As the eyes of the world look more to the Middle East, the region's hotel industry must support initiatives aimed at bettering employment, civil rights and gender positions for those whose voices struggle to be heard.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—The Middle East is changing quickly, dramatically and fully within the sharpened gaze of the world’s attention. Concerns include women’s rights, youth unemployment, security and oil prices, and the hotel industry is both at the epicenter of these concerns and in a real position to be able to do something about them.
Hoteliers discussed this responsibility during the second day of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, along with how the region’s hotels can improve by increasingly introducing revenue management and new business models, and what mega-projects are bringing in visitors to fulfil government stakeholder desires for increased tourism and prosperity.
The region’s two powerhouses, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both have ambitious plans to raise the stakes for tourism. But, some conference speakers attested, any such push must be done in parallel with championing the rights of women and youth, and the introduction of more just civil laws that allow those who so far have been left out of the conversation to have a seat at the table.
Another cause discussed was the UAE’s active push to encourage Emiratis to enter the hotel industry.
Maybe some Western eyes were raised when Arabian speakers outlined this need for change. Maybe our jaundiced view of the Middle East is that we think such voices are not allowed to rise above the parapet, but here they were. Change should be encouraged, especially in a region that—with its Emirates and Etihad airlines, mega-hubs of Dubai and Qatar and holy pilgrimage sites of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and Medina, Saudi Arabia—could be argued to be the center of today’s planet. Europeans, Indians and Chinese are increasingly visiting its hotels and attractions, which, again, are in a position to evoke meaningful political and demographic shifts.
Hoteliers at AHIC applauded these sentiments. We all now need to act on them and even more so place hospitality in the core of hearts and minds.
Quotes of the day
“Tourism is ignoring women, while terrorism is not.”
—Her Royal Highness Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al Saud, speaking of changes needed in Saudi Arabia and globally, her socioeconomic education initiative, Global United Research & Analysis, and her business interests, which include restaurants to be expanded outside of the Middle East and increasingly into hotels and resorts.
“We take a long view, so we regard (the U.S.) election, with that particular incumbent, as a relatively short-term issue. It is a short political cycle, whether it will be four years or eight, so not particularly is our argument. If anything, it just makes the sums a little easier.”
—Andrew Humphries, COO, Katara Hospitality, on how geopolitics is or is not affecting his company’s investment decisions. Humphries added that Katara, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, is actively looking for U.S.-based assets, in primary or secondary cities, to round out its portfolio.
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