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Bench Events unveils schedule for highly awaited Africa Hotel Investment Forum

Bench Events, the organizer of The Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the world’s leading conference on hospitality investment in Africa, has unveiled a thought-provoking program and high caliber speaker line-up for AHIF 2014, under the theme ‘Reaching New Heights’. The Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) 2014 is scheduled to take place on 29 Sept – 1 Oct in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Bench Events said as the two-day conference will take place in Ethiopia for the first time, “it allows international investors to take a closer look at the country, which has a tourism economy forecast to be worth ETB150bn by the end of 2024.” Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, said: “Ethiopia remains one of Africa’s ‘best kept secrets’. Few people realize that its economy is growing at more than 7% per year and that it is forecast to be the third largest economy in Africa by 2015. For the tourism industry, this event is an opportunity to focus attention on what the country (and the continent) has to offer in both product and opportunity.”

Tewolde GebreMariam, Chairman of the national tourism organization and CEO of Ethiopian Airlines on his side said that, “We have a long term vision to make Ethiopia Africa’s most important travel destination and I am greatly looking forward to discussing how we deliver that vision with a multitude of business leaders at AHIF.”

Ethiopia is not the main subject however, according to the organizers. “The conference will focus on the geopolitical and economic climate across the whole continent and the latest developments in the hotel sector.” Big issues such as the importance of conserving Africa’s tourism assets and connecting each of the African countries through good, new infrastructure will be discussed too. The feasibility of investing successfully in Africa in general and in hospitality specifically will be explored in a series of panel discussions led by a group of experts on each topic. Speakers are drawn from the ranks of government, hotel chains, banks and a range of prominent consultants.

High end panelists and topics

Accordingly, Bench Events said that to set the scene, “the political economy across Africa and legislative framework that underpins investment and connectivity throughout Africa” will be analyzed by the internationally renowned strategy guru and academic, Dr Martyn Davies, CEO, Frontier Advisory. He will then be joined by a panel of African airline CEOs to talk about open skies.

This is followed by an examination of what is happening on a local and regional basis, led by Tendai Madziwanyika, CEO of Rainbow Tourism Group and several regional representatives of Horwath HTL.

The benefits to business in conserving Africa’s tourism assets (e.g. wildlife) are up for debate next and questions will be entertained on sustainability. Examples of current innovations for addressing energy conservation and water shortage in Africa will be given and how these can be applied within the hospitality arena. The topic will be championed by Salim Bitar, CEO, Rani Investment.

Day two begins with international hotel operators having their say on the value they bring to the African market and how the market will develop over the next ten years. Panelists include top executives from Hilton, Mangalis, Rezidor, Starwood and Wyndham.

This will be followed by a forum on finance (e.g. how to get funding for hotel projects) and the overall hotel investment landscape. Speakers include representatives from the World Bank Group and the International Development Corporation in a session moderated by a top property consultant.

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The morning will be rounded off by a conversation with Alex Kyriakidis, President & Managing Director Middle East & Africa, Marriott International and Arthur Gillis, Former CEO, Protea Hotels about the biggest deal done in the hospitality sector in Africa last year.

After a networking lunch, the afternoon will be packed with several practical sessions tackling topics such as weighing up risks associated with new hospitality projects and strategies to mitigate them, securing funds for development, striking a fair deal, optimizing return on investment, examining best practice in architecture and design, controlling development costs, creating one’s own brand, catering for a new breed of business travelers and overcoming the logistical challenges of running a hotel in Africa.


Cover Photo: Tewolde GebreMariam (center) and Matthew Weihs (right) during the event to unveil AHIF 2014 schedule

Photo: Addis Standard

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