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Sun 19 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Hotec aims high

Hotec Middle East, the region’s B2B hotel forum, looks set to see a record number of buyers and suppliers at its third edition, taking place in Abu Dhabi in early April

|~|Hotec-1L.jpg|~|Around 900 meetings will be conducted over the two-day event.|~|It’s a phenomenal success story; the Hotec B2B forums, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe, Asia and North America, have all recorded mammoth growth in recent years.

However, the idea behind the events remains a simple one: get buyers and suppliers into one room for two days with a number of pre-scheduled meetings and leave them to do business. Unsurprisingly, this concentrated way of doing business works, as it saves time and money for both parties, as well as providing a valuable networking opportunity for hoteliers and suppliers to mingle with their own kind.

An expected total of over 160 delegates, representing 50 hotel groups throughout the Middle East, Africa and India, and 75 of the world’s leading hotel suppliers, will gather at the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers in Abu Dhabi from April 7-9.

The Hotec organiser, Pelican Events, expects around 900 meetings to be held, representing the highest total so far for Hotec Middle East.

“There will be 50 hotel groups represented, with a total of 67 delegates attending. This compares with 35 groups and 48 delegates in 2005. On the supplier side, we expect 75 companies with a total of 100 delegates to attend. In 2005, there were 59 companies and 81 delegates,” explains Jonathan Needs, director of Hotec organisers, Pelican Events.

This is the third year Hotec Middle East has been staged, and according to Needs the event has arrived at a turning point. “In its third year, it is now being taken seriously by the Middle East hotel industry. I think it is true in many aspects of business that the third year of a product or brand is a key one. If you manage to launch and survive the first two years, then people who have not paid much attention will start to examine what you are doing more closely. And in the hotel industry, positive news travels fast. So people’s positive experiences from the first two events get heard by newcomers and that gives them more confidence to attend,” he says.

However, while the event may have reached a comfort zone, Needs and the team at Pelican Events have still been looking at ways to further develop the event.

“We are introducing two new initiatives this year: the suppliers showcase, and photographs in the directory for all delegates. The suppliers showcase is a mini exhibition. Each supplier will have a table top to display their product samples and literature, in an area immediately outside the meetings room,” he explains.

There will be two supplier showcase sessions — one hour before lunch on both days — when all delegates will attend. “The reason for doing this is simple. Each buyer delegate is only able to have a maximum of twenty scheduled meetings, and as the number of suppliers increase there are more companies that they will potentially ‘miss’.

“The showcase means that the buyers will have the chance to quickly appraise what the other attending companies are doing, and to hold impromptu meetings with them during the two sessions. The showcase has been successfully adopted for the last four years at Hotec Europe, and for the first time at Hotec Asia last year,” Needs further explains.

Also new is the venue. This year’s Hotec is being held in Abu Dhabi, at the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers. Each year, Pelican Events chooses a different location, being careful to avoid business hotspots like Dubai, which can distract delegates away from the job in hand.

“The event is in a different location each year. This helps to keep it dynamic. It is important to have new delegates on both sides each year, and we aim to have 40-45% attending for the first time.

“The location must have good connections to all of the major cities where the hotel groups are based, but not necessarily in one of those locations. It is important for the location to be a little remote, so that the majority of delegates can concentrate on the forum without the risk of being disturbed by a call to return to the office,” Needs says.

The benefits to the suppliers are obvious. Hotec provides a captive audience of buyers all primed to listen and do business, as Yvette Felix, marketing communications specialist from Saflok explains: “Hotec is an event that provides us with a direct line to meet key decision makers from the prominent hotel chains in the Middle East. We see it as a convergence point for those that need Saflok’s expertise. Saflok provides a complete line of total life safety and security solutions that also enhance the guest experience. We want to give these decision makers the opportunity to view the latest product developments and technologies that will ensure a higher standard and level of security in their properties.”

Saflok will be presenting its Messenger wireless network communication system at Hotec. Messenger is a proprietary RF wireless system. Most recently, Saflok was contracted to supply DOKAAEP (Development of King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project) and Messenger was part of the security design for this property.

