In its objective to maintain its position as the most prominent platform in the region through a well-established hotelier community across the region, Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) speakers have headed to Qatar this week to explore the current and upcoming hotel investment opportunities in the market.

Panel discussions took place today during the Qatar Regional Briefing which was hosted by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), and addressed by Ronald Egelman, Director of Development of Middle East & Africa at IHG; Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing & Promotions Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority; Philip Wooller, Area Director of Middle East & Africa at STR Global; Christopher Lund, Associate Manager Hotels MENA Region, Colliers International; Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, Executive Vice President, Head of Hotels & Hospitality, Middle East & Africa at JLL; Kees Hartzuiker, Chief Executive Officer at Roya International; and Rutger Smits, Chief Executive Officer at ARTIC. Egelman said:

The annual pre-AHIC briefing session is a meeting place for the top players in the region’s hospitality industry and this year we are delighted to be hosting it again at Crowne Plaza Doha – The Business Park. With Qatar’s Hamad International Airport now open and capable of welcoming 50 million passengers a year, the country’s increasing status as a Middle East business hub and the upcoming 2022 World Cup, sentiments are stronger than ever for this market. With three hotels open in in Doha and one more on the way, we are in a great position to support the increase in visitor arrivals. The opportunities here will not escape anyone in the hospitality industry and this is sure to mean great conversations will be had during the event.’

According to STR Global, Qatar saw its supply growth settle in 2013 and 2014, but another upward shift is expected over the next several years with 42 projects currently reported in the pipeline. The increase in supply is set to occur as the country’s demand continues to grow, most recently by 11.1% in 2014, according to STR Global data. Qatar’s occupancy has increased for 27 consecutive months, and its occupancy rate of 2014 (73.3%) was the highest since 2006. Thus far in 2015, Qatar reported a record January occupancy (80.8%), surpassing the previous high mark for the month set back in 2005.

As a result of the growth in occupancy, revenue per available room has increased for two consecutive years with a 10.5% rise in 2014, according to STR Global data. The market experienced a 21.5% year-over-year increase in RevPAR in January 2015.

Area Director of Middle East and Africa at STR Global, Philip Wooller, said:

It comes as no surprise that a majority of those projects are based in Doha, where demand is positively affected by flight traffic from Qatar Airways.’

Ben Mahmoud said:

The Doha hotel markets continue to display a reasonable level of buoyancy and attractiveness. Led by a wide range of local investors with a strong strategic focus, the hotel development drive builds more on the infrastructure being deployed and the international destination that is being promoted, beyond the FIFA World cup event. Doha will be emerging as a show case for all international hotel brands that are coming to reinforce an intrinsic original offering of non-generic hotels that are contributing to the uniqueness of the destination in the GCC hospitality landscape and beyond.’

STR Global also estimates that the average daily rate in Qatar will be interesting to track moving forward as it has declined for six straight years. STR Global mentioned that this is a normal trend in the cycle of the hotel development in Qatar. Despite increases in ‘demand’, occupancies traditionally have not been quite at the level whereupon room rates can be leveraged, and the increase in new hotel openings continues to bring more competitive pricing. Wooller said:

It appears hoteliers are beginning to utilize the pricing power they have because of the increased demand, as ADR has increased in four straight months with a rate growth of 11.6% in January 2015.’

Director and Head of Hotels  of MENA Region at Colliers International, Fillipo Sona, said:

2015 is the year of stabilisation for the Qatar hotel industry with Rev Par growth averaging 5.5% for the period ending 30th of April. By year end the market will witness a 2% RevPar growth across Doha.’

Hartzuiker said:

The Doha market performed exceptionally well in 2014 over 2013 seeing double digit growth in both occupancy and RevPAR – with this trend holding strong into Q1 2015. With over 12,000 rooms currently under development, existing hotel owners and investors will need to employ targeted asset management strategies in order to protect returns.’

AHIC Regional Briefings have so far visited Oman, Jeddah and Cairo and Qatar. The 2015 Series will also go to Riyadh this year, ahead of the main Conference in Dubai. AHIC 2015 Conference will take place this year from 5 to 7 May 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

AHIC 2015 is organised by Bench Events and MEED, and will include key participants such as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Jumeirah Group, Platinum Sponsors.   Accor, Al Habtoor Group, Hilton Worldwide, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors. Centara Hotels & Resorts, Citymax Hotels, Colliers International, Crystal International Standards, ESPA, Faithful + Gould, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, Golden Tulip, Hodema Cosulting Services, HVS, Insignia Worldwide, Invest Tourism Maldives, JA Hotels & Resorts, JLL, Melia Hotels International, Premier Inn, PwC, Roya, Shaza Hotels, STR Global, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces and Yas Marina Circuit as Gold Sponsors.