Opportunities in China, the unavailability of finance and investing in technology were key themes at this year’s International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF), held last month in Berlin
The 15th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin welcomed more than 1700 delegates, a far cry from the 250 attendees at the inaugural event in 1998.
Running from March 5-7 at the InterContinental Hotel Berlin, the event covered a series of topical issues from contract terms to social media.
But as always, the mass were focused on identifying new opportunities through networking, debates and forums. And there were three topics that kept cropping up: China, finance and technology.
China, China, China
Whether hoteliers are expanding their portfolios in China or more focused on attracting Chinese guests to their properties outside of the country, the lucrative market was a hot topic at IHIF.
Speaking on the CEO panel ‘Thinking outside the box’, Jumeirah executive chairman Gerald Lawless emphasised just how important China had become, claiming business from the country was “tripling” every year.
“The Burj Al Arab saw occupancies of 80% Chinese guests during the Chinese New Year,” he said.
Fellow panellist Sir Rocco Forte claimed it was “a little too early to tell” whether the Chinese guests would be a big market for the Rocco Forte Abu Dhabi. Yet, in November, Sir Rocco told Hotelier that the group had set its sights on Chinese expansion.
Jumeirah is already on its way to opening hotels in China: “We’ve got five projects under development in China and three already under construction there,” said Lawless.
However, the firm is not putting all its eggs in one basket and is keen to expand globally, according to Lawless, with plans for projects in the Seychelles, Mauritius and India.
But in spite of international growth, the group’s UAE hotels are still out-performing many others.
“The luxury sector was greatly resilient in 2011. Some of our RevPARs were higher than they were before the global financial crisis. There’s good awareness in Dubai with Emirates Airline doing a lot, which of course helps Jumeirah. Another benefit of focusing on the Middle East is that’s it’s a part of the world with more access to capital”.
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