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Hotel forum returns after years of absence  

The specialized Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), annually held in rotation, will be coming back to Addis Ababa, where the last time was hosted in 2015.

Bench Events, the organizing firm for the forum told The Reporter in an emailed statement that AHIF is scheduled to come to Addis and will be held at the Sheraton Addis from 23 – 25 September, this year.

According to Mathew Weihs, managing director of AHIF, this year’s destination was decided to be in Ethiopia. There are political and economic reforms presumably appealing to the global industry players to come once again to Ethiopia.

“Our delegates, sponsors and investors will all be pleased to return to Addis because it is an extremely well-connected, dynamic and a developing destination,” Weihs said in a statement.

Previously, AHIF was held twice in Ethiopia in 2014 and 2015. The following two years, the forum moved to Kigali, Rwanda and last year to Nairobi, Kenya.

According to Neway Berhanu, managing director of Calibra Hospitality Consultancy and Business PLC, since 2011 his firm has been insisting Bench Events to book Addis Ababa as hosting city for the forum.

Neway argues that AHIF is not just a conference that brings together bigwigs of the global hotel and hospitality industry; it also creates room for more businesses to be cemented during those two or three days of the event. He recalled during the two AHIF conferences hosted here, numerous contracts have been inked and the concept of international standards and star ratings were widely popularized in Ethiopia.

According to Neway, Calibra alone has ventured to represent local property owners and on their behalf has negotiated with international brand operators. Since then, some 18 major international brand operators have inked contracts. Out of those, the likes of Golden Tulip, Ramada Addis, and Best Western are some of the brands that opened their doors. “Additional seven hotels are under negotiations to join the brand market,” Neway said. That means every year at least two new brands are joining the Ethiopian hotel industry, he claimed.

Apart from familiarizing the norms of international standards to the country, the hotel and hospitality industry will also help generate hard currency earnings and jobs, as well. However, the government needs to create more demand for tourists to come and stay longer in the country, Neway stated. In addition to that, absence of global standard hotel school is one area the government and industry players need to look at to uplift the shortages of skilled labor for the industry.  

During the course of the conference, opportunities and challenges of hotel investment in Africa will be dealt with, where access to land and finance are atop the table. In addition, “brand conversion” – changing existing brands to others is among the alternative areas the forum might provide options, for property owners and developers.

Established in 2008, Bench Events has been growing fast to organize premier conferences specialized in aviation, buildings, tourism, restaurants and hotels as well. Annually some 4,000 actors from 80 countries partake in either of the conferences. Founded ten years ago by Neway and his partner Yonas Moges, Calibra Hospitality now is one of the leading firms in the sector that provides comprehensive advisory and consultancy services for both hotel owners and brand operators.