The first edition of iCON, a Hotel Investment Conference for the countries of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and Georgia, was organized by the Moscow office of HVS, and attended by nearly 100industry executives. Held in September at the new JW Marriott Absheron in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Conference attracted significant media attention in the region. Additionally, participants included the governmental agencies of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The event opened by an introduction from Tatiana Veller, Managing Director of HVS for Russia & CIS, who introduced keynote speaker Puneet Chatwal, Chief Development Officer EMEA of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Chatwal shared an overview of global travel industry trends, and zoomed into the hotel operations figures in the region and the opportunities it thus holds for a smart and willing investor.
Other speakers of note included: Alexis Delaroff, COO Accor Russia-CIS; Jafar Jafarov, Rector – Azerbaijan Tourism Institute; Nahid Bagirov, President – Azerbaijan Tourism Association; Michael Collini, VP Development Turkey, Russia & EE – Hilton Worldwide; Aron Libinson, VP Development Russia & CIS – Intercontinental Hotels Group; Ludmila Kazanova, VP International Business Development – Interstate Hotels & Resorts; Saurabh Chawla, Director International Development & Acquisitions – Louvre Hotels Group; Irakli Matkava, First Deputy Minister – Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia; Randolf Decker, Managing Director – Pasha Group; Anatoly Kondratenko, Sr. Director Acquisitions & Development Russia & CIS – Starwood Hotels & Resorts; Rashida Shaikenova, President – Kazakhstan Hotel & Tourism Association; Darren Blanchard, Sr. Director Business Development Russia & CIS – Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group; Peter Sulzenbacher, Owner’s Rep – Kempinski Hotels Baku, and others.
Conference parnters included Euromonitor, STRG , Salans, DLA Piper, Muehldorfer, JW Marriott Absheron Baku, Chirag Plaza, and many local media and associations.
“The event revealed a positive interest in development in the region, particularly from the global hotel brands that see this area has tremendous opportunity,” states Veller. “There are countries such as, Kyrgyzstan , Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, as well as areas outside of capital cities of more developed markets in the region -- and even resort locations -- which remain largely untapped by hotel brands and investors.”
Among the more dynamic sessions were: the Global Leaders Panel, “Luxury – How Much is Enough?” “Development Hotspots” and “Opportunities Outside the Capital Cities” and “An Honest Conversation with Bankers. : “Tough Talk with GMs,” a discussion of the peculiarities of operating luxury branded hotels in Azerbaijan, concluded with a challenge for the general managers – a bed-making contest, judged by an Executive Housekeeper of the host Hotel.
“I have to say, iCON focused on the appropriate topics, essential for our region,” shared Anastassiya Marinina, Business Development Officer, Michael Wilson & Partners, Ltd. “I learned a lot.”
Peter Sulzenbacher, CEO /Owner’s Representative, Kempinski Hotel Badamdar Baku / Kempinski Baku ‘the Crescent’ added “I enjoyed participating as a panelist. This Conference is very much needed in Baku and will continue to be even more successful in the future.”
“iCON provided the perfect array and caliber of quality of speakers and attendees.” stats Dina Prussova, Director of Marketing Russia & CIS, HBA.
The iCON 2013 Conference will be announced shortly.
For additional information, please visit www.iconhvs.com.