The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference has welcomed what organisers are calling a ‘Day of Disruption’, with expert speakers addressing the potential impact of a variety of external influences on the hospitality industry, in particular, the unparalleled digital landscape.
Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events and founder of AHIC, said: “As we expected, the ‘Day of Disruption’ flagged a huge number of incredibly thought-provoking viewpoints on potential disruptors to the industry and importantly, how hoteliers should react to these.
“Overwhelmingly, the advice from speakers both within the industry and outside of the sector, was to revolutionise our way of thinking.
“It’s no longer enough to respond to change; we need to anticipate it, alter our vision, and commit to delivering on it.”
Julie Hamilton, senior vice president, chief customer and commercial leadership officer for the Coca-Cola Company, explained why and how the company decided to dramatically change its business model.
“We could wait for someone to disrupt us, or we could disrupt ourselves. We chose the tougher path, the riskier path, the one that was most uncomfortable, to disrupt ourselves,” said Hamilton.
“So it may not seem like a big thing but when for 109 years we primarily focused on one brand in three packages to move to a vision of being a total beverage company, that’s big.
“It doesn’t sound big, but it’s like turning the Titanic around,” she added.
Maria de la Fuente Corrales, travel industry analyst at Google, spoke about the need to analyse and make use of data in order to tap into what customers want
She revealed that 80 per cent of the total searches for hotel accommodation are related to destination and said that 70 per cent of total travel searches come from mobile.
“When it comes to mobile, if your site takes more than three seconds to load, more than 50 per cent of people will just leave,” said de la Fuente Corrales.
“They will not wait for the site to load.
“You are missing more than half of your traffic to your website because you have not optimised your site.
“We have to move from answers to anticipation,” she asserted, highlighting the Uber app as an excellent example of real-time digital service.
The ‘Day of Disruption’ also featured interviews with leading hoteliers.
In an insightful session led by Nick van Marken, managing director of van Marken Limited, Sébastien Bazin, chairman of Accor, said it was time the industry moved away from being “product-centric” and focused on being “client-centric”.
Bazin explained that the advantage these companies had was their weekly, if not daily, contact with customers.
“The level of interaction we have with our guests is not good enough.
“We only see them three or four times a year.
“We need to have an interaction with our guests which is hopefully three times a month, and maybe one day, three times a week,” Bazin said, explaining that this would only be achievable by expanding into areas such as coworking, entertainment and digital concierge services.