Over the last two decades, technology has led to a drastic transformation in the travel and hospitality industry globally as well as regionally, which has boosted competitiveness and efficiency while creating new opportunities. In recent years, we have seen massive disruption in the hospitality sector that has compelled us to change the way we do business today. Digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) is continuously giving a greater choice in every aspect of travel turning customers into DIY travellers who plan, manage and book travel online. Tech-savvy tourists are demanding more from hotels, and, therefore it is essential to give them the enhanced experiences they crave.

Swiss-Belhotel International is among the top 100 hotel brands in the world currently managing a portfolio of more than 145* hotels, resorts and projects with 14 unique brands spread across 24 countries. We aim to offer superior returns to our owners and unbeatable value, and unforgettable experiences to our guests and tapping into the latest technology allows us to do so.

"Emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, blockchain and 3D printing are all giving new shape to the hotel industry."

Increasing digitalization, the rising share of OTAs, emergence of Airbnb, increasing competition, changing customer demographics with emerging markets like China, India and Africa, an explosion of brands including local independent hotels as well as market changes due to major mergers and acquisitions, all require new skills and a shift in strategies.

At Swiss-Belhotel International, we understand technology holds the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future. Like the rest of the world, the future of the hospitality industry in the Middle East is being shaped by unparalleled advances in technology. Hotels are compelled to rethink the hotel design, guest services, experiences and concepts in keeping with the travellers’ expectations. At the same time, travel tech ecosystem is getting bigger with more diverse players getting involved.

We will see more change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 250 years.

Emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, blockchain and 3D printing are all giving new shape to the hotel 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% of consumers now willing to share data in return for tools that help customize their stay, we hoteliers have an enormous opportunity to fulfil 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.

Dubai has placed innovation and technology at the heart of its business strategy.

Expo 2020 is driving growth in Dubai as the emirate aims to complete 160,000 hotel rooms in time to welcome 25 million visitors. Disruptive technologies are creating new opportunities for our industry while reengineering the marketplace, and Dubai is at the forefront of capitalising on these emerging technologies to optimise travellers’ journey.

The future of hospitality lies in having the right mix of technology and human touch. It is essential to understand the existing ecosystem and adapt the best practices to boost efficiency and competitiveness as well as guest satisfaction. What is required is a structured approach to tap the great potential of technology. Like everything else, it is a two-way process and needs to have a conversation engaging customers to offer a personalised experience that makes travellers’ lives easier, simpler, and more convenient.

It is also critical to ensure cybersecurity when it comes to data protection, payment gateways and sharing of information and platforms with third-party solution/application providers.

What is also essential is to have 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.

Ultimately technology should be for the 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 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.