“We are seeing increased requests for this kind of wireless technology. Its application in both front-end and back-of-house applications help hotel managers minimize bottom line costs while optimizing time and staff management. Properties that have installed Messenger are beginning to notice a trend in reduced labour costs,” Felix says.

For the Chris Garrod Partnership in Dubai the main reason to participate at Hotec is to keep an eye on the competition. “Due to the increasing amount of projects that Chris Garrod is handling, and the number of future projects in the region, we feel it is important to know what new products and suppliers are in the region to better serve our clients,” says Jean-Paul Dantil, managing partner, Orsini Middle East, regional partners of The Chris Garrod Partnership.

We hope to discover new products, get to know the faces behind the brands, understand more about the companies and especially understand what they are trying to achieve in the region. It’s not just about having an office here. As a buyer we would like to be sure that the company has a long-term plan and will be able to deliver on time and provide good service,” Dantil remarks.

Making its Hotec debut is Jakarta-based Euro Asia Hotel Contract, a furniture manufacturer that specialises in the fixtures and fittings of hotel projects. “We are expanding our FF&E (Fixtures, Fittings and Equipment) supply services to include the Middle East. Hotec is a very efficient and productive conduit for meeting the key individuals who would benefit from the quality case goods we manufacture in Indonesia,” says Catherine Coates, vice president business development, Europe and Middle East, Euro Asia Hotel Contract.

Coates will be using the two-day event to promote Euro Asia Hotel Contract’s expertise in the manufacture of high quality bespoke contract furniture, the capacity to offer a turnkey one-stop quality FF&E service to hoteliers, and the company’s new line of pre-designed timber bungalows.

However, it is not just the suppliers that will have their business heads on in April. Hotel chains also see the benefits of being at Hotec.

“Baron Hotels & Resorts decided to participate to Hotec this year due to our expansion in the coming years where we’re building two new hotels at Red Sea. Each hotel will have a capacity of 600 rooms with a five-star rating,” explains Sherif Shahein, vice president, Baron Hotels and Resorts. Shahein’s shopping list for Hotec 06 includes interior design, china, cutlery, bath amenities, accessories and kitchen equipment.

Baron Hotels’ reasons for participating are indicative of many hotel purchasing operatives. As hotel chains expand, procurement is becoming more centralised, as properties club together to leverage their buying power.

“From our experience of running both Hotec Middle East and Hotec Asia over the past five years, we have noticed a number of changes in procurement. Firstly, there is a move towards more strategic partnerships between buyers and suppliers. This may be because as the hotel groups grow and merge, more leverage means better deals with fewer suppliers. Secondly, the supply base is also consolidating, and as hotel groups become more international, fewer suppliers are able to service the entire group in all countries of operation,” says Pelican Events’ Needs.

“The relationship between the hotel management company and the owner is a key factor in what is purchased. The management company strive to protect their key brand standards by specifying certain suppliers and products, and owners look to optimise their investment by seeking better value alternatives. This has always been the case, but what is changing is that more quality Western suppliers are meeting the challenge of cheaper Far East alternatives by setting up manufacturing in Asia and the Middle East,” Needs adds.

E-procurement is another trend Needs claims hotels should keep an eye on. “Now that the initial frenzy of new portals has died down, the surviving companies are quietly getting on with setting up e-procurement systems with a number of operators. In the Middle East, Jumeirah is currently in the process of conversion. Declan Monahan from Marketboomer will deliver an excellent presentation on this to Hotec Middle East delegates in April,” he says.

In addition to the scheduled meetings, Hotec will again incorporate a seminar programme, with three individual presentations and a special food & beverage discussion panel. Hosted by media sponsors, Hotelier Middle East, confirmed speakers so far include hotel industry consultant Guy Wilkinson, who will present his annual report on new hotel projects in the region, and Declan Monahan from Marketboomer International, talking on the impact of E-Procurement and E-Supply on the Middle East hotel industry.
Panellists on the F&B discussion panel will include Has Herges from Rotana, Jean-Michel Offe from Shangri-La and Willi Elsener from Jumeirah.||**||

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