Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference

14-16 April 2020 | Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, U.A.E


Tea Ros - Advisory Board Insights

Hear what Tea Ros learned during the pandemic and what she believes the future opportunities are for the hospitality industry.

Please introduce yourself & share what you have learned in the past year?

Tea Ros: Hi, my name is Tea Ros I am the Managing Director of Strategic Hotel Consulting. I am based in Switzerland, but I also spend a lot of time in the UAE and in the Middle East in general. It has been quite a year over the past 12 to 15 months like it's been for everyone, but there are quite a few very good learnings. I believe that the industry has learned along the way off the challenges that we've had. The number one learning, I would say, is that the risk profile of the industry has really being reassessed or it has changed in our minds and I think it's a good thing. So this idea that the entire industry globally could be pretty much just shut down from one day to another has really forced owners to rethink their cash flow position, their liquidity and the way they finance their projects. And this, I believe for the industry as a whole is a good thing. The second thing I would say we've learned is that it is a very good idea to diversify your customer segments and not just rely on one. Actually, the past year reminded me of discussions with one particular owner in the Maldives some years ago. How, over the past 10 years, a lot of owners started thinking about Oh, maybe we just target one seemingly more lucrative segment of the market, and in this particular case, they were going for a resort that was entirely designed for the Chinese guest. And I remembered asking well, what happens if the Chinese guest is not able to come to the Maldives? And, the answer was well, that would never happen. The market is growing. They will always be coming. There will always be more. And I didn't dare to ask over the past year how things have worked out, but I think that's the one thing we have all really learned that it's a very good idea to diversify your source markets and also the segments, if you can. But then also remember your markets close by - the domestic traveller, the staycations - very strong business, as we have learned in the UAE in particular. On the third point, I'd say collaboration. It's been great thing we've learned over the past year that we really need each other. We are much stronger when we work towards something together, so the collaboration is something it's been great to see between owners, operators and even on the government level. Now, if we look forward and think about what's the opportunities that's coming from all of this, I'd say the number one opportunities that at the moment there is massive interest towards travel tourism hospitality It's a great opportunity for hotels to really deliver and wow the guest. The other thing I'd say is that use of technology - we've been forced to learn how to use technology better and that's another great opportunity to learn how to to make more efficient hotels, how to have a leaner operating structure and the opportunity now is how we can maintain that to the future and develop it further and hopefully, the result will be operationally more profitable hotels. And maybe finally, the most exciting opportunity I see coming from this is the new guest, as I call it, which basically means that the guests, as we knew them, have changed. So we've all had to adapt to this situation over the past year, and we've changed our habits, our lifestyles, travel patterns or no travel at all and maybe even our own values. This has certainly impacted the way we're going to be travelling in the future. So even if you have a lot of customer data, it may not mean anything anymore. Hotels really have to learn to know this new guest. It works with things like working from home. How does that tie into their future hotel space? Maybe travelling less, but travelling for longer periods of times, travelling with or without families. Things like this will be a big learning curve for all of us, but it's a fantastic opportunity for the industry.

Many are calling this period the Great Reset. In your view, how should the industry build back better & rise together?

Tea Ros: collaboration. That is what it's gonna be coming out of this. It's been great to see the collaboration between many of the owners and operators over the past year and that's something we can extend further beyond the hospitality industry. So there is place for further collaboration between tourism authorities between airlines, even with the governments. It's very important that we have a seat at the table, as we have noticed over the past year. And I would even suggest something - to have a intraregional tourism play somewhere in the horizon because that is also very important, as we've learned in all parts of the world.

What key topics would you like to discuss at AHIC 2021?

Tea Ros: Well, if there is anything good that has come out of the past year, it is that we are not short of topics for AHIC this year. Here are a couple of topics I would suggest. One is technology and in particular, the use of technology. So we have spoken quite a lot in the past on what technology could look like in the future in hotels. What I would suggest to do now is to look on what have hotels done in the past year, what has been implemented, what has worked, what hasn't worked. What's the guest feedback? What do hoteliers think is here to stay? There could be already a lot of learnings from that. The other thing I'd like to discuss is this leaner operating models. So how has that worked from the labour point of view from other points of view and see what is sustainable moving forward? The third thing, which is a very interesting one, is to look at this psychology of the new guests. So how have the values maybe changed over the past year and what could be the new type of guests that hotels are seeing. Are we prepared for it? Are we ready to cater for this type of guests? Finally, my all time favourite topic. It's no surprise it is the health and fitness in hotels. So if there's one thing we've learned this year is that health in the end of the day is all we got. So there is enormous interest towards the topic from all consumers, including hotel guests. It would be interesting to hear how are hoteliers responding to this. What do they have in place? What are they thinking to accommodate to these new guest interests and preferences?

Why are you coming to AHIC 2021 and what are you most excited about it?

Tea Ros: I love AHIC. It's a phenomenal conference. It has always brought together everybody in the region and delivered incredible content. This year, I am particularly excited because we have Africa included, and I cannot wait to see all the industry colleagues in person.

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