In the lead up to the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) Saudi Arabia, we asked a number of industry partners how they see the future of hospitality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
What does the Future of Hospitality hold? Many industry thought-leaders often contemplate the answer to this question, and, indeed, depending on the depths of one’s imagination, one can envision quick trips to the moon or even mars for an adventurous weekend getaway, particularly with the advent of space tourism and suborbital flights . However, over the past few years, immediate and significant shifts have taken place on a global scale as the needs of travelers have evolved, and the industry has been thrust into shedding its traditional approaches to match and exceed guest expectations.
It has become increasingly difficult to forecast the future of the hospitality and tourism industries, yet, one key takeaway is that discerning customers and guests are demanding more from their travel partners, and the bottom line cannot be the only concern. The new era of leisure seekers and business travelers are looking for operators within the industry that care about the long-term survivability of the planet and its people with sustainability built into the core of its operations. Warnings of irreversible climate change, food and water scarcity and the unequal distribution of wealth have accelerated the drive for unprecedented change and the hospitality industry must action a positive response to these concerns to remain viable. This calls for a complete understanding of how its operations contribute to these issues and proactively rectifying those areas while striking a balance to ensure profitability.
Becoming ambassadors for sustainability and investing in a people-centered approach
The pent-up need for travel due to multiple lockdowns has exasperated the issue of operators taking immediate action to mitigate climate fallout. During 2019, tourism-based activities contributed to 5% of all man-made emissions, with a significant increase expected  as borders reopen, and countries welcome a heightened volume of travelers. While most of these pollutants are transport related and need to be urgently addressed, it must not be forgotten that sustainability encompasses more than just CO2 emissions. True sustainability involves meeting the current population’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to do so, avoiding the depletion of natural resources, and preserving the well-being of all citizens globally, whether directly or indirectly related to the hospitality industry. All players in the industry must adapt very quickly to their guest’s concerns ensuring that systems are put in place to reduce their carbon footprint and are focused on the prosperity of the communities in which they operate. Monitoring and conserving water usage, implementing renewable energy systems, eradicating single-use plastics from their F&B offerings and sourcing food from local farmers  are at the very minimum, some of the steps operators need to take. Also, corporate social responsibility must take precedence and be interwoven into the fabric and the culture of the operations making sure that local communities are benefiting from their presence. Moreover, their team members should be fairly paid, provided with training opportunities for professional growth, and systems should be put in place for a healthy work-life balance which is critical for a holistic people-centered approach. Investing in human capital with be a significant component of hospitality growth and ensuring its success.
Using tech to boost resilience and profitability
Big data and data-driven decision-making has become a formidable force relative to the future of the tourism and hospitality sectors. It plays a critical role in staying in tune with customer expectations and offers new ways of doing business that enhance the ability to respond and adapt in real-time. Operators are incorporating technology such as predictive analytics and customer profiling to shape their procedures and are implementing management systems that optimize and monitor revenues, properties, digital media channels and customer sentiment, and customer relationships. Such data provides insights that allow operators to hyper-personalize the customer’s experience to treat them as individuals and tailor promotions or offers to their specific needs, thus improving loyalty .
The future leading global destination
Saudi Arabia has set its sights on emerging as the leading destination for international and domestic travel. The Kingdom’s immense investment and legislative support have cultivated an economically stable environment that revolves around the well-being and financial success of its people, sustainability, and technologically driven solutions and digital infrastructure that improves their quality of life while maintaining important linkages to their heritage. Additionally, Vision 2030 has created the launchpad to ensure the fledgling tourism industry’s success in keeping pace with international best practices and current trends to secure the Kingdom’s evolution of becoming a key competitor amongst established players. The sum of these components addresses the present-day concerns of the modern traveler and provide the Kingdom with a significant competitive advantage offering unique world-class experiences with a touch of Saudi Hospitality.