Gulf region hotels investing in new technologies for tomorrow's traveler

Some tech leaders are pointing to bold new initiatives by hotel chains in the Middle East region as a kind of renaissance for their highly advanced products and services.

Avaya, for one, cited 40 percent growth within a six month period, even as MENA hotels reported lower occupancy rates. In a June 19 press release, experts attributed the rise in Avaya’s business to big investments that hoteliers are hoping will reap dividends in the future.

So what kinds of new high-tech services are regional hotels putting into their operations?

A survey of big new tech features in the press announcement shows that in some ways, the threefold investment mirrors the “SoLoMo” idea so trendy in today’s IT world. SoLoMo is a portmanteau, a combination term referencing three elements: social, local and mobile.

The hotels are also investing in social, local and mobile technology. The first aspect, social, involves building up troves of information on individual customers and linking that to outbound platforms so that customers can easily share their experiences, for example, reporting aspects of their vacations to others far away.

The local component involves new in-room functionality. With the advent of new wireless systems and virtual assistant technologies, hotels can offer a single “entity” or digital concierge that can handle requests instead of having guests dial a line for room service or enter complicated inputs on a remote control for pay-per-view.

As for the mobile component, hotels are investing in portability for the above kinds of information so that customers can take data with them on any device. This might mean porting menu information onto a smartphone, posting towel requests on a tablet or otherwise “hacking” hospitalities with mobile device apps and functionality.

In some ways, these unprecedented new types of data-driven services are much like what’s going on in the regional airline industry; the Gulf News Journal recently reported on initiatives by some airlines that also depend, to a large extent, on new methods of data aggregation.

So how will these technologies position hotels in the Gulf Coast region? And what about the promise of big upcoming events like Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup?

Fareed Raja is a content strategist at Kin HR Software in Chicago with experience traveling in the Middle East.

Raja feels hotels are under pressure from a new kind of competition.

“I don't think any business or vertical can survive without tech savvy.” Raja told the Gulf News Journal on Friday. “But a greater focus needs to be put on customer happiness. Airbnb has, to some extent, shaken up the hospitality industry. One can notice that hotels are now trying to implement more Airbnb-like services into their strategy. Ultimately, customization is future of the hospitality industry.”

As for the two upcoming events, Expo 2020 in Dubai, and a successful FIFA World Cup 2022 bid by Doha, Raja said those opportunities would be likely to boost the numbers in lodging ledgers in both cities.

“Expo2020 will more than likely bring a lot of investment back in Dubai.” Raja said. “Both the Expo2020 and FIFA 2022 would provide significant opportunities for businessmen from the two countries.”


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