Democratis­ing the hos­pi­tal­ity ex­pe­ri­ence

The fu­ture of ho­tels must be ideal for trav­el­ers who will be ‘con­nected,’ en­ter­tained and on the go

Arabian Business English - - 2019 PREDICTIONS HOSPITALITY - By Ig­nace Bauwens, RE­GIONAL VICE PRES­I­DENT, MID­DLE EAST, EURASIA AND AFRICA AT WYN­D­HAM HO­TELS & RE­SORTS

I BELIEVE THE FU­TURE OF THE hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor is set for un­prece­dented changes led by the tech­nol­ogy evo­lu­tion, a younger trav­eller de­mo­graphic, as well as the rise of newer feeder mar­kets. These shifts will not only trans­form the in­dus­try but also help cre­ate last­ing value. This is par­tic­u­larly true for the Mid­dle East re­gion where the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor has evolved con­sid­er­ably in re­cent years, with its full po­ten­tial still to be un­locked.

But to achieve that, we need to take bolder, and more in­no­va­tive ap­proaches. We must look be­yond what has worked in the past, and be fu­tur­eready to ad­dress the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of the next gen­er­a­tion of trav­ellers. From be­ing es­tab­lished providers of ho­tel ser­vices, we must look at hos­pi­tal­ity as a life­style choice that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the so­cial, de­mo­graphic and tech­no­log­i­cal changes that will shape its in­dus­try’s fu­ture.

The con­text of ‘fu­ture’ is not some­thing set in a dis­tant time. It is very much how we de­liver hos­pi­tal­ity ser­vices now – in the short­term – be­cause the changes I men­tioned are al­ready ‘real’ and hap­pen­ing.

The rise of so­cial me­dia has al­ready changed the rules of the game. Free-flow­ing com­ments on­line and guest re­views that reach mil­lions with the click of a mouse or swipe of a mo­bile screen have fun­da­men­tally al­tered how the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor op­er­ates. One neg­a­tive re­view on a travel web­site is all it takes to chal­lenge the cred­i­bil­ity of hos­pi­tal­ity providers.

But there is a sil­ver lin­ing to it. More open con­ver­sa­tions have cre­ated new op­por­tu­ni­ties for ho­tel brands to learn about guests and ad­dress their re­quire­ments. For ex­am­ple, busi­ness guests have long called for late check-out times, and the in­dus­try is re­spond­ing to it, of­fer­ing greater flex­i­bil­ity.

How­ever, there is no one­size-fits-all ap­proach; hos­pi­tal­ity providers must fo­cus on a one-size-fits-one ap­proach, where dif­fer­ent ho­tels in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions cater­ing for dis­tinc­tive guest pro­files must tai­lor their of­fer­ing to the cus­tomers’ needs.

The young pop­u­la­tion is the new and fu­ture guest de­mo­graphic. These tech-savvy pro­fes­sion­als, en­trepreneurs and leisure-trav­ellers de­mand a new level of ser­vice that is per­son­alised, and it is im­per­a­tive that we evolve and adapt to meet their as­pi­ra­tions.

Nowhere is this change more rel­e­vant than here in the Mid­dle East and Africa re­gion, where over 60 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is be­low the age of 30, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, Arab Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Re­port 2016.

Nat­u­rally, the pri­mary fo­cus of our busi­ness for the fu­ture must be on how we can in­te­grate dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to en­hance their guest ex­pe­ri­ence cov­er­ing ev­ery touch-point – from build­ing a strong on­line pres­ence, en­gag­ing in on­line con­ver­sa­tions to sup­port­ing them with ef­fort­less on­line book­ing and plan­ning their itin­er­ary and stay.

But the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor does not mean merely putting in place a few on­line tools. It means in­te­grat­ing tech­nol­ogy as part of your or­gan­i­sa­tional DNA and cre­at­ing your ho­tels not just to be de­sign-savvy but also to serve as so­cial hubs for peo­ple to con­nect. The ho­tels must be places for young trav­el­ers to be ‘con­nected,’ en­ter­tained and mo­bile.

How­ever, the fo­cus on youth shouldn’t de­ter us from a de­mo­graphic of the more sea­soned and se­nior trav­el­ers, who wish for the true ‘home away from home’ ex­pe­ri­ence, seek­ing the com­fort of ho­tels for the room ser­vice and concierge fa­cil­i­ties.

While tech­nol­ogy is a great lev­eller that adds value to both younger and older gen­er­a­tions, it is also im­por­tant to keep in mind the dif­fer­ent needs of all guests, from the re­quire­ments of the busi­ness trav­eller, who might call out for a late check-out time, to the de­mand of large fam­i­lies for con­nect­ing rooms.

Not to be ig­nored is the need for de­liv­er­ing a new mid­scale value propo­si­tion.

THE YOUNG POP­U­LA­TION IS THE NEW AND FU­TURE GUEST DE­MO­GRAPHIC” WE MUST BE FU­TURE-READY TO AD­DRESS THE NEEDS AND AS­PI­RA­TIONS OF THE NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION OF TRAV­ELLERS”

Top-notch Dubai has the largest ho­tel room pipe­line of any city in the world

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