The Chairman of Al Habtoor Group, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, was recently awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, for his significant accomplishments over the years in the hospitality and tourism industry in the UAE. Joanna Andrews was there to witness the event.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor was always going to be a high achiever. As a young boy he always dreamed big – despite his humble beginnings. In his recently-released autobiography he wrote, “Father never hankered after riches; not that I did but I was strongwilled and feisty like my mother and very ambitious; always yearning more without really knowing what ‘more’ could be.” Today he knows better than most what ‘more’ is. The Al Habtoor Group Chairman sits on an empire worth billions. And it wasn’t because luck was on his side. It was through sheer hard work, fierce determination, strong morals and the ability to hire the right people that he and his company are where they are today.
Al Habtoor accepted the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group. The event took place at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC 2013) at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.
The AHIC advisory board said it chose Al Habtoor for his invaluable contribution to the region’s hotel industry and his role in driving the tourism industry. “Mr Al Habtoor has distinguished himself through the outstanding projects, continued excellence, passion and commitment to be part of the rise of the UAE,” says Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events which coorganises AHIC. “It is a great pleasure for us to honour industry leaders who have contributed significantly in helping the hospitality industry grow in this country.”
Al Habtoor says, “I am honoured to be recognised by one of the top hospitality conferences in the region. I have always been keen to see Habtoor Hotels participate in AHIC, because it offers a valuable platform for industry leaders to share their success stories and achievements.”
He tells the conference of roughly 500 delegates, “The UAE is the safe haven for investors in all areas, mainly tourism. This is due to the unique infrastructure the UAE provides, the best services, the stability and the transparency in the laws.”
Al Habtoor has always been known for taking bold steps. Just over 40 years ago the Al Habtoor Chairman took the brave decision to start his own company with very little money in his back pocket. Today, the Group is one of the largest and most respected conglomerates in the region – with interests in many sectors of the economy from construction, hotels, real estate, automotive, education and publishing.
Surprisingly the well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist is very down to earth. He describes his journey of success saying, “Success is not something one reaches and sits back and enjoys; it’s rather the spirit to keep moving forward and continue the journey with.”
The Al Habtoor Group is on an aggressive growth trajectory – particularly in its hotel division. Habtoor Hotels owns and operates four hotels in Dubai, and has over 30 years of hospitality experience, the Metropolitan Hotel on Sheikh Zayed being its first venture. The hotel was knocked down in 2012. to make way for a new landmark in the city. There are two hotels in Lebanon and last year the Group added the historic Le Méridien Budapest to its portfolio.
The Al Habtoor Group is also developing Dubai's first-ever integrated resort comprising of three hotels on one complex as well as a Las Vegas-style theatre. It will be managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and will include the first super luxury St. Regis hotel in Dubai, a W hotel and a Westin hotel - with more than 1,600 rooms making it the largest hotel complex in the Middle East and one of the biggest in the world. It is due to open in 2015.
And it’s developing the Waldorf the first luxury resort by the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts brand in Dubai. It will have more than 320 rooms and will welcome its first customers later this year.
In his tell-all memoirs, ‘Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor – The Authobiography’ - a candid recount of his life’s journey - he recounts his many successes and failures. The autobiography, released late last year has already made it to several best-sellers lists in the region.
To draw on a quote from The autobiography, “Much of my success in life is owed to my mother. She always believed in me and would tell me repeatedly that I would be ‘someone’ one day.
Little did she know then what we know now.
The energetic Chairman says he is eyeing up more opportunities in the region as well as in Europe. Despite being the beneficiary of this ‘lifetime achievement award’ there are a lot more achievements in him yet. His dreams are as big and as bold as ever. There are plenty more ambitious Al Habtoor Group project ahead!