Laurent Voivenel, a senior vice president in operations and development at Swiss-Belhotel International, shares his perspective on embracing innovation and leveraging emerging technologies in the hospitality industry, ahead of HITEC Dubai 2018. Voivenel currently serves as the chairperson for the HITEC Dubai Advisory Council. Co-produced by Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) and Naseba, HITEC Dubai will be held on December 5–6, 2018 at the Madinat Jumeirah Resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
As hoteliers, we operate in smart cities such as Dubai — hence our hotels need to be smart, too. Over the last decade, technology has led to drastic transformation in the hospitality sector globally, as well as regionally, which has boosted competitiveness and efficiency in our industry while creating new opportunities.
Digitization and artificial intelligence continuously gives greater choice in every aspect of travel, turning customers into “DIY” travelers who plan, manage and book travel online. HITEC Dubai 2018 serves as the perfect platform to see what lies ahead and how the latest innovations and technological advancements are changing our industry.
Dubai has been at the forefront of embracing innovations in technology. According to recent industry reports, Dubai attracted $21.66 billion worth of foreign direct investment in high-end technology transfers in three years. This consequently earned the emirate the top rank globally in 2018 in the share of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in technology transfers like artificial intelligence and robotics. It is widely accepted by the hotel industry that in order to be competitive and successful, it is imperative to invest in technology.
Emerging Technologies are Trending in the Hospitality Industry
Artificial intelligence is by far one of the most promising technologies to hit the travel industry, reducing overhead for all sectors by cutting out human capital and replacing these resources with artificial intelligence. Also, with more than 50 percent of consumers now willing to share data in return for tools that help customize their stay, we as hoteliers have an enormous opportunity to fulfill unmet needs through the use of data and intuitive technology — not only helping consumers make their decisions, but bringing their hidden travel preferences to light.
How Emerging Technologies Impact an Institution
At Swiss-Belhotel International, in order to maximize our owners’ asset value and returns, operational excellence forms the core of our business. Therefore, we are continuously striving to take advantage of the advancements in technology and hospitality systems. With a focus on future, our strategy is to leverage real time business intelligence, improved revenue/yield management, enhancing guest experience and operational efficiency through strategic investments in technology — as well as sharpening our brand image through targeted marketing. We are working very closely with the various departments/hotels to establish a new, fully integrated system to boost productivity and seamless operation, and we are confident that the direction we have chosen is the best way forward for the desired progress and growth of the group.
How to Resolve Impending Issues with Real-World Strategies
First and foremost, like any international operator, our biggest concern and priority is to ensure cyber security when it comes to data protection, payment gateways and sharing of information and platforms with third party solution/application providers.
Secondly, we need software that can keep up with the changes and is easy to upgrade. Architecture and development practices that support frequent updates enable today’s next generation system to stay with changing hospitality business practices.
Technology should be for well-being of people. It should be simple. It should not be complicated like we hoteliers make it. It is also important to ask the customers “what is it that they need in a hotel?” We are not here to train the customers. As hoteliers, we are here to deliver on their expectations and give our customers what they want.
Last — but not the least — it is important for technology providers to understand that while, as hotel operators, we all wish to move in the direction of smart hotels adopting the latest advancements in technology, it is not always easy to convince owners to make the necessary investments in that direction nor are the guests willing to pay any extras. So, how can we make technology affordable both for the investor and consumer?
Continue the Conversation at HITEC Dubai
HITEC is the world’s largest hospitality technology exposition and conference brand. HITEC Dubai 2018 takes place December 5–6, 2018 at the Madinat Jumeirah Resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The event will feature 30+ speakers, 600+ hospitality stakeholders and 60+ solution and service providers. Register today if you would like to attend.
Laurent Voivenel is senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India for Swiss-Belhotel International. He currently serves as the chairperson for the HITEC Dubai Advisory Council.