Looking to the future

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The way that we travel is constantly evolving, and everything from how we book our holidays to how we plan our hotel stays has changed dramatically over the last decade.

I was curious about how the hospitality industry is keeping pace with all these new developments and spoke to Olivier Harnisch, CEO of Emaar Hospitality Group, who was very positive about how the technology of the future could potentially transform the industry for the better.

“You already know the future is digital,” he said. “The challenge is to identify future trends and technologies in the right place and at the right time to stay ahead of the curve in guest demand. Of course, we have already introduced digital technology to enhance our guests’ experiences and as that technology evolves, it will add to our services too.”

This is certainly something I would agree with as the last time I stayed at an Emaar Hospitality Group managed property, I was impressed how the group aims to become the most innovative hospitality company in the Middle East, defining it as being the one which best marries the warmth of human touch with the power of technology.

I checked into Rove Trade Centre near Dubai World Trade Centre for a business conference, and the experience was so streamlined. I could book my room using the app, I could scroll through it to learn more about the property without even having to leave my room, and when I did eventually venture out, I had a city guide in the palm of my hands, which really helped me to get to know the area better.

However, the future of technology in hospitality is about more than just apps. Harnisch also explained that Emaar Hospitality Group is working with Accenture Strategy, the go-to consultancy for businesses that want to understand how future technology is going to impact their industry.

“People are increasingly tech savvy,” said Harnisch. “Our clientele has high expectations. And as a hotelier, we need to be able to keep up with them and exceed those expectations, from the moment they arrive to the second they check out.”

So, are we talking robot butlers? Perhaps, one day. For now Emaar Hospitality Group is looking at how Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things can be leveraged to boost guest satisfaction, and at the moment, they’re the only hospitality group in the region that’s doing so.

For now, the first part of their project is all about enhancing guest experiences by making processes more streamlined and flexible. Forget queuing in the lobby: you’ll be able to check in and check out, any time and anywhere you want to, with easy to use, self-service technology. Not only is this more pleasant for guests, it also frees up staff to provide better, more personalised hospitality services.

It doesn’t stop there. Thanks to the Internet of Things, new technology will transform the ways in which guests interact with their rooms, through machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Imagine having a room that adapts to your behaviour - think about being able to control everything from the A/C to the TV using just your voice, and imagine the room using motion sensors to sense your behavioural patterns and predict what you will want and need, making you feel like it was made just for you. The result? A home away from home.

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, and in a way, it is. The hotel spaces will even look more futuristic, as the third part of Emaar Hospitality Group’s project will use digital collaterals to free up space in guest rooms and public spaces. This will make everything sleeker, less cluttered, and give guests more spaces where they can relax.

So what more can we expect? Well, the sky’s the limit. The possibilities are endless. All we know is, the future looks digitally enhanced.

Adam H. is a passionate traveller, writer and futurist

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