AHIC 2017: Hospitality industry examines catalysts for change in Dubai
Hilton president Chris Nassetta, right, in conversation with Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events, at AHIC 2017 in Dubai

AHIC 2017: Hospitality industry examines catalysts for change in Dubai

Catalysts of change, including the shift in global economic powers, demographics and ageing populations, and the impact of digitisation, were some of the hot topics discussed live on stage during the opening sessions of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017.

The vent is currently being held at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai and is organised by Bench Events and Meed.

Now in its 13th year, the annual knowledge and networking platform for the global hospitality investment community, AHIC, attracted more than 700 delegates eager to learn more about the catalysts influencing the evolving persona of the hotel guest and driving innovation among hotel owners and operators alike.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman, Bench Events, introduced AHIC with the assistance of a robot co-host created by Isukashi, setting the scene for discussions on artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and other technological breakthroughs.

Commenting on the trends, Worsley said: “In the lead-up to AHIC during many conversations with our speakers, sponsors and the AHIC advisory board, it became clear that technology in its many and varied forms would be one of the major catalysts of change for the hospitality industry in the coming years.

“We wanted to give our delegates a demonstration of this with our AHIC robot and set the scene for three days of dynamic conversations.”

Worsley addressed these issues in the opening keynote session with Chris Nassetta, president, Hilton, which this week announced it has the largest active pipeline in the GCC in terms of both rooms and properties, with more than 16,000 keys under construction and scheduled to open before 2020, according to STR.

Nassetta said that while AI and robotics would be a part of Hilton’s future, at its core Hilton is a “business of people serving people”.

“Our Team Members differentiate Hilton by delivering an exceptional experience, something that is different from what people can get in another place, something that’s special, something that’s memorable, something that makes them want to come back.

“The way I think of innovation, is how do we take the core of what we do and make it even better?”

The topic of technological breakthroughs, such as AI, was identified as one of the top five megatrends by PwC Middle East’s partner and deals real estate leader Martin Berlin, who unveiled the new PwC Report Global Megatrends and their impact on Hospitality in the Middle East at AHIC.

Berlin explained: “The travel and tourism industry has witnessed rapid and fundamental infiltration of digitisation across the entire value chain.

“Combined with the demographic and social change the digitisation will lead to a change of the ‘delivery’ of hospitality products and services.”