ATM Virtual: Price-slashing is not the answer, urges RAKTDA CEO

Raki Phillips and others came together to discuss the future of hospitality

Waldorf Astoria in RAK
Waldorf Astoria in RAK

The zeitgeist of the hospitality industry in 2020 isn’t quite known yet, while many speculate health and safety will be at the forefront, it is impossible to predict how COVID-19 has reshaped consumer decision-making. A few people in the industry however hold the credentials to make some informed predictions, namely Radisson Hotel Group area SVP Tim Cordon, Colliers International head of hotels, MENA Christopher Lund, Four Seasons president of hotel operations, EMEA Simon Casson and Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) CEO Raki Phillips.

During the first day of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Virtual, the four came together to discuss the future of the industry in ‘The Hotel Landscape in a Post-COVID-19 World’ webinar. Moderated by Gemma Greenwood, the group suggested how hoteliers should move forward.

Phillips, with his in-depth knowledge of the northern emirate, urged hoteliers not to succumb to price-slashing, they should instead focus on sanitation and reassurance. He said: “Our industry is very resilient and will recover and for this reason it’s important that hotels don’t drop their room rates. Tourists will come back, we are already seeing this in Ras Al Khaimah where we are lucky to have large, spacious resorts with some offering private villas, making the implementation of social distancing measures much easier. Hotels need to adapt to a new normal with increased sanitisation at the forefront, while being creative with their offerings and embracing innovative technologies which can help differentiate them from their competitors.”

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Cordon seconded this by saying: “There has never been a global pandemic of this scale in modern times, building confidence will be key as we look ahead to the post-COVID-19 hospitality recovery. Not only is it important that our workers have confidence that their health and wellbeing is of prime importance, but for consumers too. They will need full reassurance that our properties are safe, secure and following the highest standards when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness.”

According to data from Colliers, MENA hotels alone have witnessed an approximate 42% drop in occupancy since March, with many opting or being forced to postpone all travel plans. Lund however said that the UAE is in an advantageous position to begin welcoming back guests thanks to recent partnerships with accreditation agencies.

He said: “One way of achieving this consumer trust, and I believe the hospitality industry in the UAE is leading the way in this respect, is by partnering with accreditation agencies such as the Bureau Veritas to ensure your property is following disinfectant and sanitisation protocols implemented by government bodies and abiding by the highest levels of hygiene. Passing these audits provides your property with a label that guests can view and take reassurance from.”

“In addition, the implementation of immersive technologies that provide potential guests with virtual 3D tours of properties, as well as phone apps which allow you to enter your hotel room, change the temperature, call the elevator, book excursions and order room service are going to be vital in helping hotels recover and stand out from their competitors.”

Casson added: “At Four Seasons we have been spending a lot of time exploring how the new guest journey, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, will look. While we are doing everything we can to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our guests, we’re also guided by global advisory, supporting each other, and sharing information on hygiene and santisiation between all relevant local partners.”

ATM Virtual concludes today (June 3), with the three-day event successfully bringing together thousands of travel professionals in these trying times.

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