Big data is having a transformative effect on hospitality across the Middle East and beyond. However, leading hoteliers speaking at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 have emphasized that human intervention remains essential if owners and operators wish to derive genuine value from the information.
‘Hospitality Debate: What More Can Big Data Unlock?’ featured a range of expert insights about the power of data to improve guest experiences within the Middle East’s hospitality sector. Paul Clifford, Group Editor – Hospitality & Design at ITP Media Group, moderated the session while Chris Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance, Tommy Lai, Chief Executive Officer at General Hotel Management Pte Ltd, Sandeep Walia, Chief Operations Officer – Middle East at Marriott; and Nicolas Huss, CEO of Hotelbeds, take to the ATM Global Stage were among the panelists.
Commenting on advancements in the hospitality sector’s data capabilities over the past decade, Tommy Lai said: “It used to be you’d need a lot of people for analysis, but now, you can collect data and AI will decipher it. Big data and AI are evening the playing field between small groups and larger brands.”
AI and human touch balance
Speaking on the importance of interpretation, Sandeep Walia said: “This technology can help guests to narrow down hotels they would like to stay in. Big data – when used in combination with AI – can help to identify the best options for customers. But, ultimately, guests have to connect with us to make the booking. So the balance between AI and the human touch is equally important.”
Reiterating the importance of quality over quantity, Chris Hartley said: “Acquiring data is one thing, but that isn’t ‘big data’. It’s what you do with the data that’s critical. We’ve known for years that credit card companies have huge data way beyond the hotel. This tells a lot more about the customer than they might reveal to you during a one-off stay.”
Ethics in information
Nicolas Huss agreed but warned that an ethical approach is essential in order to realize the full potential of this information. “I think there are several rules. Everything has to be anonymous. We must ensure that the adds value to the guest experience. We must acknowledge that when we’re staying at a hotel doesn’t always reflect what we do when we leave that environment. We will only thrive if we have the best data and some form of human care.”
The 30th edition of ATM is taking place as part of Arabian Travel Week (1-10 May 2023). The festival of events is dedicated to enabling industry professionals from all over the world. They collaborate and capitalize on market opportunities through exhibitions, conferences, breakfast briefings, awards, product launches, and networking events.
ATM 2023 is being held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre, and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner, and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.
About Arabian Travel Market (ATM)
Now in its 30th year, the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for tourism professionals. ATM 2022 attracted over 24,000 visitors and hosted over 31,000 participants. The included 1,600 exhibitors and attendees from 151 countries. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week.