How is technology helping the hospitality sector to survive in the United Arab Emirates?

Today, the travel and tourism industry in the United Arab Emirates is facing a significant change with the rising technology trends that are enabled thanks to the daily mobile phone usage, especially by millennials. In fact, the smartphone penetration in UAE reached 78% in the last 3 years, one of the highest in the world.

Therefore, how is technology helping the hospitality sector to grow and adapt to the “new normal” in UAE?

Latest technology trends in UAE

UAE is known for its huge attraction at an international scale, it is undeniable that hospitality is key to make sure that tourists and business travellers feel comfortable during their stay.

To keep this worldwide reputation and to increase in terms of service, hotels for instance have adopted new technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to optimise the journey of their visitors. Let’s discover some of them:

  • Mobile phone is the new electronic key card: Some hotels in UAE allow access to the hotel room simply through the guest’s mobile. It makes the process easier for travellers and avoid facing some issues like losing the key.
  • Self-service for hotel customers: Sometimes guests are looking for a more handy access to their hotel rooms when they arrive, therefore along with the regular staff, some hotels allowed self check-in and self-checkout, and also self access to additional services.
  • Digitisation of the whole customer journey: From engaging customers to book by publishing ads on social media for instance, to receiving their feedback at the end of their journey, everything can be done digitally, through their smartphone mainly. Here multiple apps are integrated: social connectors, CRM database, feedback apps, analytics… etc.

As a whole, technology is serving the hospitality sector as a new safety barrier amid the Covid-19 pandemic but also as a new way to improve hotels management and customers experience. Mehta, the Sonder’s VP for EMEA markets said that “when a guest asks if they can check out two hours later, we respond quickly on our app. That's where our technology platform comes into play as the app that provides the guest services is tightly integrated with the operational backend.”

Hospitality facing Covid

In the past year, with the global Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitality sector faced a new challenge as there were less travellers coming to the UAE. On the other hand, the country remained one of the safest in the world regarding the spreading of the disease, therefore hotels had to adapt to the new health restrictions to keep attracting customers in the “new normal” era. Indeed, a global travel company called Kuoni revealed that UAE topped the list of the world’s most searched destination for 2021.

In the previous part of this article, we have explored the different paths through digitisation that were adopted by hotels to meet the new habits of their guests. If we take the example of self-service and self-access to hotel rooms, some hotels were already “Covid-friendly" with multiple touchless and contactless services that could be done independently by the guest simply through their smartphone. For instance, the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Dubai established specific measures for a contactless experience by enabling mobile check-in and digital key, but also to order food, book at the restaurant and get in touch with the staff simply through the guests’ smartphone.

By adopting all these technology trends, Philip Wooler, the area director of STR Middle East & Africa said that "in December (2020), Dubai was the only market in the world with occupancy above 70% outside of China. Besides domestic demand, the market has benefitted from the return of international demand during the last month of the year”.

In addition, Tim Cordon, Area Senior VP for MEA region at Radisson revealed that they "have been fortunate that many countries in Middle East have already started to see a recovery in the fourth quarter of 2020, be it from the domestic or international mbloboarket.” These statements show that the Middle Eastern region, and especially UAE, represent a global hope and model for the hospitality sector to recover from Covid-19 pandemic by adopting technology tools and improve customer experience.