AHIC 2019 kicks off with ‘Day of Disruption’ in Ras Al Khaimah
Speakers from Coca-Cola, Google, Accor, PwC and many more urge hospitality professionals to modernise their businesses and face digital disruptors head-on
Dubai, UAE -- The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2019 (AHIC), currently underway at the AHIC Village at the Al Hamra International Exhibition & Conference Centre in Ras Al Khaimah, opened with a 'Day of Disruption' and 'GRIF at AHIC', with expert speakers addressing the potential impact of a variety of external influences on the hospitality industry, in particular, the unparalleled digital landscape.
Julie Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer - 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% of the total searches for hotel accommodation are related to destination and said that 70% 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% of people will just leave," said de la Fuente Corrales. "They will not wait for the site to load. You are missing more than 50% 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.
At PwC, Chinmay Shukla, Senior Manager, said that mobile search was especially relevant when it comes to millennials, two thirds of whom search for a hotel room on their smart phone device and make their booking through a smart phone. According to Chinmay, millennials are the disruptor to watch; impacting hospitality businesses "through every single element of the value chain".
He revealed: "Millennials are expected to make up more than 50% of hotel guests worldwide by 2020. Just pause and think about that. If there is one segment that needs to be targeted, it's millennials, and based on studies for the next 15 years, so from 2020 to 2035, millennials will be at peak spending power."
The 'Day of Disruption' also featured interviews with leading hoteliers. In an insightful session led by Nick van Marken, Managing Director, van Marken Limited, Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Accor, said it was time the industry moved away from being "product-centric" and focused on being "client-centric".
He said that his next focus in the transformation of Accor was to compete with digital players like Facebook and Amazon, by "enlarging the net and increasing frequency with our clients". 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.
Commenting on Bazin's keynote, Worsley said: "It's a privilege to gain insights on disruption from such a visionary leader as Sébastien Bazin and there were a host of relevant takeaways for our delegates from the 'Day of Disruption'. AHIC continues this week with a roster of stellar speakers on an agenda designed around the theme 'Synchronised for Success'. Through these sessions, we expect to spark important debate, which will no doubt be continued off stage with more networking opportunities than ever at the AHIC Village here in RAK."
The 15thedition of AHIC will bring together more than 800 hotel investors, owners and operators for three days of education, networking and deal making from 9-11 April.
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About AHIC 2019
AHIC, now in its 15thyear, is the annual gathering for the Middle East's hospitality investment community organised by global hotel investment event organiser Bench Events in partnership with Middle East business intelligence brand, MEED. AHIC creates a knowledge and networking platform for global and regional investors of all backgrounds, offering essential insights to investing in hotels, showcasing regional and international hospitality investment opportunities and facilitating direct connections with hospitality industry stakeholders.AHIC 2019 will be in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from 9 April to 11 April 2019 in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, AHIC 2019 will be co-hosted by its founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, whose continued support of the industry and AHIC has been critical to the region's tourism growth.