Day Two of HITEC Conference at Dubai World Trade Centre sees expert speakers discuss how generative AI can revolutionise the hospitality industry
Attendees advised to never view technology as a cost, but rather an investment; with food lockers, integrated one-bill payment systems and more, opportunities for touchless tech is growing still
Dubai, UAE-: From generative AI in the hospitality industry to touchless tech in the F&B sector, Day Two of The Hotel Show at Dubai World Trade Centre had attendees envisaging a future in which customisation is commonplace, payments painless, cross-system integration seamless, and queues are – hurrah! – a thing of the past.
Running for three consecutive days, The Hotel Show is the region’s leading event for hotel developers & owners, general managers and F&B professionals. Thousands of industry professionals from across the globe filled Dubai World Trade Centre seeking new business opportunities and insights into the latest topics and tendencies.
Any trade show exploring future trends is inevitably going to explore the potential, and potential pitfalls, of Artificial Intelligence, so unsurprisingly it has been a central theme at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC), the largest global conference dedicated to the integration of technology in the hospitality sector, produced by the Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals (HFTP) and dmg events.
During a spotlight discussion between Bernard Lau, CEO and Co-Founder of Staynex, and Shameer Thaha, Global Chief Strategy Officer at Accubits, the pair looked at how AI can serve as an effective complementary dimension to the future of tourism and hospitality.
“I believe hospitality is ripe for adoption of AI,” said Thaha. “We know AI can plan entire trips, but if we take it one level further it can become your personalised agent. You tell it where you are travelling, for how many days, your likes and dislikes, and who you are travelling with, and it will curate your entire trip. But with the right plug-in enabled it could do actual tasks too. With an AI model that can replicate your persona, behaviour, voice etc, it could make a booking on your behalf, so then the question is how does it verify your identity? That’s when blockchain technology can come in.
“It’s a necessity for hotels to implement these technologies to take back the control and manage their brands better. Hotels can curate their own products without relying on agents. This ability to create new products tailored towards customers is key. Just now when you go online you are just booking a room, but now hotels have the power to add-on experiences directly.”
Later in the day, the discussion switched to the F&B sector with a panel discussion about how to best foster pragmatic touchless technology in the F&B Industry. Mohamed Fayed, CEO of Grubtech, and Marwan Saab, Co-Founder of Opaala, have worked in tandem to revolutionise the food hall experience by enabling customers to order from various restaurants within the same hall, yet pay a single bill. “For smaller venues, having tech is even more important because it can save money,” said Saab. “Tech should never be seen as a cost, but rather an investment.”
One innovation gradually being implemented in the UAE is food lockers, in which fast food orders are delivered to cubbies ready for collection rather than face-to-face handovers. Grubtech collaborated with Talabat at Expo 2020 to improve the food delivery process through such technology. While Fayed says he continues to see “slow adoption” due to restaurants still trying to decide whether it is something they want to explore, he sees huge opportunities in airports, train stations, and bus stations across the region: “In all these places, this would be very convenient”.
Whatever the innovation, integration is crucial, he added. “The challenge is how do we create a common operating system for all these niche apps to live on. That’s the challenge everyone is working on.”
Also appearing on the panel to discuss the future of F&B was the fittingly named Tjalling van den Burger, VP Enterprise at Adyen and Advisory Board Member of the UAE Restaurants Group. Adyen works with hotels and restaurants in the region to streamline the payment process and ensure guests can be served quicker and better.
“We always hear ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but it’s our job to show that it is actually broken,” said van den Burger. “It breaks my heart when I see a very busy restaurant or food hall with long queues and staff grabbing payment terminals that were made decades ago, manually entering the price, then passing that payment brick to the customer. It takes three minutes just to process payment. When I show that to management companies, they say ‘ah but that’s just how it’s done’.
“Wrong. We work with Joe & the Juice and it’s a very smooth process – you can pay with Apple Pay or whatever and the payment goes through instantly. That can rescue drop offs in queues by almost half. If you can speed up the process, you can serve your guests faster and better. When we show that proof, then people understand that yes payment process is broken and indeed needs fixed.”
The three-day event, which is co-located alongside Workspace, INDEX, and Leisure Show, is also showcasing a wide range of cutting-edge products, services, and technologies tailored to meet the evolving demands of the assorted industries. Guests have been welcomed this week by Parys, an AI hologram created by UAE-based Hybrid Xperience. The immersive installation can act as MC, host or interactive chat bot.
The Hotel Show, co-located alongside Workspace, INDEX, and Leisure Show runs at Dubai World Trade Centre until May 25.