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4 key hospitality trends in UAE 2023

Discover the most important hospitality trends that are shaping the guest experiences and hotel operations in the UAE and globally.

23 January, 2024
 ·  7 minutes

The UAE has been starring as a desired winter destination on a global level, offering a luxurious escape from the low temperatures. As we approach the end of 2023, the biggest hotels in Dubai and its neighboring emirates are gearing up for the upcoming peak season.

Dubai's tourism industry is poised for remarkable growth in the years ahead, and it continues to play a significant role in the emirate's economy, especially after the following success of Expo 2020 and the Qatar World Cup.

With visitors flying in from different corners of the globe, expectations, desires, and even payment methods can vary. Adapting to these differences using advanced solutions has become a necessity. In this blog, our goal is to focus on the most impactful hospitality trends, providing insights based on local research, to help hospitality businesses stay ahead of the competition.

1. Seeking unique experiences


Today's guests are seeking more than just comfortable stays; craving those everlasting, 'Instagrammable' moments. They're looking for added value in what they pay for, and many hospitality businesses in the UAE are excelling in delivering just that. Take Atlantis, The Palm, for instance—a remarkable ocean-themed destination resort along the coast of the Palm Jumeirah. They crafted a luxurious experience topped with convenience, so guests can fully immerse in the moment. In an effort to ensure comfort, they’ve seamlessly integrated with Adyen's technology. By allowing Atlantis guests to pay via wearable devices, they can now move freely across the waterpark without holding phones or wallets. 

"With Adyen, we are able to accept payments on wearable devices. This allows our guests to move freely and enjoy Aquaventure Waterpark and its facilities without having to carry wallets, cards, or phones."

Anthony Lynsdale, Vice President Information Technology, Atlantis Dubai

Guests also desire personalized experiences. They want to feel special, and hotels can achieve this by identifying their preferences and tailoring experiences to suit them. This personal touch extends from welcome baskets and in-room services to promotions and room upgrades.

So what?

Innovative solutions can offer a great opportunity for UAE hospitality businesses to try something new and go beyond their usual services.

In fact, 78% of UAE hospitality businesses are considering becoming "experience centers," letting guests connect more closely with their brand. Another 75% noticed improved conversion rates with personalization. After all, guests are willing to pay a bit more for experiences tailored just for them

Now what?

Identifying each guest preference is an impossible mission, but with consolidated data, it becomes an easy goal to achieve. The demand for personalization is becoming more prevalent, especially when guests want brands to resonate with them.

To enhance guest experiences, hotels can personalize their upsells and cross-sells, ranging from room upgrades and transportation to food and beverage amenities.

Different guests may prefer various check-in and check-out options. For instance, business travelers often prioritize a swift process, favoring self-check-in kiosks or mobile check-ins to get to their rooms quickly for rest or work.

Hotels can also guide their guests who are seeking an authentic experience. For instance, some hotels in the UAE provide safari, diving, and surfing recommendations, and partner up with local businesses to ease the process.

2. Seamless stays: How unified commerce can transform hotels and guests


Gone are the days when guests had to call hotels or use travel agents to book rooms, and paying in-person was the norm. In 2000, online bookings were a big deal. Now, it's just how things are done.

Today, most hotel reservations happen online, either through travel agencies, the hotel's website, or its app.

Payment is made through various channels, online and in-person. In 2022, 71% of UAE guests paid for their trips online, while 26% paid in-person.

So what?

We're currently navigating an era defined by consumer flexibility and choice. If guests can't find what they're looking for, they won't hesitate to explore other hotels or reservation options. 57% of UAE guests opt out of completing reservations if they can't use their preferred payment method.

In 2022, 38% of hospitality businesses in the UAE acknowledged this trend and adapted by providing a range of payment options—both online and in-person—to accommodate the diverse preferences of their guests.

Now what?

It’s not enough to offer more payment methods or channels. How it’s done matters. With payments, it’s about quality, not just quantity. 

A significant problem with most payment setups in the hospitality industry is that there are separate backend systems and payment providers for each payment channel. So while guests can engage with the hotel on premise or through mobile apps, the payment journeys remain separate and feed into disconnected systems.

