As I sat on my flight home from Dubai, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past few days: my experience in the Middle East, and the incredible size and scale of everything in Dubai. Things are growing there at a rate that I can’t begin to describe, and that, of course, means the hospitality industry is booming there as well.

Dubai HTS Conference

Dubai is home to the first 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, which shuttles you from the airport in a helicopter and provides you a dedicated butler and personal in-suite chef, and the world’s tallest hotel: the JW Marriott Marquis. The sheer number of 4 and 5 star hotels there is staggering, and everywhere you look there are huge cranes working 24 hours a day on even more. There are currently 64,000 keys in Dubai, with 27,000 more coming in the next three years.

The purpose of my visit was to represent HFTP at the Hotel Technology Summit, where I was honored as the event’s chairperson. I spoke on guest- centricity, investing in technology, the generational divide and how to build an open integrated world. Held at the beautiful Sofitel Dubai The Palm Hotel and Resort on the outer crescent of the Palm Jumeirah, this two-day summit was a mix of education, networking, vendor speed dating and scheduled one-on-one meetings. The education was well-planned, the speakers were dynamic and the topics were extremely relevant — not just specific to the Middle East, but for the global hospitality industry at large. It was a great event produced by Naseba, and I am proud that HFTP was the association sponsor.

Having recently attended conferences in the U.S., China, Indonesia and now Dubai, it was interesting to hear firsthand that we are all facing the same problems: data security, attracting and retaining Gen Y and Gen Z customers AND employees, the need for innovation and disruption, IT Executives “getting a seat at the table”, and of course, WiFi should be fast and free. The highlight for me, though, was the presentation by Hideo Sawada, President of Huis Ten Bosch, as he showed us his all-robot staffed Henn-na Hotel, where you are checked in by a dinosaur. It is always good to see visionaries step up and build something new and unproven.

And speaking of visionaries, my favorite quote of the conference came from Mahmoud Kamal, chief information officer of Al Habtoor Hotels, when he asked us to decide if we are visionaries or leaders, because they aren’t necessarily the same thing. I couldn’t agree more. If you are a follower, that is fine, but follow fast and don’t slow progress. If you are a visionary, don’t be afraid to take a chance and speak up. And if you are a leader, surround yourself with visionaries and help lead the whole industry forward.

Whatever path you choose, take advantage of the services and events provided by HFTP and our allied partners like Naseba. Get involved, come together to discuss your problems, and then work together to solve them. Bringing people together is one of the things that HFTP is best at, because we know that together we are all stronger.

Lyle Worthington