ME government policy key for growth of tourism and hospitality : HITEC

Middle East government policy and its pivotal role in the growth of tourism and hospitality sectors globally fell under the spotlight on the second day of The Hotel Show, the undisputed flagship event for the Middle East’s hospitality industry. Speaking during the opening session of the Hospitality Leadership and F&B Forum, Nadeem Zaman, Group Chief Strategy Officer at Rua Al Madinah Holding in Saudi Arabia, explained his company, which is PIF-owned, has a mandate to build 47,000 keys over the next 10 years. The Kingdom as a whole expects to add around a quarter of a million keys by 2030, while the objective is for international tourism to triple from around 26 million to 75 million within that same period. Such goals are impossible without intricate collaboration between government and developers, be it in terms of legislation, policy, or even societal development in general.

“It’s all about understanding how we can align interests to make this a win-win situation for everyone,” said Zaman, whose company is partnering with local universities and vocational training hubs to help Saudi citizens earn qualifications and enter the hospitality industry. “Hilton, who we’ve also signed with, have as of today 55 per cent of their workforce Saudi nationals and the first female GM of Hilton was put into Makkah. Imagine that, even five years ago, that was never something that anyone could even contemplate, so it’s about keeping an open mind.”

Later in the afternoon, the subject of government policy was raised again during a session on sustainability in hospitality. Highlighting last year’s COP 28 summit and the UAE Government’s engagement, John Timson, Accor’s Vice President for Sustainability and Safety – Premium across the Middle East, Africa and Pacific, said it proved hugely beneficial not just in terms of the initiatives it launched surrounding carbon footprints, but also “to have so many people from around the world coming into Dubai and telling us ‘you need to be more sustainable’ was really a push that helped us as a group to align our 78 hotels and understand that we’ve got to really make sure when we say we have done something, that it’s actually true.”

Timson added that when it comes to hotel companies looking to embrace or even start a sustainability initiative, they must not be scared to lean on the multinationals: “So this is completely the opposite to what you hear most hotel companies ever talk about, but sustainability is not a competitive edge – this is not something that we’re going to win and then go: ’Ha! We did it, but you can’t.’ Go talk to the Hiltons, the IHGs, Accor because we’re really big and we’ve put a lot of resources into this. It’s not a ‘we win, you lose’, but rather a ‘we all win’ or ‘we all lose’.

On the nearby HITEC Conference stage, with sessions focusing on advanced technology and innovation, a panel discussion on how tech can create unforgettable experiences, Rami Kumar, Cluster IT Manager at Fairmont Dubai, warned purpose must always be the decisive factor when it comes to adopting technology. From mobile check-in to VPNs, facial recognition payment systems to robot concierges, hotels must think very carefully about what their guests both want and need.

“I see some hotels providing robots to manage guest check-ins, serve food, etc, but as a five-star hotel, you need to ask whether you need this as well or if it’s better for guests to speak with someone and have a personalized experience,” said Kumar. “So, for me, technology should never be about simply implementing all the latest technology available. We have to see exactly what we need, what the guests will accept, what they want, and how it will improve their experience.”
Visionary tech is on display this week too at the co-located Leisure Show. Abu Dhabi-based Beauty Leaders has returned this year to showcase its latest innovation, the Visbody S30, a high-quality 3D intelligent body measurement device designed for medicine, fitness, nutrition, and beauty centres. The device can instantly create millimetre-accurate 3D models of a user’s body, giving them near-instant data and recommendations on how to improve posture and body composition.
Boriana Nikolova, key account manager at Beauty Leaders, explained that when using the device, a high-precision 3D avatar is generated by gently rotating its user 360 degrees. “The scanner evaluates posture and circumference, providing detailed insights along with accurate Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) results powered by Visbody,” she said, adding the technology has been designed for medical, fitness, nutrition, body aesthetics, and spa applications.
“Being reliable partners for resorts, hotels, and healthcare centres is essential to our business,” Nikolova added. “We believe Leisure Show is the perfect platform to introduce our products and showcase our new-to-the-market solutions to the region, especially as health and wellness tourism in the GCC is rapidly growing and attracting visitors worldwide.”
The three-day Hotel Show, as well as INDEX, Leisure Show, KIDSPACE, and Workspace, runs from 4-6 June at Dubai World Trade Centre. Running from 4-6 June at Dubai World Trade Centre and co-located alongside Workspace, INDEX, Leisure Show, and KIDSPACE, the longest-running hospitality trade show in the Middle East featured a host of Executive Think Tank Panels exploring a range of subjects, from brand storytelling to smart management systems via sustainability and nationalization.