Disconnected systems and fragmentation mean more operational hassle, costs, and lost insights for the business. Guests can also experience the brand inconsistently, sometimes to the extent of experiencing separate brands and not one.

Omnichannel solutions, like Unified Commerce, unify all systems, whether customer-facing or backend. Whenever a hotel adds a new channel, it gets connected to the other payment systems on a single platform that has all data from across the hotel’s different departments and properties. 

This makes it easier for the staff to stay on top of their tasks and answer guest needs faster and with a more personalized element.

3. Rising threats, need strong defenses


Hospitality is one of the industries most prone to cyberattacks. In 2022, over a third of hospitality businesses in the UAE 32% experienced increased payment fraud attempts. Another 42% experienced data leaks.

At the same time, compliance with security regulations like the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard and the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) remains difficult and time consuming. Many hotels face challenges when setting up and implementing security measures that meet these constantly changing requirements. These range from outdated systems to a shortage of staff and technological resources.

So what?

Rising fraud brings significant costs, loss of sensitive data, and reputational damage to hotels. The average cost of a breach in the industry is estimated at $3.4 million

Non-compliance also results in hefty fines. For example, fines for not meeting the PCI requirements may range anywhere from $5000 to $100,000 per month, and this is only for the first three months of non-compliance. 

There are other penalties as well. For example, hotels that aren’t PCI compliant could lose their ability to process credit card payments. Hotels can’t afford this because card payments rank at the top in the industry, accounting for 44% of worldwide transactions in 2022.

Now what?

Hotels can work with the right fintech partner to implement a compliant security system that addresses all stages in the payments data lifecycle, from collection and transfer to processing, storage, and disposal. 

New cybersecurity solutions are frequently launched and hotels can choose what suits their business needs. Notable among these is tokenization.

Tokenization converts a guest’s payment data into a string of randomized numbers, or tokens, so that it can be safely stored and shared between hotels and their different partners. It’s a PCI-compliant solution that also brings about a host of benefits, like operational agility, automation, and insights-driven personalization. And it lets guests move without their wallets and still pay for drinks, meals, and spa treatments at hotels. In a nutshell, more security with style.

4. The impact of automation on hotel operations


Many hotels still rely on manual processes in their daily operations. 

Staff may manually register a guest into the system at the reception or type the payment details which a guest shares over the phone to complete reservations. 

Payment reconciliation is also largely manual, with only 22% of hospitality businesses having centralized reconciliation across all sales channels. This means that the finance team manually checks each of the hotel’s sales transactions, through all payment channels and methods. And they must spot inconsistencies between the hotel’s own sales data and the data from the payment service providers.

So what?

Manual tasks in hotels are resource intensive, time consuming, and inefficient. Staff may lose track of completed and pending tasks, like which hotel rooms to clean next. Updating room availability across the numerous distribution channels and travel agencies also takes up significant time if done manually and it’s prone to errors like double bookings. 

Now what?

Automation helps meet this challenge. It doesn’t replace staff or substitute human interaction. Instead, it optimizes workflows.

Solutions like contactless payments, mobile check-ins, real-time payments data, and tokenization aren’t just nice-to-haves. They allow hotels to accurately and swiftly capture guest data and payment details. 

The hotel’s front desk staff doesn’t waste time manually entering card details onto payment terminals. They can instead focus on engaging with guests and answering their requests faster. They can also identify repeat guests and personalize their stays. 

And a smooth integration with key partners (like booking engines and property management systems) provides insights into the exact booking status of rooms for a more straightforward reservation process. 

Hotels can then apply better pricing strategies, adjusting the rates depending on the market demand, room types, and guest segments. They can also reduce the workload of finance teams by up to 10 hours by automating reconciliation and removing the need to conduct night audits.

A payments strategy fit for hotels and guests

Payments in hospitality aren’t just about revenues, costs, and transactions. They’re part of the overall business operations and customer experience. So having the right payments setup matters.

That’s why we delved into the world of financial technology and payments in our 2023 UAE Hospitality Trends to share actionable insights into how hospitality businesses can upgrade their payments.

And we added a giveaway: A checklist that businesses can use to evaluate their current payments framework and identify any gaps in it.

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