Machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way you do business, GCC tourism firms told at ATM 2019

Machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way you do business, GCC tourism firms told at ATM 2019
  • Companies that embrace innovation will be best placed to ‘sell travel’ to Gulf customers, according to panellists at ATM 2019
  • Striking the right balance between high-tech and high-touch will be a key consideration for GCC hospitality and travel operators
  • Global sales of public relations robots projected to hit 66,000 units by 2020


Technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to transform the GCC’s hospitality and travel sectors, but regional operators must strike the right balance between high-tech and high-touch.


This was the message from industry experts participating in Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, who told attendees that – if implemented effectively – the latest innovations will help them to ‘sell travel’ more effectively in the future.


Technologies such as virtual reality (VR), robotic assistants and AI chatbots are already facilitating smoother customer experiences across the industry. Global sales of public relations robots are forecasted to hit 66,000 units by 2020, and beacon technology applications in the hospitality sector are projected to be worth USD 72 billion by 2026.


Charbel Sarkis, Regional Head of Travel and Hospitality, Retail and eCommerce – MENA, Google, said: “Machine learning is not something that’s going to happen in the future. It’s happening right now.


“The assistance this type of technology provides is very smart. By predicting our behaviour, it can personalise the entire travel experience. If I’m a first-time visitor to Rome, for example, I have different expectations than someone who has been five times before and is returning on business. Machine learning can help to customise the offerings we receive.”


Innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) could also lead to increased back-of-house efficiency for the sectors such as aviation. Implementing the technology to improve unplanned maintenance costs by just one per cent, for instance, could generate industry-wide savings of up to USD 250 million per annum, according to research conducted by Colliers on behalf of ATM.


Matt Raos, Senior Vice President Business to Business – Corporate and Leisure, Emirates, called for GCC travel operators to enhance the end-to-end customer journey by implementing technologies collaboratively.


“The challenge we have is that we’re part of a broader ecosystem,” Raos said. “There is no one player that can do everything for everyone on their own. We need to acknowledge that we’re participants in this ecosystem and find ways to collaborate so that we can deliver the things that customers want.


“It’s about making the whole industry work together and proceed at a pace that’s not set by the slowest participant in the chain.”


Machine learning and AI-driven innovations such as robot concierges and butlers, as well as facial recognition and room customisation technology, are becoming increasingly popular in the international hotel sector. However, some GCC brands have been reluctant to implement innovations due to high customer expectations that have been driven by the region’s highly trained hospitality professionals.


Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Average IT investment by hotels currently stands at four per cent, yet almost three quarters of all manual activities in the hospitality industry have the potential to be automated. There is clearly huge potential for our industry to benefit from technology implementation.


“Nevertheless, the GCC’s hospitality and travel sectors have built up a global reputation based on high-quality, face-to-face service, so it is vital that the region strikes the right balance between high-tech and high-touch. In the longer term, companies operating in the Middle East’s tourism segment are likely to remain committed to human interaction, but with the assistance of technology.”


Running until Wednesday, 1 May, ATM 2019 will see more than 2,500 exhibitors showcase their products and services at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). Viewed by industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) tourism sector, last year’s edition of ATM welcomed 39,000 people, representing the largest exhibition in the history of the show.


For full details of the ATM 2019 event programme, visit:


For more information about ATM 2019, visit:




About Arabian Travel Market (ATM)

Arabian Travel Market is the leading international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2018 attracted almost 40,000 industry professionals, with representation from 141 countries over the four days. The 25th edition of ATM showcased over 2,500 exhibiting companies across 12 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre.  Arabian Travel Market 2019 will take place in Dubai from Sunday, 28 April to Wednesday, 1 May, 2019. To find out more, please visit:


About Arabian Travel Week

Arabian Travel Week is an umbrella brand comprising four co-located shows including Arabian Travel Market and ILTM Arabia, as well as CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa – a new route development forum launching this year and ATM’s first ever consumer event ATM Holiday Shopper. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector – under one roof over the course of one week – the inaugural Arabian Travel Week will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from Saturday 27 April to Wednesday 1 May, 2019. For more information visit:



CONNECT Route Development Forum delivers a total networking experience, bringing together airports, airlines and aviation suppliers in a format that offers formal one-to-one pre-arranged meetings, engaging industry seminars together with social opportunities to cement relationships with existing clients and engage with new ones. Created and organised by The Airport Agency-France, CONNECT is now in its 16th year and set to attract more 650 participants in June 2019 at its flagship event taking place in Cagliari, Sardinia. For more information, visit:


The inaugural CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa event will be the brand’s first and only networking forum in the Middle East. Ideally located in Dubai to address the booming aviation market of the Middle East, it will bring together the aviation and the tourism industries, which are the backbone and catalyst of economic development. For more information, visit:


About ATM Holiday Shopper

ATM Holiday Shopper is the brand-new travel event for consumers offering the very best travel and tourism discounts and deals, plus the chance to learn about a range of emerging and unexplored destinations and activities from destinations around the world.  The inaugural event will take place in Hall 1 of the Dubai World Trade Centre on Saturday, 27 April, 2019 from 12:00 – 20:00. For more information, visit:


About ILTM Arabia

International Luxury Travel Market Arabia is an exclusive event for those looking to attract HNW travellers from the Middle East to their destination. Returning for its third year, ILTM will allow international luxury suppliers and key luxury buyers to connect via one-to-one pre-scheduled appointments and networking opportunities. ILTM will take place on Sunday 28th April and Monday 29th April 2019. For more information, visit:


About Reed Exhibitions

Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events business, enhancing the power of face to face through data and digital tools at over 500 events a year, in more than 30 countries, attracting more than seven million participants.


About Reed Travel Exhibitions

Reed Travel Exhibitions is the world’s leading travel and tourism events organiser with a growing portfolio of more than 22 international travel and tourism trade events in Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our events are market leaders in their sectors, whether it is global and regional leisure travel trade events, or specialist events for meetings, incentives, conference, events (MICE) industry, business travel, luxury travel, travel technology as well as golf, spa and ski travel. We have over 35 years’ experience in organising world-leading travel exhibitions.


About World Travel Market

World Travel Market (WTM) portfolio comprises six leading B2B events across four continents, generating more than USD 7 billion of industry deals. These events include:


WTM London, a must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. About 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating about GBP 3.4 billion of travel industry contracts. The next edition will take place from 4-6 November, 2019. For more information, visit:


Travel Forward, a new travel technology event co-located with WTM London and part of the WTM portfolio of events. The inaugural Travel Forward conference, exhibition and buyer programme will take place from 4-6 November, 2019 at ExCeL London, showcasing next-generation technology for travel and hospitality. For more information, visit:


WTM Latin America, an exhibition that attracts about 9,000 senior executives and generates about USD 374 million of new business. Taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this show attracts a global audience to meet and shape the direction of the travel industry. More than 8,000 unique visitors attend the event to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry news. The next edition will take place in 2020. For more information, visit:


WTM Africa, which was launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly 5,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors. The next event will take place in 2020. For more information, visit:


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