Complex Made Simple

Can media, events and tech save hospitality from a slowdown?

AMEinfo spoke exclusively to Philippe Leboeuf, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Paris, about what's shaping the global travel and hospitality industry.

Tourist trips to Saudi Arabia are expected to rise to 93.8 million by 2023, a Colliers International study shows Digital transformation, blockchain, AI and AR-driven technology are catalysts to the upcoming tourism boom "New technologies, social networks, digital marketing are inescapable in the hotel industry today"

Ten years ago, the first hospitality and travel mobile applications began to hit the market. There was no Instagram, and Facebook had just added a “Like” button next to posts. Through the past decade, the rise of social media and other digital innovations have completely transformed travel and hospitality businesses around the globe. 

Despite geopolitical tensions, volatility in oil prices, softening demand, and a looming global economic slowdown, the global luxury hotel market share is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6 percent from 147.57 billion in 2018, to 194.63 billion in 2021, and then to 211.54 by 2025, according to the recent Zion Market Research report. 

"Social media is a fantastic opportunity to communicate directly with our guests and the potential ones. It is the new word of mouth. It also helps us to communicate with younger people, maybe our future customers. It is a very useful tool to provide day to day news about the hotel and keep the dream alive!" said Philippe Leboeuf, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Paris, speaking exclusively to AMEinfo.

Inbound tourism visitor growth worldwide from 2008 to 2020, by region

The hospitality sector is also witnessing a higher-than-expected growth in emerging markets such as Asia, South East Asia, and the Middle East. The total number of tourist trips to Saudi Arabia is expected to rise to 93.8 million by 2023, a Colliers International study indicates. Events such as the Expo 2020, AFC Asian Cup, Special Olympic World Games, have seen a tourism boom in the UAE as well. Currently, the tourism sector contributes more than AED 161 billion to the UAE national GDP – a figure that is likely to reach AED 234.2 billion by 2027. This data is particularly interesting given that Brexit, trade tensions, and a struggling global economy have caused companies and individuals alike to tighten their purse-strings. 

“Asia and South East Asia are very dynamic markets with incredible potential. Of course, Mandarin Oriental is very well established in this market with 13 hotels and plans to strengthen its significant investment. The Group has just opened its first property in Beijing, Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing recently. It plans to potentially open a second in Beijing. The Middle East also remains very attractive. The opening in 2019 of the group’s first two properties in the Middle East in Dubai and Doha proves the market attractiveness,” Leboeuf said.

Speaking about the growing tourism trends in the region, Leboeuf commented on ‘B-Leisure’ – the coming together of business and leisure, which is changing the way the hospitality and travel industries engage with their customers. 

“Most of our clients, up to 31 percent, come to us for business reasons and like to extend their stay for a shopping spree or to discover the cultural landmarks and monuments of the French capital. The other trend I can notice is that sustainable development is even more considered in the luxury hospitality business. It is now a true selection criterion for many business and leisure customers. Mandarin Oriental, Paris has been recognized as an eco-responsible hotel and is the first hotel in France to obtain the High-Quality Environment certification (HQE). Recognition as an eco-responsible HQE building enables the property to save 20 to 30 percent in energy consumption when compared to a non-HQE building. The entire life of the hotel is organized around this goal,” Leboeuf said.

Digital travel sales worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)

With discussions revolving around digital transformation, blockchain, AI and AR-driven technology, the hotel industry is also robustly adopting new technologies to enhance customization and personalization for its customers. Indeed, online bookings have increased tremendously over the last 5 years. Consumers have been spoilt for choice, but a new generation of customers is also looking for enhanced experiences. Apart from spending the extra couple of minutes looking for payment incentives, package deals, and cheapest prices, the millennial generation is also looking for the most personalized and memorable experiences.

“Agencies remain essential and have a key role in creating the best forms of personalized stays and services. New technologies, social networks, digital marketing are inescapable in the hotel industry today. We constantly need to strengthen ourselves in new technologies that move very fast. Social media is an excellent example as it helps us to reinforce our relationship with our guest,” Leboeuf added.

Philippe Leboeuf also commented on the importance of women empowerment in the hospitality industry. “Indeed, my mother was a strong driving force in my personal and professional life. This strong relationship influenced my vision of the woman place in society. I make a point to elevate women in the workplace. In my daily morning meeting, over half the leading staff members present are women. It’s important for me to see women rise and have women be in key positions,” Leboeuf concluded.