019 (AHIC), currently underway at the AHIC Village at the Al Hamra International Exhibition & Conference Centre in Ras Al Khaimah, opened with a ‘Day of Disruption’ and ‘GRIF at AHIC’, with expert speakers addressing the potential impact of a variety of external influences on the hospitality industry, in particular, the unparalleled digital landscape.

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, said: “As we expected, the ‘Day of Disruption’ flagged a huge number of incredibly thought-provoking viewpoints on potential disruptors to the industry and importantly, how hoteliers should react to these. Overwhelmingly, the advice from speakers both within the industry and outside of the sector, was to revolutionise our way of thinking. It’s no longer enough to respond to change; we need to anticipate it, alter our vision, and commit to delivering on it.”

Julie Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer – The Coca-Cola Company, explained why and how the company decided to dramatically change its business model.

“We could wait for someone to disrupt us, or we could disrupt ourselves. We chose the tougher path, the riskier path, the one that was most uncomfortable, to disrupt ourselves,” said Hamilton.

“So it may not seem like a big thing but when for 109 years we primarily focused on one brand in three packages to move to a vision of being a total beverage company, that’s big. It doesn’t sound big, but it’s like turning the Titanic around,” she added.

Maria de la Fuente Corrales, Travel Industry Analyst at Google, spoke about the need to analyse and make use of data in order to tap into what customers want. She revealed that 80% of the total searches for hotel accommodation are related to destination and said that 70% of total travel searches come from mobile.

“When it comes to mobile, if your site takes more than three seconds to load, more than 50% of people will just leave,” said de la Fuente Corrales. “They will not wait for the site to load. You are missing more than 50% of your traffic to your website because you have not optimised your site. We have to move from answers to anticipation,” she asserted, highlighting the Uber app as an excellent example of real-time digital service.

At PwC, Chinmay Shukla, Senior Manager, said that mobile search was especially relevant when it comes to millennials, two thirds of whom search for a hotel room on their smart phone device and make their booking through a smart phone. According to Chinmay, millennials are the disruptor to watch; impacting hospitality businesses “through every single element of the value chain”.

He revealed: “Millennials are expected to make up more than 50% of hotel guests worldwide by 2020. Just pause and think about that. If there is one segment that needs to be targeted, it’s millennials, and based on studies for the next 15 years, so from 2020 to 2035, millennials will be at peak spending power.”

The ‘Day of Disruption’ also featured interviews with leading hoteliers. In an insightful session led by Nick van Marken, Managing Director, van Marken Limited, Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Accor, said it was time the industry moved away from being “product-centric” and focused on being “client-centric”.

He said that his next focus in the transformation of Accor was to compete with digital players like Facebook and Amazon, by “enlarging the net and increasing frequency with our clients”. Bazin explained that the advantage these companies had was their weekly, if not daily, contact with customers.

“The level of interaction we have with our guests is not good enough. We only see them three or four times a year. We need to have an interaction with our guests which is hopefully three times a month, and maybe one day, three times a week,” Bazin said, explaining that this would only be achievable by expanding into areas such as coworking, entertainment and digital concierge services.

Commenting on Bazin’s keynote, Worsley said: “It’s a privilege to gain insights on disruption from such a visionary leader as Sébastien Bazin and there were a host of relevant takeaways for our delegates from the ‘Day of Disruption’. AHIC continues this week with a roster of stellar speakers on an agenda designed around the theme ‘Synchronised for Success’. Through these sessions, we expect to spark important debate, which will no doubt be continued off stage with more networking opportunities than ever at the AHIC Village here in RAK.”

The 15th edition of AHIC will bring together more than 800 hotel investors, owners and operators for three days of education, networking and deal making from 9-11 April.


About AHIC 2019

AHIC, now in its 15th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East’s hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench Events in partnership with Middle East business intelligence brand, MEED. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2019 will be in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from 9 April to 11 April 2019 in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, AHIC 2019 will be co-hosted by its founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region’s tourism growth.


AHIC 2019 Sponsors

AHIC 2019 is hosted by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Sponsors include: Accor Hotels, Al Hokair Group, Amaala, Al Marjan Island, Choice Hotels, Hilton, Radisson Hotel Group and The Red Sea Development Company as Platinum Sponsors; Emaar Hospitality Group, Dur Hospitality, (IHG) InterContinental Hotels Group, IWG (Insignia Worldwide Group), Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and Taiba Holding as Emerald Sponsors; and Alkamal International, Archipelago International, Barcelo hotel Group, Colliers International, Drees & Sommer, GlobalData, HVS, Knight Frank, Louvre Hotels Group, Marriott International, Melia Hotels International, PwC, Roya, SSH, STR, IHCL (The Indian Hotels Company Limited) and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts as Gold Sponsors. Citymax Hotels, Kerten Hospitality, Al Tamimi and Company, and Time Hotels are the Silver Sponsors. Edel & Stark is the Supercar Rental & Tours Partner while The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, Hotelivate and Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) are Supporting Partners.


Ras Al Khaimah

One of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations, Ras Al Khaimah boasts a rich culture and long-standing history dating back 7,000 years. The Emirate boasts an array of archaeological sites and breath-taking natural vistas, from golden sand beaches, awe-inspiring terracotta dunes and a green belt of date palms to Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE.

To learn more about Ras Al Khaimah, visit us at:


Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA)

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) was established in May 2011 under the government of Ras Al Khaimah. In order to achieve target growth of one million visitors by the end of 2018, the authority aims to develop the Emirate’s tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination for leisure and business travel, creating sustainable investment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. In order to achieve its goals, the Ras Al Khaimah TDA has a government mandate to license, regulate and monitor the Emirate’s tourism and hospitality industry.