HITEC Dubai 2019: Risk Management and More

By: Naftali Tanyongana

This was my second year covering HITEC Dubai, and from a hospitality student perspective, it is always interesting to go to hospitality events and see theory put into practice.

That is why I enjoyed watching Melissa Aoun, ARM, MSc, director of transformation advisory at Grant Thornton, presenting on risk management. Risk management is not rocket science and her presentation was clear enough that even a layman could follow it, but it was important, relevant and at the forefront of our industry’s thinking. Some even say that we are all in the risk management business and sell rooms on the side.

Aoun’s presentation covered the possibility of a governmental shutdown of the Internet in hospitality, which can lead to inaccessibility of information. She stressed the use of hybrid systems to not be completely cut off from data in the cloud and detailed countermeasures to manage risk, assess risk, communicate risk and protect data. I have looked at such problems in the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management simply to be aware of them, but seeing the need for these types of precautions emphasizes their importance to manage risk.

Aoun piqued the audience’s attention in particular when she highlighted the possibility of opportunity in risk. As professionals in the industry, it falls on the decision-makers to make the most of each opportunity, as decisions like these determine the success of a property compared to that of its competitors. It was the methods of “seizing the opportunity” in these decisions that Aoun imparted to all of us in the audience.

The present covered, she then looked to the future — outlining and assessing the next three big risks: economic slowdown, accelerated rates of change and cyberattacks. She completed her presentation by looking at the assessment structure, management of guest experience and crisis management. Overall her presentation was highly informative, and I believe it has made me a better hotelier for the future.

In addition to Aoun’s presentation, I found ANTIK Technology Business Development Director Peter Blaas’s presentation, “The New Age of Electric Mobility” to be another one of my favorites. His talk dealt more with the flashy side of hotel technology, beginning with the price of electric cars in hotels and ending with an overview of light, two-wheeled vehicles inside hotels that require neither license nor insurance.

I loved it not only because the topic was entertaining, but because as he presented it, I became gradually more convinced that these technologies not only could, but should be implemented in more hotels around the world. Similar systems are being implemented around Dubai already, and if you were around for the event you might have spotted vehicles like the electric scooters on the streets.

These days, hotels are not just places to stay anymore; they are homes that reflect certain values. The values that Blaas displayed were in accordance with the lifestyles that I believe customers have already become accustomed to outside of the hotel. These lifestyle-changing technologies have yet to permeate the hospitality landscape as much as they have people’s lives in urban landscapes. As the saying goes, change starts at home — and I believe that for those of us that call Dubai our home, this is the place to incite change in the hospitality technology landscape.

Overall, I left HITEC with a sense of responsibility given this new knowledge. As hoteliers, we can never forget our social responsibilities, how they affect our image, and how they affect our planet.

Until the next HITEC, see you in San Antonio — 192 days and counting.

Naftali Tanyongana is a student with the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) who attended and recorded his experiences during the second annual HITEC Dubai 2019 — which took place November 12 –13, 2019 at the Festival Arena by Intercontinental at Dubai Festival City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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