Industry Update
Press Release23 January 2018

AHIC 2018 unveils dedicated ‘Day of Disruption’ to inspire and challenge the hotel investment community

Former Starwood CEO and author of The Disruptor’s Feast, Frits van Paasschen, will headline and host debate on 17 April 2018 to shake-up the industry

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Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai

Dubai, UAE. -- The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 (AHIC) will kick off with a ‘Day of Disruption’, designed to shake-up traditional ways of thinking and bring insight to the hospitality investment industry from forward thinkers operating in various sectors, from cybersecurity and cryptocurrencies to marketing and motorsports.


Taking place from 17-19 April 2018 at the purpose-built AHIC Village in the grounds of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), this 14th edition of AHIC promises to harvest knowledge from outside of the hotel industry and challenge the status quo.

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, explained: “The hospitality industry is often criticised for not keeping ahead of trends or driving innovation. That’s because hotels are a rooms-based business model, offering bed and breakfast – something that will always be needed, as long as people continue to travel. There is little motivation, quite understandably, to change this.

“However, as the hotel market in this region matures, competition increases, putting performance and profitability under pressure, so investors are quite rightly focusing on the future and carefully analysing the potential of current and future assets alike,” continued Worsley. “Many of the hotel owners we speak with at AHIC invest in other industries as well and are keen to see how the hospitality industry will adopt new technologies and create alternative operating models.

“This is why we are kicking off AHIC 2018 with The Day of Disruption, which will bring together CEOs from some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, such as Winding Tree, Vayner Media and TINT, to share their knowledge with the industry. This will no doubt fuel the debate for the rest of AHIC, which will address business-critical issues including the macro economic outlook, global leadership, destination development, international investment opportunities, value engineering and asset management,” said Worsley.

Headlining The Day of Disruption on April 17 is Frits Dirk van Paasschen, author of The Disruptor’s Feast and former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. According to van Paasschen, established interests, change-blindness and set ways of working mean hotel brands will wake up too late to disruption, making it nearly impossible for incumbents to survive.

“There is so much change still to come, and most of the industry is still asleep,” said van Paasschen, who believes “lodging capacity in the space between traditional hotels and first-generation peer-to-peer accommodations” will be the major disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018.

In this highly-relevant kick-off to AHIC, van Paasschen will present his own thoughts – including those on how the hospitality industry can lead the way to a carbon-neutral future - and welcome other experts from outside of the industry to share their essential insights for hotel owners and operators.

Speakers include Maksim Izmaylov, CEO, Winding Tree, specialist in blockchain technology, who holds a similar view to van Paasschen.

“There is no innovation in the hospitality industry, that's the main problem. There are no and will be no new disruptors in the industry until we break the monopolistic grip on it,” said Izmaylov, who will present how blockchain can be used to circumvent OTAs.

He added: “We live in a technology-driven world. Any CEO of a travel company has to really come to terms with this. His/her company has to transform into a technology company as soon as possible. If they don't do that, they will be delegating their technological expertise to some intermediary that will abuse it.”

Tim Sae Koo, CEO of social media marketing company TINT, who will share his experiences as a “digital nomad” with AHIC delegates, agreed that investors should be investing in “digital technologies early on”.

“Hotel operators lagged a little behind, but there are quite a few companies now that are refreshing the business model and trying new things, such as Yotel, Citizen M, and Generator Hostels. People still want the human experience, but what that means is evolving and a lot of times includes more technology,” said Sae Koo.

Partner of AHIC 2018, Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, said technology would be the biggest disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018.

“I am referring to technology that improves the customer experience, and tech that improves operator efficiency. The ultimate disruptors will be tech that achieves both,” said Mattar.

“The UAE’s leadership has a clear plan to build smart cities, and a smart society. They are investing heavily in all the pillars that will enable this vision, including smart transportation, crowd management, smart buildings and smart tourism. Investors need to be aware of these developments, and align with them,” he added.

The Day of Disruption will also include a live hack of the AHIC 2018 audience, led by Richard Neale of Counterhack; modern leadership advice from Ferrari’s Mark Arnall, Trainer of F1 star Kimi Räikkönen; and a panel session featuring ‘Challengers of the Status Quo’ moderated by Eric Fulwiler, Executive Director – London of VaynerMedia.

AHIC 2018, which promises to further knowledge, deepen existing relationships and forge new ones among the leaders of the hospitality investment community, will attract around 800 hotel investors, major developers, leading financiers, and C-level hotel executives to attend three days of content, networking and events.

For registrations and for more information, visit:

About AHIC 2018

AHIC, now in its 14th year, is the annual gathering for the Middle East’s hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench Events in partnership with MEED Events. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders. AHIC 2018 will be held in a purpose-built AHIC Village on the beach of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from 17 April to 19 April 2018 in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, AHIC 2018 will be co-hosted by its founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region’s tourism growth.

AHIC 2018 Sponsors

AHIC 2018 is hosted by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Sponsors include: Al Marjan Island, Hilton and The Rezidor Hotel Group as Platinum Sponsors; AccorHotels, Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Dur Hospitality, Emaar Hospitality Group, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), IWG (Insignia Worldwide Group), Marriott International; The Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development – SMIT and Wyndham Hotel Group as Emerald Sponsors; and Action Hotels, Colliers International, Louvre Hotels Group, Melia Hotels International, STR, Time Hotels and Roya International as Gold Sponsors.

About Bench Events

Global event organiser Bench Events has a long track record of delivering multiple premium hotel investment conferences and forums across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Market leading annual conferences include the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai, now in its 14th year, the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) the new Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC), The Summit in London and the Latin American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conferences (SAHIC). Bench Events’ extensive portfolio also includes the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) in Dubai and AviaDev, designed to promote the future air connectivity in Africa. Bench Events’ mission is enabling prosperity by facilitating growth, networking, and thought leadership in the hospitality industry worldwide.

About MEED

MEED is a remarkable senior management media brand, that encompasses subscription to the MEED Business Review publication and website,, as well as organising the MEED Quality Awards for Projects, AHIC and Innovation Live! MEED also works with clients on bespoke content, events, broadcast and digital offerings. MEED also has two high-value content businesses, MEED Projects and MEED Insight. MEED Projects is the Middle East's premium project tracking database and MEED Insight offers tailored research and in-depth analysis. Established in 1957, MEED, has been integral to delivering business information and news, intelligence and analysis on the Middle East economies and activities ever since.

About Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA)

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) was established in May 2011 under the government of Ras Al Khaimah. In order to achieve target growth of one million visitors by the end of 2018, the authority aims to develop the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination for leisure and business travel, creating sustainable investment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. In order to achieve its goals, the RAKTDA has a government mandate to license, regulate and monitor the emirate’s tourism and hospitality industry.
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Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC)2018

AHIC Village, Waldorf Astoria — Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
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