Annual hospitality event follows a milestone year for Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry, after the launch of new visas which attracted 55,000 visitors in just one month
The third annual edition of the Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference (SHIC), being held from 21-22 January 2020 at Riyadh Airport Marriott Hotel in Riyadh, will bring together more than 350 dignitaries, developers, investors, hotel owners and operators to discuss the future of the Kingdom’s ever-growing hotel market in light of the event theme, ‘Transform Tomorrow’.
Hosted by Dur Hospitality, organised by Semark and co-organised by Bench Events and MEED, SHIC 2020 features more than 90 high-profile speakers from companies paving the way in Saudi Arabia’s hospitality investment industry, including the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, Al Hokair Group, AMAALA, The Red Sea Development Company and Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of SHIC, said: “We are excited to kick-off 2020 with the third edition of SHIC, which comes following a pivotal year for the Saudi Arabian hospitality industry. The launch of tourist visas in September 2019 marked the Kingdom’s intention to become a global tourism destination and we are proud to be bringing together the tourism officials, hotel owners and operators working to make this a reality”.
Expressing his honour at hosting SHIC for the third consecutive year, Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Issa, Chairman of Dur Hospitality in turn stated that the rising number of visitors to Saudi Arabia has paved way for quality, authenticity and variety among the Kingdom’s hospitality offering. “While the tourism industry continues to flourish and is expected to increase its contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP by 8% by 2030, we will continue to grow our diversified portfolio, which currently includes over 20 properties, operates 3047 rooms, in addition to several new projects underway.
Our expansion plans seek to keep up with the demand of the industry and utilize the increased potential it poses with an investment of SAR 1.5billion (US 400 million) to almost double our portfolio within the next four years,” Mr. Al-Issa added.
Ahead of SHIC, HE Ahmad Al Khatib, President of SCTH, said: “The launch of Saudi Arabia’s first tourism visa marked a historic milestone in the implementation of Vision 2030 and the development of the Kingdom’s tourism industry. Our aspiration is that by 2030, tourism will comprise more than 10% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP, attracting 100 million annual visits and creating as many as one million new jobs. Today, we are in an exciting position at the beginning of this journey and we are working closely with the hospitality industry to harness the full potential of Saudi’s tourism sector”.
Within the first month of launching the visa, more than 55,000 tourist visas were issued, providing a glimpse into the huge latent potential of the sector.
John Pagano, CEO of The Red Sea Development Company, added: “The uptake of the new e-visa demonstrates the widespread interest global travellers have in visiting Saudi Arabia. The e-visa creates opportunities for guests of the Red Sea Project to visit other parts of the Kingdom – and vice versa – making it easier to experience the unique beauty of our destination and be part of our commitment to enhance the natural environment. Through its introduction, the government is again demonstrating its commitment to make tourism a key pillar of the Kingdom’s economy. Visitors from around the world will experience the warm hospitality that Saudi Arabia offers and discover an unexplored part of the world.”
Jerry Inzerillo, CEO, DGDA, said recent progress meant it was “a momentous time in this extraordinary country”.
He revealed: “We plan to break ground in January 2020 for Diriyah Gate, a mixed-use traditional urban community which celebrates the rich cultural history of Saudi Arabia. Diriyah Gate, Riyadh’s new global cultural and lifestyle destination, will be home to leading luxury and lifestyle retail brands as well as over 100 cafés and restaurants. With hospitality, leisure, culture, education and entertainment assets in our development plans, we’re hoping to attract millions of tourists who will fall in love with Diriyah”.
According to SCTH, more than 150,000 new hotel rooms will be built in Saudi Arabia over the next three years, around 30% of which will be government funded while 70% will be driven by the private sector.
Numerous international operators have signified their commitment to the Kingdom.
“With the direction Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry is heading, tourism is expected to rise across existing and new segments fuelling demand for a variation of new accommodation options, example, family friendly hotels including mid-scale and luxury resorts, and extended-stay hotels,” remarked Pascal Gauvin, MD, India, Middle East and Africa for IHG. “We are in active discussions with strategic partners to bring new brands from our global brand portfolio, such as Regent Hotels and Resorts, Six Senses and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, to the Kingdom to cater to these tourists’ diverse needs and preferences.”
Millennium Hotels and Resorts recently revealed its goal to operate a hotel in every region across Saudi Arabia, targeting 25 hotels in the Kingdom by 2025.
Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA CEO Kevork Deldelian said: “We have been operating in Saudi Arabia for five years now, with nine hotels in our portfolio. We are already seeing increased business from the new tourist visas and are committed to playing a significant role in providing hotels across the Kingdom to accommodate this increasing demand”.
The SHIC programme will address various topics impacting the future growth of the hospitality sector, from asset management and franchising to sustainable luxury and artificial intelligence. There will also be case studies on mega projects, leadership panels, roundtables and a Three-Minute Pitch to Owners, during which leading brands will present their latest lodging products and loyalty programmes.
Meanwhile, on day one of SHIC, the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) KSA programme will run concurrently, showcasing the most innovative home-grown and international restaurant concepts transforming the F&B sector in Saudi Arabia.