08 May 2019

Ritesh Agarwal, CEO and founder, OYO Hotels & Homes

Indian-born, high-end hotel and serviced apartment operator, OYO Hotels & Homes, has big ambitions for further growth in the Middle East. Here, the group’s CEO and founder, Ritesh Agarwal, talks about customising the offering for the regional market and using the latest tech innovations to revolutionise the guest experience.

TTG: What is your latest news and what do you have planned for 2019 in terms of further development?

2019 has been an eventful year for us and the rest of the year will also be important as we aim to strengthen our presence in the Middle East. OYO Hotels & Homes has re-engineered quality living spaces for the world, and we are proud to mention that OYO has emerged as the dependable hospitality brand of choice. We recently commenced our operations in Saudi Arabia to address the needs of several million pilgrims who visit the county each year. We are committed to creating quality, affordable living spaces and are on track to create close to 5,000 jobs for the young people of Saudi Arabia by 2020.

The expansion, therefore, is in line with our quest to support Saudi Arabia’s blossoming hospitality ecosystem and creating infrastructure for asset owners to grow and run successful businesses, all of this while ensuring high standards of quality. We are honoured and delighted to support the Saudi government’s vision 2030 and are committed to investing in the multi-billion-dollar opportunity in the hospitality industry in the country. 

In the UAE we are on par to meet the targets we set for ourselves when we started our journey in the region. OYO currently manages over 1,300 exclusive rooms across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman. We have already welcomed over 120,000 guests from 80 countries in more than 20 hotels located across these five emirates and 40 homes in Dubai since the launch in April 2018.

TTG: What major developments or infrastructural enhancements are you aware of that are expected to, or are already changing the face of the UAE?

The UAE is extremely dynamic and there is something new and innovative being introduced every day. There are several new projects that are undertaken every few months, which are world class in nature. Whether it is the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, Warner Brothers Theme Park or the good old global village, the destination has something for every type of a traveller. We at OYO Hotels, understand the Middle Eastern market and have customised our tech and offerings as per the region’s needs. OYO utilises the power of technology not just to ensure a smooth guest experience but also help our asset owners in taking informed and fact-based decisions when it comes to managing and operating any property.

TTG: What current luxury travel trends are shaping and influencing the luxury travel and tourism sector?

Currently, with the tourism industry on the rise, several international business and luxury travellers are exploring the tremendous potential of the Middle East by understanding the culture, tastes and preferences. Tourists visit the region to explore and enjoy the experiences that the city or country has to offer. For today’s traveller, luxury means a technology savvy, safe, clean and pleasant accommodation experience within the heart of the city. We are proud to be at the forefront of this technology revolution and will continue to deliver quality-assured accommodation experience to our guests.

TTG: How does the region’s luxury travel sector always stay ahead of the innovation curve and what is the future of luxury travel innovation?   

Over the past few years we have seen the region’s travel sector embracing technology throughout categories including luxury, mid-market and economy. With advances in AI, CRM, POS, IoT, cloud computing, voice/facial recognition, biometrics, VR/AR, the sky is the limit. These terms aren’t just buzzwords; they will completely revolutionise the guest experience and the way we manage hotels. It will change the way we search for accommodations, book our stay, check in, order room service, use the facilities, search for experiences, check out and then gauge our satisfaction levels – all with a click of a button.

The future is now. The hospitality industry is one of the early adopters of technology and it is constantly evolving at breakneck speed.  

The core objective of the tech overdrive is to ensure that the customers are served correctly, and they only have to focus on having a great time rather than worry about their basic essentials. At OYO Hotels and Homes, we continue to invest in IoT, AI, machine learnings and other such next-gen technologies to take the hospitality experience of all our stakeholders to a notch above in the years to come.