2017 Agenda



08.25      WELCOME ADDRESS: Hotelier Middle East


08.30      LOOKING AHEAD: Market Insights & Forecast

Chris Hewett – Associate Director, TRI Consulting


08.50      PANEL DISCUSSION: War Games – Fighting the Rate War

The UAE hospitality landscape is evolving at breakneck speed and has faced all manner of challenges and triumphs in the past decade. From a global financial crisis, to recovery from a successful Expo bid to a drastic oil price drop, from the introduction of disruptors to record visitor numbers and beyond, the rise and fall has been dizzying. As supply threatens to outpace demand, rate wars are becoming increasingly common and uncommonly fierce. In the battle to capture guests, hotels are using a wide range of tactics to ward off competitors. Increasingly, price is the weapon of choice — and frequently the skirmishing degenerates into a rate war. Creating low-price appeal is often the goal, but the result of one retaliatory price slashing after another is often a precipitous decline in industry profits and everyone suffers in the long-term. Although average occupancy rates are expected to fall further in 2018 before rising again in 2020, it’s impossible to say what the future holds, so it’s important for hoteliers to unite and hold firm on rates or the market could never recover. So how do we battle the rate war?

Discussion Point 1: It seems that in today’s environment, the guest has the upper hand in determining room rates – with the modern traveller seeking value, even from a luxury hotel – and hoteliers in turn working hard to accommodate that philosophy and give the guest what they want, but competing hotels offering last minute specials, or heavy discounts, can raise the intensity of rate wars. With industry experts warning not to drop rates and to increase them whenever possible, why aren’t hotels heeding this advice, working hard to really understand their competitive advantage, focusing on their strengths to market their properties, and holding steady on rates?

Discussion Point 2: As more rooms come online, downward pressure has been placed on room rates across the UAE and this has sparked some ruthless rate dropping. With a multitude of charges and fees already being imposed, and with the introduction of VAT fast approaching, hotels will have an additional dilemma on their hands. Should they absorb the tax so that guests aren’t put off by yet another charge? If rates are already lowered and VAT is absorbed, how will revenue be affected?

Discussion Point 3: A hotel brand’s success is built on exceptional service, quality facilities and innovation. Developing and nurturing a hotel’s reputation can take years and brand loyalty can take decades to cultivate. So across-the-board price cuts can not only unnecessarily reduce profits, but deep discounts can really devalue a hotel’s brand, limiting its ability to raise prices as the market improves. Brand equity is real equity, the balance-sheet value of that identity. Its strength is built on its ability to remain unaffected by temporary fluctuations in any of the comprising factors. So why are regional hoteliers not staying true to their brand’s value and identity and refusing to budge on rates? How can they ensure that their brand and property’s reputation speaks for itself?

MODERATOR: Chris Hewett – Associate Director, TRI Consulting

PANEL: David Prince - Area Vice President – Dubai & Northern Emirates, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation

Pierre Delfau – General Manager, Southern Sun Abu Dhabi

David Allan – Cluster General Manager, ‎Radisson Blu Hotels, Dubai Waterfront & Dubai Canal Views

Cyril Warsono – Area Manager – Middle East & Africa, Frasers Hospitality 


09.30      IN CONVERSATION WITH: Dan Flannery

 Senior Vice President & Managing Director, EDITION Hotels


10.10      PRESENTATION: An Engaged Workforce is a Productive Workforce

Improving employee engagement is not simply about improving productivity — although organisations with a high level of engagement do report higher productivity. Strong employee engagement promotes a variety of outcomes that are good for employees and guests. For instance, highly engaged organisations have double the rate of success of lower engaged organisations, and engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant which transfers to an enhanced guest experience. Yet, despite the benefits, companies still struggle to foster engagement – or see that if people want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organisation, this can provide unlimited value and advantage for a hotel. This session will explore the formula for creating greater levels of engagement to ensure that employees are directly contributing to your hotel’s success.

