By Matei Gheorghiu-Testa, Timo Kaiser, Sophia Schütte

In May 2023, three BOSC 6 students enrolled in EHL Hospitality Business School, namely Matei Testa, Timo Kaiser, and Sophia Schütte, were given the opportunity to attend the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC) in Dubai as part of EHL’s Educational Travel Program. In the following blog post, they reflect on their journey and share valuable insights about the event.

EHL’s Educational Travel Program brought us on a trip to the lively city of Dubai to attend the highly anticipated HITEC Conference. We took advantage of this excellent opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Middle Eastern hospitality and technology industry for three unforgettable days. The HITEC Conference, which is part of The Hotel Show, has established itself as a flagship event for the Middle Eastern hospitality industry, bringing together industry leaders through incisive panels, talks and seminars. In this blog post, we share our firsthand experiences and shed light on the important issues driving the future of this ever-changing industry.

We had the pleasure of working with the outstanding team from Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) throughout our time in Dubai, who expertly handled the planning of this remarkable event. We were fortunate enough to actively participate in the conference, attending captivating keynotes and insightful discussions, while also assisting with various supportive and administrative responsibilities behind the scenes.

The HITEC Conference features high-level conversations on how technology can be leveraged to enhance revenue generation. It also addressed the emergence of new challenges in the hospitality business, with a focus on three primary topics that are extremely important to the future of this industry: artificial intelligence, green technology and big data.

  • Artificial Intelligence: In today’s market, customers are increasingly demanding quick interactions and tailored services. The unlocked potential of AI and machine learning to transform customer service is immense. AI chatbots for instance enable businesses to engage with customers around the clock, regardless of language barriers. Additionally, computer systems can utilize data to predict and optimize room occupancy, while an integrated network for omnichannel customer service can greatly enhance personalized guest experiences. AI is an opportunity and serves as an effective complementary dimension to the future of tourism and hospitality.
  • Green Technology: Numerous hospitality brands are actively embracing sustainability measures, addressing issues such as food waste and the excessive consumption of plastic, water and energy. This strategic shift is crucial since failing to adopt environmentally-friendly practices could result in the loss of the largest consumer generation, Gen Z. Given millennials’ strong support of social responsibility and sustainability, hotels, increasingly, must prioritize eco-friendly initiatives in order to attract and retain this generation, as well as future ones.
  • Big Data: The conventional hotel industry has undergone a complete transformation, as established hotel chains now find themselves compelled to evolve into digital-first entities that align with the demands of today’s customers. This shift has been prompted by the emergence of on-demand digital services and an increase in accommodation providers that exclusively rely on technology to secure bookings. However, the absence of a centralized platform to consolidate various data sources can cause delays in analysis, leading to inefficiencies in reporting procedures. Data management systems, including the integration of business intelligence tools, have been at the heart of this transformation. As a result, it has become increasingly important to ensure that such information and data is coherent and useful. By analyzing big data appropriately, hotel revenue can be optimized.

We were able to network with attendees and speakers between panel discussions and after the conference. These interactions gave us an invaluable opportunity to expand our professional network, particularly among industry professionals mainly from the UAE. We truly felt the power of the EHL family, despite being thousands of kilometers from our familiar Lausanne campus. We felt welcomed at all times and were introduced to possible job opportunities in emerging hospitality companies from the Middle East.

Undoubtedly, this Educational Travel Program has had a profound impact on us. It broadened our horizons by exposing us to new knowledge and inspiration and provided us with valuable connections. These connections, forged with industry experts and like-minded individuals, will shape our professional lives.

Returning to the question, is technology the answer to everything? The answer is an unequivocal NO. While technical developments are critical for the hospitality sector, especially with regard to becoming more sustainable, our experience underscored the importance of human interaction in hospitality. Although technology can potentially substitute for human interaction in specific hotel contexts, it cannot completely replace it. We saw how technology is being harnessed to enhance efficiency and the guest experience: analyzing big data allows hoteliers to gather more insight and thus proactively customize their guests’ journey. However, we recognized that hospitality professionals’ warmth, empathy, and individualized care remain invaluable and irreplaceable. The human touch makes guests feel appreciated and leaves an indelible impression on them.

We would like to thank EHL and HFTP for making this opportunity possible for us students!