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  • Three-day event at Dubai World Trade Centre opens with discussions around industrial reluctance to adopt tech, fears surrounding aggregators, and importance of data collection
  • Co-located Leisure Show introduces concept of ‘banya' and its health benefits, while highlighting need for multi-sensory experiences and quickening of approval processes

Dubai, UAE – 4 June, 2024: The Hotel Show 2024, the undisputed flagship event for the Middle East's hospitality sector, opened its doors on Tuesday at Dubai World Trade Centre. Innovators, industry decision-makers, and international experts gathered to discuss the various technological challenges, potential solutions, and possible future-proofing of the hospitality, leisure, and F&B sectors.

Officially inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) and Chairman of Dubai Airports, the latest edition of the longest-running hospitality trade show in the Middle East – which is co-located alongside Workspace, INDEX, Leisure Show, and KIDSPACE – featured a series of opening day Executive Think Tank panel sessions.

The three-day event kicked off with a fascinating discussion featuring Paul Bridger, Chief Operations Officer at Rove Hotels, Philip Jones, Senior Vice President Operations, Middle East and Africa at Accor, and Vijay Raghavan, Director at Arenco Group. Bridger, who previously worked with Emirates Airline, pulled no punches as he lamented the hospitality industry's reluctance to embrace technology, asserting that the airline industry is “100 times better from a technology point of view”. The knock-on effect, added Raghavan, is that the likes of Booking.com and Expedia are “racing ahead” prompting a fear that within the next 10 years, such aggregators could take on a functional role, reducing hotel brands to mere operators.

Jones, however, took a slightly different viewpoint. Explaining that Booking.com and Expedia represent some of Google's biggest customers, spending billions to maximize their brand presence on the search engine, the idea that such aggregators are the enemy is to miss a crucial factor. Citing the CEO of Booking.com, Jones said it is essential that hotels do not forget that although aggregators spend much more, they bring – and only bring – the customers through the revolving door. The hotels still “own the relationship” and it is their responsibility to ensure a guest returns without the need for an aggregator next time.

“We have created a monster that will never go away,” Jones added. “So to future-proof your business and make sure you are more financially resilient, you need to be focusing on the right channels that are the most profitable – and that is the direct channels.”

Following a similar theme, a panel discussion entitled “Mastering the Data Dance” and taking place on the HITEC Stage explored the need not only for meaningful data, but also to make it as easy as possible to collect. Woong Hee Lee, Founder and CEO at H20 Hospitality Ltd, a South Korean company offering growth-enabling support to accommodation brands, explained that while the check-in process is the optimal way to identify individual guests, there is a reluctance to download branded hotel apps, resulting in lost opportunities.

In one case, Lee's company integrated all the same functions as a hotel app into a dedicated chat channel on platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, and Telegram. “We noted the usage rate went up to 90 per cent,” Lee said, adding that “all we need to know is the kind of strategy you prefer because whether you're trying to increase your upselling or trying to increase direct booking, your tech has to be based upon your purposes at the end of the day”.

 

Leisure Show

At Leisure Show, Artem Avanesov, Chief Executive Officer, Banya Forrest, introduced the concept of “banya” during the opening day's Leisure and Wellness Conference. Unlike saunas, which provide high temperatures, and steam rooms, which offer high humidity, a banya delivers both. The steam of a banya opens and clears the respiratory system, unblocking sinuses and helping users breathe more freely; while heat creates an artificial “fever” that stimulates the immune system.

“My personal goal is to introduce this concept to the Western world,” said Avanesov, who added that regular use of a banya helps combat common colds, viruses, laryngitis, and asthma, while the communal experience enhances mental health by fostering an environment that boosts serotonin levels. “Similar to how yoga and meditation have gained popularity over the past decade, I aspire to educate people about the benefits of banya because it's a shame this knowledge remains largely unknown.”

Attendees at the Leisure and Wellness Conference also heard from Sara Brenninger, Manager, TechnoAlpin Spa; Mohamed Abdelsamiea, Head of Leisure & Sports, Jumeirah Messilah Beach Kuwait; and Mirza Ibracevic, Director of Recreation & Spa, Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, who discussed contemporary leisure trends in the GCC, agreeing that the region's fast-paced environment means hotels and resorts must be vigilant to keep up with trends.

A significant trend hotel businesses have adapted to is the evolving technology landscape, particularly with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Prominent resort brands in the region have observed that their guests, regardless of age, are increasingly tech-savvy, contributing to a seamless experience. This shift has enabled businesses to reduce the use of stationery, plastic, and other materials, aligning with efforts to create a greener environment.

In addition to technological and sustainability trends, leisure brands are also recognizing the rising popularity of sports such as Padel and the growing demand for wellness experiences that connect guests with nature. There is a belief that creating multi-sensory experiences is crucial for engaging individuals with their surroundings, including offering unique experiences such as simulating snow in the Middle East.

Brenninger revealed the same technology that was originally created to bring snow to the desert is now being evolved to produce snow at indoor ski centres and snow parks in Italy. “We have plans to now generate snow with the help of our snowmaking system, which produces snow solely from air and water – it is the ideal solution for indoor ski centres and snow parks,” she said.

The conference also highlighted some of the challenges businesses face in keeping up with such trends, including lengthy approval processes that can result in missed opportunities, as well as the financial investment required to warrant the realisation of new ideas.

“We face challenges justifying investments in large venues, but these come with significant opportunities and a unique differentiation factor,” said Brenninger. “To help clients target the right audience, we should use technology to create unique, personalized events. This approach enhances attendee experience and ensures cost-effectiveness. Balancing personalization with cost is essential to providing compelling reasons for client investments and ensuring their events and experiences stand out.”




Posted by : GoDubai Editorial Team
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Posted on : Wednesday, June 5, 2024  
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