Mariano Faz – Head of Asset Management, TFG Asset Management 


10.30      COFFEE BREAK


11.30      IN CONVERSATION WITH: Gerald Lawless

Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and Chancellor of The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management


12.10      PANEL DISCUSSION: Destination UAE – Promoting the United Arab Emirates to the World

Despite being relatively new to the tourism game, the UAE has very quickly become the ultimate destination for travellers from across the globe. The country has a multitude of things to offer tourists and explorers, from pristine beaches, deserts and mountains, to a multitude of leisure, entertainment and cultural attractions – the UAE is not short of charm and appeal and should be the perfect destination for explorers looking to discover a dynamic region. However, there seems to be a lack of cooperation between the Emirates to promote their neighbours and a united effort to promote the country as a whole would be ideal in building awareness for what’s on offer and bringing more guests over to this corner of the world. Hoteliers could be a key component in the cross promotion of destinations and their properties, so why aren’t more hoteliers factoring this in to their marketing strategies?

Discussion Point 1: Consumer behaviour has evolved over recent years and we see more travellers looking to experience as much of a destination as possible when on vacation. No longer content to limit themselves to just staying put at a beach resort, the rise in explorers and a hunger for authentic multi-destination experiences means that there is an opportunity for hoteliers to offer their guests more of a holistic experience. But how many hoteliers are taking advantage of this trend? Are hotels partnering with local tour operators and across brand networks to promote more of what the UAE has to offer?

Discussion Point 2: The UAE has some world-class airlines, including Emirates and Etihad Airways that have over recent years accelerated their network expansion and reduced the cost of their flights, giving a major boost to the development of tourism in the UAE. Airlines can be the perfect partner to a hotel looking to maximise their marketing efforts with plenty of cross-promotional opportunities. So how can hoteliers work with these airlines to promote the destination further to tourists?

Discussion Point 3: With such a variety of activities and attractions on offer across the UAE, there are limitless opportunities to attract a diverse range of visitors to vacation here. For hoteliers looking to entice guests to their property, it would be beneficial to partner with DMCs to tailor packages to suit different groups. How easy is it for hotels to partner with DMCs to further promote their hotels and ‘Destination UAE’? What are the challenges to this from a corporate perspective?

MODERATOR: Rupprecht Queitsch – Chief Executive Officer & Senior Partner, INHOCO Group

PANEL: Laurent A. Voivenel – Senior Vice President – Operations & Development Middle East, India & Africa, Swiss-Belhotel International

Olivier R. Harnisch – Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group

Ignace Bauwens - Regional Vice President, Middle East & Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group

Olivier Granet – Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Middle East & Africa, AccorHotels

Jalil Mekouar – Chief Executive Officer, Hotels – Majid Al Futtaim


13.00      PANEL DISCUSSION: Food & Beverage Focus - Is it Time to Ditch the Discounts?

In the age of the ‘daily deal site’ and multiple voucher offers, consumers in the Middle East continue to seek out value-added deals on meals, drinks, brunches and entertainment. In such a competitive market restaurants need to get the word out about a new concept and develop creative ways to magnetise diners to try their restaurant and return. Although partnerships with Groupon, Entertainer and the like are a great way to introduce a venue and a successful way to save on marketing a restaurant, from a management perspective, the saving made on marketing can actually negatively impact the business, revenue-wise as well as for the outlet’s reputation. Hoteliers are starting to tire of the discount culture and are aware that by providing a quality and memorable dining experience, it’s possible to maintain a loyal following and have a successful venue. Is it an option to remain stoic on pricing in this market, and still obtain new customers based on reputation alone?

Discussion Point 1: With so many high-end restaurants in the region, dining out can be expensive for the average consumer. Although aligning a restaurant with discount deals is a good way to generate foot-fall, are restaurateurs and hoteliers at the same time eroding the value of their brand and sacrificing the air of exclusivity that a fine dining establishment boasts?

Discussion Point 2: Offering deals to discount resellers can be a costly business. Providing a quality dining experience at a reduced price and with added processing fees, as well as lost revenue from covers that are taken away from full price customers, it’s possible that an establishment is actually making a loss when offering such deals. How can outlets remain competitive without cutting corners?

Discussion Point 3: When used strategically, discounting can increase revenue and loyalty without causing negative brand perceptions. How can restauranteurs and hoteliers ensure a quality dining experience at a discounted price without compromising their brand identity and ensuring that discounts and deals are in line with the expenditure for each discount diner?

MODERATOR: Stefan Breg – Director of F&B Middle East & Africa, Marriott International

PANEL: Peter Skudutis – General Manager, Zero Gravity Dubai

Sascha Triemer – Vice President, Food & Beverage, Atlantis, The Palm

Christian Gradnitzer – ‎Senior Director of F&B Operations EMEA, Hilton Worldwide

Heiko Röder – Executive Assistant Manager, Food & Beverage, One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai