Terror attacks in Paris in November, in Brussels in March and similar atrocities elsewhere, coupled with government responses to these events, are combining to present a major challenge to the global travel and tourism industry, the 12th annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai was told.

About 700 delegates are expected to attend the conference.

Lower oil prices are additionally affecting the hotel industry of the GCC, delegates were told.

“My view the single biggest threat is not terror attacks but government reactions to terror attacks,” Bench Events’ and AHIC chairman Jonathan Worsley said in a welcoming statement.

World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president David Scowsgill said the biggest challenge to world travel is over-reaction from governments to terror attacks.

Global Head of Research at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Christof Ruhl said lower global growth due to lower government investment and other factors will continue. Lower oil prices are failing to lift global growth.

CNNMoney emerging markets editor John Defterios said that $40-$60 a barrel oil is the new reality for the next two-three years.

MEED editor Richard Thompson said that Saudi Arabia’s national transformation plan and the end of Iran sanctions are the two big factors affecting Middle East economy in 2016.

Badr al-Badr, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Dur Hospitality, said that kingdom’s national transformation plan will boost hospitality sector.

AHIC was told that almost 80 per cent of AHIC delegates said they were involved with or planning projects in Iran. But Mashreq executive vice-president John Iossifidis said banks are reluctant to finance trade and investment in Iran due to primary US sanctions

WTTC chairman Gerald Lawless called for improvements in visa management including the introduction of e-visas.

Marriott Middle East president and managing director Alex Kyriakidis said that worries about long-distance travel is encouraging GCC travellers to stay in the region and that Arab travellers now account for more than 50 per cent of the group’s regional room nights.

Emirates airlines’ executive vice-president Thierry Antinori said lower oil prices had a direct positive impact on the profitability of airlines, but this was being offset by other factors. He said the airline is phasing in 37 new aircraft this year and retiring 26 to create a younger and bigger fleet.