DUBAI, UAE, Jan 31: Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman, Al Habtoor Group gave the keynote speech at the Hotel Investment Conference CEE & Caucasus (HOTCO) on Tuesday 31 January, 2017. HOTCO is the first international hotel and resort real estate investment conference focusing solely on Central and Eastern Europe.
Al Habtoor said he believes that Hungary has the competitive edge over the mature markets in Europe, which he believes have peaked. “They are oversaturated and yield little returns, if any.” He said.
Khalaf Al Habtoor started investing in Hungary in 2012 when he purchased Le Méridien, which was previously The Adria Palace, and has since been rebranded.
He now owns two five star hotels in the capital – The Ritz-Carlton Budapest and InterContinental Budapest, as well as office buildings – The Rambach Centre in the Commercial District and the Dorottya Udvar office Complex.
Al Habtoor said, “I first came to Hungary in the late 1980s during a time of great political change. What I have witnessed has been dramatic. Hungary has carved out a niche for itself that some of its neighbours have not.”
He added, “When I made the decision to first invest in Hungary, a country very few Arabs had visited, and in the midst of the global economic crisis, everyone doubted my decision, even members of my management. However, the synergies between the UAE and Hungary were obvious to me. I could see what no one else could. They are both safe havens of the world, and have the potential to yield great returns.”
He said Hungary to be a good investment destination for foreign investors over the more traditional markets in Europe, which he believes have peaked. “The return on investment is more lucrative in Hungary that other parts of Europe,” he said, adding that the established markets have too much red tape.
The Chairman said that investors are attracted by the business friendly and politically stable environment, Hungary’s central location as well as tax benefits and other incentives.
He said, “Praise has to go to the Hungarian government. Hungary, like the rest of the world suffered hugely from the global economic crisis, but it has bounced back much quicker than a lot of places around the world and has proved its resilience thanks to good policies.”
The Al Habtoor Group Chairman pointed about that it is not only investors seeing value in Hungary. “Hungary ranked as Europe’s fastest-expanding tourist destination by the World Tourism Organization… growing by 20 per cent from the previous year.
“That year more than 11 million people visited Hungary.”
He said the country now ranks high on the world stage as a “safe tourism destination.”
He added, “Unfortunately, the rest of Europe is riddled with problems – politically, economically and socially… Hungary is deemed a safer destination by far than the troubled traditional markets who are dogged by political failure, and increased terrorism – which is resulting in dwindling tourism numbers, as visitors look for alternative destinations.”
He said the relations between the United Arab Emirates and Hungary are building by the day, and as a result both countries are benefiting.