Technology keeps the customer centre-stage
BY: Danelle Wyper, MEED
Hotel and resort developers are demanding effective deployment of digital data innovations to optimise project delivery, asset performance and customer service
Few industries have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as severely as the Middle East hospitality and tourism sector. The collapse in international travel has seen visitor numbers tumble, while social distancing has reduced hotel and resort capacity.
Despite the disruption, tourism remains central to the region’s development plans, and investment in major resorts and leisure facilities continues across the Middle East and North Africa.
Measures taken by developers and operators to enable them to work through lockdowns and enable social distancing have accelerated the adoption of digital technology on tourism projects, with potentially far reaching consequences.
Collaborative remote working platforms, automation, robotics, sensors and drones are increasingly being used to deliver hospitality projects safely, while also improving construction efficiency and predictability.
Key to the digitalisation process is the ever-evolving building information modelling (BIM) systems.
At its most basic, BIM is a three-dimensional building design that can be accessed and updated by multiple stakeholders enabling better collaboration and integration of processes.
But the full potential of the BIM was realised by many companies during the pandemic as it was leveraged to enable remote working practices.
“BIM is a full asset lifecycle management tool that can bring all the elements from the construction site to the supply chain,” says Sherief Elabd, director of strategy and innovation at Oracle Construction and Engineering. “It is increasingly used for remote progress monitoring and data collection, which brings reality into the model.”
Elabd was speaking at ‘Rising to the Challenge’, a special webinar from MEED together with Oracle Construction and Engineering, that looked at how hotel and resort developers have adapted to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While traditionally seen as a digital tool to improve project delivery, the value of the BIM ‘digital twin’ does not end when construction stops.
Watch the highlights here:
Hotel and resort owners and operators are increasingly focused on the need use technology to provide a seamless experience for a new generation of tech-savvy guests who expect ‘smart destinations’.
Speaking at Rising to the Challenge, David Glennon, the digital delivery director at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), said that digital twins – virtual representations of a development that enable real-time monitoring and management – are the cornerstone of smart destinations and may be key to delivering a more seamless, luxurious experience for guests.
Glennon says that reusing information that has been captured during design and construction to create a model that can be layered with ongoing data capture, could enable more smart services.
“We’ve started to do that now,” he says. “We’ve already got the models, we’re starting to use the sensors.”
“I’d like to see us starting to pull that information from the operations of the hotel to help us inform what future design looks like,” says Glennon. “If we can start to measure the customer experience, understand where the customer finds value, that can help with future developments.”
Ali Nimer, executive director of digital and technology at Abu Dhabi asset management company Miral, explained that the customer experience was also central to their digital innovation decisions. The company is developing a system that assigns a unique identity for all customers to enhance its service provision.
“Anyone who touches any of our digital channels – e commerce, download and app, buy a ticket, connect to our wifi – must register for a digital identity,” says Nimer.
“The more you interact within our assets, the more we get to know about you, your preferences, your interests, to make the experience as personalised and as customised as possible.”