Comment: Now is the time to get connected

Technology could help Middle East hoteliers lift their revenues and create better all-round guest experiences

Opinion, Comment & analysis, Artificial intelligence, Hitec, Robots, Smart hotels

At the time of writing, I have been in the UAE for just under two weeks. It’s a first for me, despite having been in the wider Middle East for 20 years. Still, there’s a lot to get accustomed to.

I was pleased, then, when on my second day at the Hotelier desk, my colleague whisked me away on an assignment to the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC) at the Madinat Jumeirah.

Not only did the event lend itself to familiarising myself with a new (to me at least) part of the city, it was also a chance to see what’s new in tech and how that could impact the hotel sector. Importantly, it was also an ideal opportunity to start networking.

That said, the first people I connected with were, well, not actual people, but robots; two of them – a humanoid, and the other a drink-dispensing robot that navigates business events pedalling its wares, water in this case.

Have you ever noticed that when a conversation is centred on robots, it suddenly turns to ‘they are taking over’?  I find it’s usually from those who fear that their jobs are at risk. Personally, I believe there isn’t going to be an ‘AI takeover’ but instead that robots, and tech in general, can and will enhance the working environment.

But the question is when?

The hotel industry in Singapore has seemingly got its act together, with, according to media reports at least, 'smart hotels' are on the rise in the city state.

Singapore hotels are not only fielding robots for their task precision but also for the novelty factor to attract the millions of additional inbound tourists set to visit the city-state over the next decade, which is not unlike the figures set in Dubai's Tourism Vision 2020 whose key objective is to attract 20 million visitors per year by 2020.

Back to HITEC and the world of technology. I had a déjà vu moment when one company headed to the stage and presented cloud technology for hotels. I recall around five or so years ago in Beirut when a tech contributor to a hospitality magazine I was working on wrote an article on the exact same subject.

Mentioning this to a colleague at Hotelier, he said he had written about the same subject 10 or more years previous to that. Yes, many hotels have installed cloud systems, yet even today after all these years,  it still seems new and ‘emerging’, but why?

I mentioned earlier that I think there probably won’t be an ‘AI takeover’. That said, what I would like to explore is if there is going to be a technology takeover in hotels and how that technology, in all its guises, could help Middle East hoteliers lift their revenues and create better all-round guest experiences. If you’ve got any insider knowledge on  this subject then let’s get together and discuss it. After all, don’t you think it’s time we got connected?

About the Author: Derek A Issacs is the editor of Hotelier Middle East. He has lived in the Middle East since 1999, in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. A journalist since 2005, he has been an editor of several lifestyle magazines, even publishing his own magazine on the men of the Middle East, and has also been the editor of a business magazine and several regional B2B hospitality and tourism magazines. Email: Twitter/Instagram:@HotelierME Facebook: HotelierME

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