19th Hotel Technology Summit showcased the future of hospitality
To capitalise on a growing hospitality industry, Naseba has partnered with Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) to produce the 19th Edition Hotel Technology Summit, which kicked off on March 21st in Riyadh.
The Summit is an extension of the Hospitality Series of initiatives conducted across the Middle East over the past eight years, the most recent of which were held in Riyadh and Jeddah consecutively in March 2015 and in Dubai in November 2015.
More than 100 decision makers from the hospitality sector gathered at Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh to discuss developments in hotel technology, tackle the challenges of catering to business and religious guests, and share insights built over years of experience in a constantly changing industry.
Mohammed Almojel, Chairman of the Tourism Committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI) opened the Summit with a keynote address. He highlighted the important role of technology implementation in the hospitality industry to attract new visitors to the Kingdom.
Enhancing guest experience is vital to a hotel’s ability to develop and grow its business, and features heavily in the agenda of the most recent edition of the summit. The hospitality industry will be seeing massive changes in the near future in the wake of the drop in oil prices and the restructuring of regional economies. With Middle Eastern governments seeking to reduce their dependence on oil, tourism and hospitality will be among the sectors receiving focused attention and investment. Hotels in the region will need to ensure that they not only take advantage of this attention to attract guests, but that they are equipped with the necessary technology to offer these guests the ultimate experience.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the top 35 countries around the world in terms of using IT technology. As it has become part of the daily life of Saudi people, our guests depend on many forms of technology to measure hotel services,” remarked Mohamed Gharib, Director of Information Technology of Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski.
Abdullah Alswaha, Deputy General Manager at Cisco, highlighted that one of the most important trends in the hospitality industry is the increased use of smartphones when engaging with guests, during, before and after their stay at a hotel.
Speeches and interactive panel discussions at the summit covered a diverse list of topics, including the rise of smart hotels, the use of mobile apps in the hospitality industry, and the unique challenges of catering to religious and business travellers.
Commenting on the latter topic during a panel discussion at the summit, David Henry, VP of Marketing, Sales and Distribution at Accor, said: “There are a number of great opportunities today in Saudi Arabia’s hospitality industry and great developments ahead of us. These will not only be in the luxury segment, but also in the mid-scale segment. To cater to this, training staff and being able to develop excellence in service will be crucial. There are also several challenges that accompany this growth, such as the drive for digital solutions and what needs to be done to adopt new technologies to create one-to-one relationships with customers”.
As the hospitality industry continues to move beyond card keys and physical check-in processes to an age of automated and autonomous technology, hoteliers need to stay abreast of not only the dazzling possibilities offered by this technology, but also of its many complex challenges. They have to be on the look-out for innovative ways to improve guest experience by adopting the latest technologies. “Hoteliers are known as innovation seekers,” commented Austine Jarome, Director of Purchasing at Al Khozama Management.
Enhancing guest experience is a priority for many technology providers, including Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that has established a strong regional presence in the Middle East. The company’s extensive range of services and solutions includes the Cisco Collaboration Solution for Hospitality, which provides hotels with cutting-edge networking, wireless, communications and collaboration capabilities, allowing them to provide world-class experiences for their guests.
The summit also hosted well-established technology providers such as Infor, Alcatel Lucent, Al Futtaim, Arabian Sounds and Lights Co., Nawatt, Scent Company, Interlabz Technologies, Technology Leads, Simplivity and others. Media partners include Eye of Riyadh, TTG MENA, Travel and Tour World, eHotelier, Hospitality Business Middle East and Hsyndicate.