February 4, 2021

UAE & Israel relations: New frontiers in tourism and how tech entrepreneurs can pivot their solutions to the hospitality & travel business

Gal Shefer

Gal SheferNov 14, 2020·5 min read

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  • Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management together with Jumeirah Group and Kinneret College to hold a Webinar and discuss collaborations between Israel & UAE around travel tech.
  • New Opportunities for tech startups emerged from signing ‘Abraham Accords’ and changes in users’ behaviors, post covid.
  • Jumeirah Group (Part of Dubai-Holding) to evaluate engagement with Israeli tech startups around hospitality & travel tech.
  • Tips for Enrepronouns who are looking to pivot their solution to the travel & hospitality industry and to raise funding.

The recent year has significantly impacted the tourism & hospitality industry. The series of lockdowns and the air routes closures have made its chord on a global scale; tourism is turning to domestic. surveys show that most Europeans are not planning to leave Europe in the next 6 months.

On the more optimistic side of things, following the signing of the ‘Abraham Accords’, we see emerging tourism ties between Israel and UAE with new opportunities coming for tech-related solutions to hospitality & travel.

The hospitality industry is experiencing a huge transformation in human behavior in terms of the adoption of digital solutions and surging demand for mobile-first remote services. this leads to the uprising of new digital products, targeted to bring solutions to an “under disruption” industry.

There are obviously new opportunities for startups to pivot their solutions from other industries, as other industries are facing the same disruptions in human behavior.

A hotel lobby shares many similarities to a lobby of an office building or an airport lounge, in terms of the capacity of the guest crossing. Also, a hotel room has many similarities to a plane seat, as the user wants it to be 100% sterilized following the last passenger. A recent trend is that covid pushes forward the digital transformation of the hospitality & travel industry, and this is good news in many terms.

I’ve recently been focusing on user-centric solutions that have been proven effective in other industries. I would like to present you with 3 Israeli founders that are in the pre-visibility stages of POC with the ‘Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management’, which is a strategic business unit of the ‘Jumeirah group’:

Jonathan Heller, co-founder of Pool-Purity that had pivoted their pool purifying solution to the hospitality industry. At first, the product been used to purifying ‘Mikvehs’ (a traditional bath used for ritual immersion in Judaism). Their technology kills bacterias & viruses in waters, including covid viruses, and makes the hotel swimming pools safe and clean to use. This restores the confidence of guests and increases the useability of pools, plus the guests’ satisfaction. https://www.poolpurity.com/

Nimrod May, Commercial Director of Sonarax that had pivoted their ‘ultrasonic data over sound waves’ connectivity protocol for use in hospitality. Since the covid pandemic, They’ve developed the most accurate ‘RT contact tracing platform’ in the world which uses sound waves to communicate and protect the health of hotel guests and employees. https://www.sonarax.com/

Roei Friedberg, VP Sales of Aura-air that had pivoted their air-purify solution to hospitality. They’ve developed the word smartest air-management platform that detects the indoor air quality, adapts the AC functions, and actively purifies and disinfects the air from viruses, bacterias, mold including covid viruses, along with optimizing the energy consumption of the AC systems. https://www.auraair.io/

What can tech do to provide solutions for hospitality and tourism businesses?

As of today, only in Israel, there are over 7,000 active startups, 300 of them are travel tech-related startups. I assume that over 500 startups have pivoted their solutions to covid related solutions. There are many more user-centric use-cases to be tested — some are active, such as using voice to control IoT devices, and some are passive, such as leveraging AI data out of sensors. There are also B2B solutions that leverage data to generate more revues by optimizing the hospitality IT systems.

Question is, how far the hospitality leaders are willing to go in terms of adopting tech innovation and how will it affect the guest experience? The solution must be implemented in a way that the guest experience is not affected by issues such as privacy, and the data must be 100% secured at all times.

Given the current situation, how do you convince the hospitality industry to invest in tech solutions?

I think this question is very relevant these days as the industry is looking for the direct return of investment out of every new tech future that is being implemented. And, because of the situation, the return models are being challenged. Therefore — the importance of performing in-site Real-Time MVPs / Demos of the solutions, for a certain time period. We, as tech leaders, must suggest new ways to measure the KPI’s of the projects and show relevant value proposition to convince the industry that they can find direct returns and move quickly to the production stage fast.

We are expecting to see the demand for hospitality to recover slowly in the next months to come, and yet to see more supply than demand; therefore, we’re going to see enhanced competition – I expect that hotel chains that will adopt innovation faster will be able to better compete and win those guests who are willing to travel during this times.

Israel is a leader in tech and UAE being a leader in Hospitality and tourism, what opportunities can this collaboration bring?

We have lots to learn from each other — I’d say UAE has the potential of becoming a leader in tech in the region, as Israel has the potential in becoming a leader in hospitality and tourism. Abraham’s accords surely stimulate this process. The Israeli tech startups can benefit from the market reach of UAE and scale-up in a region of over 1 billion people as the UAE hospitality & travel industry can benefit from a wider range of tech solutions.

There are many great opportunities in academic collaborations — both academies can share research around tourism & hospitality as well as student exchange programs, conventions, etc.; Israeli mentors with experience in launching successful startups can share their knowledge through these platforms.

Recently, the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management from UAE and Kinneret College from Israel have started deligations toward such collaboration. Jumeirah Hotels Group has started examining the implementation of Israeli tech solutions. Emirates Airlines has signed 4 Israeli startups in their next accelerator batch (out of 10 in total).

I believe that shortly, we will hear of many new joint-ventures coming out of this kind of collaborations between the academies and between the Israeli “booming” tech scene and the UAE hospitality & travel industry.

This article is based on a Webinar held on November 10th, 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfjOFFzDwIM