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November 4, 2008

Good prognosis

Max Hitchins, internationally acclaimed speaker, hospitality marketing author and also known as ‘The Hospitality Doctor’, was one of the speakers at the 5th Annual Orion Congress held in Dubai in October.


Commenting on his diagnosis for the region, Hitchins told meetme: “It looks like the Middle East is unaware of what is happening around the world and seems unaffected by the economic downturn. I am thrilled by the fact that the UAE is jam-packed with so much happening and I attribute it to the cleverness in the way everything has been structured. It looks like the problems affecting the world over will not affect the UAE because of the cleverness in the way everything has been structured and the forethought that has gone into the vision of this nation.”


Being an internet marketing expert, Hitchins contends that online marketing is not used as effectively in the Middle East. “But, that is the case in most places around the world as the hospitality industry worldwide hasn’t really understood how much internet marketing can contribute and how much it will grow.


“One of the major paradigm shifts is what is called cloud computing, which will change the rules of how the internet is used. Simply put, cloud computing is about making operations easy. Instead of numerous laptops, desktops and networks as well as the connectivity and programme compatibility problems that go with it, cloud computing will only need an interface to get to the ‘cloud’ and everything else is standardised. There will be only five or six giant computers controlling everything. Programmes, storages, backups etc. will become a thing of the past. I can see this happening in the next two or three years as the process has already started with Googledoc and Google calendar,” he said.


Hitchins sees the lack of mid-range hotels in the region as an opportunity lost. But being the eternal optimist, he said, “The good part is that it is a whole new market that can be tapped into. If the luxury market gets affected by the economic crisis, hotels still have a market that hasn’t been still addressed”


Commenting on the green agenda, Hitchins said, “The awareness is gathering pace around the world and is now filtering down to the end-user as well. A recent statistic showed that six out of eight people polled in the US said they would eat at restaurants that have some sort of a green scheme. I appreciate the fact that there are certain fundamental restrictions in the Middle East such as the harsh climate that necessitates air-conditioning etc. and I think the world understands that as well. What is needed is some creative thinking on what else can be done.”


According to Hitchins, China will be one of the emerging markets, both as a source market as well as a destination. Singapore too will remain a strong contender as it has taken strategic steps to establish itself as a destination for the conferences and meetings market, but in the Middle East Dubai will continue to lead the way.

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