Industry discusses future of hospitality in key webinar session

The hospitality industry is recovering at a faster than expected pace in the Middle East region, with Expo 2020 serving as a catalyst for the sector’s remarkable rebound. Leading hospitality experts gathered at The Great Hospitality Reset virtual roundtable in Dubai to discuss the future of hospitality and industry outlook while responding to the changing mindset travellers. Together, they hailed Expo 2020 Dubai for accelerating the hotel industry’s path to recovery.

The webinar, organized by EVOPS Hotel Development Consultancy, in association with The House of ARY, BEE Global, Saber and Travel and Tourism News (TTN), was moderated by Natalie Nasser.

On the panel were Michel Noblet, Executive Chairman, ATECA Holding; Laurent A. Voivenel, Director of Operations and Development, Europe Middle East, Africa and India; and Senior Vice President – ​​Group Human Resources and Talent Development, Swiss-Belhotel International; Chris Nader, Co-Founder and CEO, ENVI Lodges; Nick Jeffery, Vice President, International, Saber Hospitality; Jad Shamseddin, COO, Aleph Hospitality; Kostas Nikolaidis, Middle East, Africa and Greece Manager, STR; Tina Haller, Director, Deal Advisory – Real Estate & Hospitality, KPMG; Rohit Vig, Vice President of Development, StayWell Hospitality; and Vinicio Alberelli, Global Director of Operations, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts.

Speaking about the outlook for the sector, Tina Haller, Director, Deal Advisory – Real Estate & Hospitality, KPMG, said: “The MENA region is doing quite well with individual markets performing relatively better. For the region as a whole, we expect a full recovery in 2022, with occupancy returning to 2019 levels. Although international travel has yet to return, mega events such as Expo Dubai 2020 and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 supported demand for the region. However, given what is happening in Ukraine, there is still a lot of uncertainty about this recovery. »

Emphasizing the need to foster greater cooperation and collaboration within and outside the hospitality industry, Michel Noblet, Executive Chairman of ATECA Holding, said: “We all know that the business landscape is changing. . There is a difference between running a business and growing a business. Collaboration is key to success, and we see that often at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“AtECA Hotels, we recently joined ARY’s BEE Global program which is an international business improvement ecosystem of business success partners connecting humanity for prosperity. It gives us direct access to millions of travelers worldwide and helps us attract and retain customers who can save 80% ARY Gold on their stay and dining expenses with us.”

Commenting on developments in the sector, Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President – ​​Operations and Development, Europe Middle East, Africa and India; and Senior Vice President – ​​Group Human Resources and Talent Development, Swiss-Belhotel International, said: “Corporate business is changing with the changing habits and spending of corporate travelers. Fewer people are traveling for business with longer stays. Will it impact corporate business – Yes, will there be a decline in business travel – Yes.

“While in the past, baby boomers accounted for 60-70% of business travel share, over the years they have gradually fallen to 20, 15 and 10% of market share. Consequently, with fewer baby boomers and more Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers, who hold 85% of the market share, hotels need to reinvent the guest experience and re-engage guests based on their changing needs. Understanding and responding to changing consumer behaviors is essential for the recovery.”

Nick Jeffery, Vice President, International, Saber Hospitality, “We are seeing a rapid acceleration in the recovery of bookings, with hospitality bookings leading the way and hotels and restaurants continuing to show momentum. There is huge pent-up demand for hotels, much of it driven by Expo 2020 Dubai. The question is, what do tech hoteliers need to thrive as we emerge from the pandemic?

“The narrative we’re hearing from our customers is essentially that hoteliers want capabilities to monetize every aspect of the guest journey inside and outside of the hotel room as well as on-property and off-property experiences. In response to these challenges, technology companies like Saber needed to provide new marketplaces that allow hoteliers to drive travel by selling anything, including products, services, and personalized on- and off-property experiences. It also drives revenue growth for hoteliers and creates stronger brand engagement and loyalty.

Chris Nader, Co-Founder and CEO of ENVI Lodges, pointed out: “The changing behavior and lifestyle of the market has caused experts, developers and investors to start thinking differently about how to design and develop a hotel. How to design a hotel, how to look at an opportunity. In the past, 70% of revenue came from rooms, so you would start thinking about how to maximize the number of rooms. It no longer adds any value to the guests as they are looking for something different, something more intimate, much more experiential, much more diverse in terms of offerings.

“Suddenly we’re seeing a shift in revenue towards 50-50. Sometimes even a higher percentage from other sources of revenue than rooms – mostly driven by the need to have experiences. If you look at products like ours, we’re in the experience. So as we begin to receive opportunities from investors, we look at master plans in a completely different way – thinking about what people can do when they come at the lodge what are the key things that would drive business, that would bring business back and then we start plotting units around her I think that shift in mindset is very important to meet the changing needs of the new generation of travellers.

Jad Shamseddin, Chief Operating Officer, Aleph Hospitality, said, “Hospitality today is all about experiences. We are currently seeing many hotel owners adjusting their design in hotels under construction. New ideas about creating lifestyle experiences are explored.

“Some hotels and brands are considering a pet-friendly approach. At our hotels in Aleph, 50% of the business comes from food and drink and other experiences, which says a lot about what people want. They are not just looking for accommodation, they want to be outdoors when possible and enjoy diverse experiences.

Vinicio Alberelli, Global Director of Operations, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts, said: “The experience element is key. We are always considering what can be done in terms of restaurant concepts to retain customers in our resort and increase their length of stay.

“At Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts, we seek an experience-seeking clientele. Up to 50% of revenue is generated from food and beverage combined with a strong beach and club component. We have exceptional restaurants offering something very authentic. and local. I believe planning is important in terms of what else we can offer to improve the customer journey. F&B is key.

Kostas Nikolaidis, Director of Middle East, Africa and Greece, STR, said: “We have come a long way in the Covid recovery. The Middle East, in particular, led this recovery with Expo 2020 Dubai boosting performance. There is more to come, especially with events such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 fast approaching.

“Also along the way, a big calendar of business events is coming to Dubai with new announcements almost every two weeks. Ultimately, it’s about doing ordinary things better in these extraordinary times. It’s important to continue to move forward with the entire ecosystem, including owners, technology providers, management companies, hotels and people.

Rohit Vig, VP of Development, StayWell Hospitality, “With extremely tight control of the pandemic, the UAE has been extremely successful in circumventing the virus. Over the past six months, we have seen a tremendous increase in the demand, especially in our Dubai properties, where our numbers are better than 2018 and 2019. The market has recovered faster than expected and the outlook is very healthy.

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