Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman, Al Habtoor Group delivered the keynote speech at the Hotel Investment Conference CEE & Caucasus (HOTCO) in the Hungarian capital Budapest on Tuesday 31 January, 2017. HOTCO is the first international hotel and resort real estate investment conference focusing solely on Central and Eastern Europe. Joanna Andrews reports.
The Al Habtoor Group Chairman told the 300-plusstrong audience that Hungary has a competitive edge over the more mature markets in Europe, which he believes have peaked. “They are oversaturated,” he said, “and yield little returns, if any.”
He said Hungary is a good investment destination for foreign investors over the more traditional markets. “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 in Hungary, plus the country's central location as well as tax benefits and other incentives.
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 Rumbach 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 United Arab Emirates 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 the relations between the UAE and Hungary are building by the day, and as a result both countries are benefiting.