Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, addressed delegates at Top Hotels Project World Tour Dubai on Digitalization in Hotels yesterday. The conference presented a unique mix of critical industry insights and power networking in an interactive and inspirational programme.
Speaking on whether digitalisation is a disruptor or experience enhancer, Laurent said, “The hotel industry is no doubt being reshaped by the latest innovations and technological advancements. Digitalization is affecting the entire value chain of the travel and tourism industry; from influencing traveling decisions, to collecting feedback and improving the delivery of products and services. This is revolutionizing the complete customer lifecycle – right from booking to hotel-stay experience, and beyond. The disruption that digitization is bringing to today's travel and tourism industry requires new skills and a shift in strategies. So instead of becoming digitally disrupted, hotels should take advantage of the digital age.”
During the discussion at the conference, Laurent highlighted the need for making technology user-friendly. He stressed, “Technology is a plus and enhancer as long as it is simple and user-friendly. It should not be complicated like we hoteliers make it. We are not here to train the customers. As hoteliers we are here to deliver on their expectations and give our customers what they want. Ultimately, technology is for the well-being of people and it should be easy to use.”
Smartphone penetration in the GCC is amongst the highest in the world, reaching 100% in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. This is higher than the USA which currently has only 80% smartphone penetration. Over 70% of hotel bookings made by GCC travellers in January 2017 were made via mobile devices, compared to 54% in 2016.
Laurent said, “Speed is perhaps the single most important thing that is necessary at every step of a guest's journey. Right from the moment he makes the booking to when he steps into a hotel. And this is where technology plays a critical role in enabling seamless connectivity and mobile integration. Technology makes it possible to check-in with Apps, have keyless room entry, control lighting, room temperature, TV, curtains and wake-up call with a single smart device. In addition, intuitive technology is moving fast and will continue to grow in the region. For example it allows us to anticipate the needs and desires of our guests to the extent of monitoring blood pressure, sleep patterns and stress levels and accordingly adjust music and lighting.”