The Hospitality and Innovation Summit 2023, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which took place 15-16 March 2023, featured world-class keynote speakers and engaging presentations by industry leaders who shared valuable insights into the key opportunities and challenges in the industry.
The Hospitality Innovation Summit, organized by Global Business to Business (GBB), was the perfect platform for finding the right products, right projects, right people, and the right services, with an exclusive pool of project holders, a host of innovative global suppliers, an intelligent match-making process, and intriguing knowledge-sharing sessions to ensure the event was not only informative but also practical.
In all, there were 70+ suppliers, 120+ buyers, 35+ speakers, 1,000+ meetings, and 800+ minutes of networking. All of this, of course, was fuelled by Vision 2030, arguably the most ambitious project a country has ever undertaken anywhere in the world. Targeting 100 million visitors annually, the hospitality sector is one of the flagbearers of this program, so it came as no surprise that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the host of this summit, as it has one of the largest pipelines of hotels in the world, worth over $110 billion.
“It is critical for hotels to train their staff to use technology”
A Stellar Cast
The inaugural address was given by Wahdan Alkadi, Chief Business Officer at the Tourism Development Fund, while the welcome address was presented by Yousuf Lootah, CEO of the Corporate Strategy and Performance Sector at the Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai.
Keynote Presentations were delivered by Cedric Sala (MEA Hotel Segment Sector, Schneider Electric): Net Zero Carbon Hotel – Making Hotels of the Future a Reality Today; Fillipo Sona (Co-owner at Wood Couture): Date and Insights from 1.5 Million Rooms; Antonio Luca Maria Terrana (Head of Urban Design at Luca Dini Design & Architecture): From Yachting to Design – a Unique Value Proposition for Luxury Hotels; Tamer Desouky (Head of Sales at Seagate Ship Building): Live the Ocean Dream; and Justin Wells (CEO, Wells International): Porsche design Hotel – a Race of Luxury Lifestyle.
In all, there were 70+ suppliers, 120+ buyers, 35+ speakers, 1,000+ meetings,
and 800+ minutes of networking
Training Staff on Technology
During the Hospitality Innovation Summit 2023 panel on ‘Hotel Innovation: How to Ensure Relevance Today and Tomorrow’, Laurent A Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations & Development, EMEA & India, and Senior Vice President, Group Human Resources & Talent Development, Swiss-Belhotel International, gave one of the most fascinating talks, highlighting the potential benefits and risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The panel was moderated by Christopher Lund, Executive Director and Head of Hotels for the MENA region at Colliers International, with other speakers on the panel including Imran Changezi, Development Senior Director of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority; Ian Wilson, Regional Director for Hospitality at The Line, NEOM; and Chadi Hauch, Regional VP Lodging Development ME at Marriott International.
“While AI has emerged as a powerful tool for productivity enhancement through automation and virtual assistance, consumer behavior analysis, and personalization of services, it is important to understand its risks too. Like any technology, it is vulnerable to many dangers, and users must take into account the downside related to data privacy and security breaches, as well as the centralization of power in a few companies. While it presents an opportunity, it also comes with a responsibility,” Laurent said.
Speaking about how hotels can draw in top talent, Laurent explained: “It is undoubtedly becoming extremely challenging to attract and retain the best talent in our industry. To attract top talent, hotels must offer competitive compensation packages with exciting learning and growth opportunities for all-around career development. It is important to provide the right training for employees to learn new skills and stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry to excel in their jobs and achieve the highest guest satisfaction. Last but not least, it is necessary to create a positive work culture with a supportive and inclusive environment where employees feel valued.”
“I think what is most unique about the event are the high-quality panelists and the intriguing topics”
One question that arose was whether hotel staff are being trained adequately in the use of technology. “Technology plays an increasingly important role in improving operational efficiency, enhancing the guest experience, and increasing revenue,” Laurent said. “Therefore, it is critical for hotels to train their staff to use technology, but it also depends on the budget provided by owners.
“The training process should begin by assessing the current level of technology proficiency among the staff. This will help the hotel identify areas where training is most needed. Hotels should also ensure that the training provided is ongoing and includes updates on new technology and changes in existing technology. Regular training and refresher courses can help keep staff up to date with the latest advancements and ensure that they can make the most of the technology available to them. Hotels should invest in the right infrastructure to support technology and AI, such as high-speed internet, cloud-based systems, and robust data management systems. This will enable them to leverage technology effectively and efficiently.”
“While AI has emerged as a powerful tool for productivity enhancement, it is important to understand its risks too”
Appreciated by All
The Hospitality and Innovation Summit 2023 was a huge success, with Rui Angelo Sousa, Executive VP of Sales at Gruppo Buoninfante, commenting: “ It was a great event. It was a really great opportunity for us and next year we will be back again for sure.”
Imran Changezi, Development Senior Director at Diriyah Gate Development Authority agreed, saying: It was a pleasure to be at the Summit. I think what is most unique about the event are the high-quality panelists and the intriguing topics. It makes a nice combination of giving the platform to suppliers and vendors who want to work in the industry.”
Summits are a great opportunity to see how far a company has come, learn what others are working on, and identify where it is necessary to focus attention more closely. The Hospitality and Innovation Summit 2023 provided all of this and much more besides. “This is my third event and every time they surprise us with new companies, new networking sessions and new people, which is valuable to our projects and also gives us a chance to form new networks, “ Samer Ibdah, Director of Engineering at IHG, concludes. “Thank you GBB for your efforts.”