Written by: Dominika Duziak
End of May in Dubai means two things are coming: hot summer weather and HITEC Dubai — the biggest and highly anticipated hospitality technology congress in Middle East, organized by HFTP.
I was really looking forward to this edition. It is a truly unique opportunity to meet and network in person with the hospitality leaders and experts but this time, I was also participating in the E20X Dubai startup pitch competition.
HITEC is held during The Hotel Show Dubai and has become a platform for exchange of ideas, collaboration and showcasing latest innovations. What an experience it is to walk among robots, chat with exhibitors and observe how new connections and partnerships are forged. For instance, this year we were able to witness The Manor`s Hotel Managing Partner Mohammed Hanif Al Qassim and Richard Teng from Binance sign the first Middle East Memorandum of Understanding. Through this partnership, JA The Manor will now be able to accept payments in cryptocurrencies, which are becoming massively popular in Dubai.
The E20X competition was a great opportunity to explore new startup ideas and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs aiming to make the hospitality industry more efficient, sustainable and, maybe first and foremost, digitized.
eTip.io, for example, presented their app-less, cashless and contactless tipping solution that is not only efficient but also enables tip earners to better manage their financial wellness. S-Rate showcased their software supporting front-line employees’ evaluation and culture of customer service excellence. Turpal showed us their B2B2C post-departure solution designed to increase sales for destination service providers including tour operators, hotel travel desks and destination management companies.
Appeti.me, represented by yours truly, introduced a surplus food marketplace app, which helps F&B businesses reduce food waste, increase profitability and easily build a sustainable brand image by allowing them to indirectly sell the food on the app to individual users. This solution, first in Middle East, aims to support the UAE’s journey to halve food waste by 2030 and create sustainable value to all participants. Food waste is a big challenge for the hospitality industry and has a tremendous cost, both financial and environmental. Companies like appeti.me are supporting hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores to reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in the landfills. On the other hand, re-distribution of surplus food at an affordable price has a positive impact on community and may be an opportunity to reach new audiences for the F&B business. Get to know the complete list of competitors on the E20X website.
While we did not win the competition, E20X was a fantastic experience, and a chance to meet great people who are eager to share their knowledge and exchange ideas on how to make the hotel sector more sustainable, efficient and innovative. HITEC allows you to update yourself on all things tech-related in two days — from social media to crypto payments and NFTs, AI data analytics and cybersecurity trends. It also provides a chance to reflect on innovation. Hospitality traditionally is not perceived as a fast adopter of new technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic expedited (or forced) digitization in many aspects, hospitality notwithstanding. What we often see, though, is an ad hoc unstructured change that results in addition of new applications that do not talk to each other and often create more issues. Dr. Sanjay Nadkarni from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management discussed during one of the panels how a design thinking framework can help avoid similar “IT nightmares” through well-defined problem statements, ideation and co-creation. Looking at the list of exhibitors at HITEC, the technology is ready; we just need to apply it in a wise and efficient manner to our business processes.
If you’re interested in hospitality technology, do not miss HITEC Orlando coming up in June, and see you next year in Dubai!
Dominika Duziak is a research scholar with the HFTP Middle East Research Center and student at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai, UAE.