Participants of various travel and tourism–related conferences, events and panel discussions being held across Saudi Arabia all concur on the need to rehabilitate and train industry professionals to keep up with global developments in areas such as IT. This, they explain, is necessary to provide local, regional and international tourists with exceptional experiences and spur development across the Kingdom’s travel and tourism market.

Participating at the 2012 Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, UAE, Ziyad Bin Mahfouz, President of the Elaf Group of Companies for Travel, Tourism and Hotels, discussed the radical changes currently taking place within all segments of the industry. He talked about how advances in IT have led to a shift from traditional systems and the establishment of new standards. This, Bin Mahfouz explained, requires closer monitoring of technology developments and how they can be tapped to attract more customers and better meet their needs.

Industry events have been emphasising the importance of conducting advanced training programs to produce qualified personnel and provide unique services that meet the requirements of travelers and tourists. Greater focus is recommended towards promoting creativity and innovation across the travel and tourism market which is in need of travel consultants rather than just ticket clerks, for example. IT development is playing a vital role across the industry as an effective means to obtain services in a quicker, easier and more reliable manner. Online booking, for one, has received highly positive response from customers and has driven tourism companies and travel agencies to invest in the latest systems and talents to achieve greater customer satisfaction.

Bin Mahfouz added that it is vital to adopt advanced IT systems that can support effective and convenient online services. Such systems, he said, promote competitiveness and help meet and exceed customer expectations.“Rapid changes and fast-paced digital developments have influenced the Elaf Group of Companies to undertake major investments across the Saudi travel, tourism and hospitality sectors and beyond to keep pace with international developments and resolve competitiveness-driven challenges to reach a wider segment of customers. Some of the areas we are focusing on are the installation of better IT systems, the expansion of our hotel portfolio, and advanced training to enable our personnel to meet the many needs of our customers,” said Bin Mahfouz.

“Our Group remains committed to providing a wide range of comprehensive services under the highest standards of quality and efficiency, following the best international practices. This is reflected by the several Excellence Awards that we have received in Saudi Arabia, such as the Best 4-star Hotel in KSA and Sales Professional Award of the Year in KSA. Such achievements motivate us to continue adopting the latest standards, systems and advanced technologies to maintain our leading position in the Kingdom and the region and ultimately become one of the world’s top travel, tourism and hospitality companies,” he added.

Industry reports indicate that several travel agencies are being affected by the industry’s weakening profitability and deteriorating service levels. Some have reportedly been either pushed out of the market or forced to merge with larger entities. Many are still struggling to meet the huge investments involved in training and technology adoption. They may suffer the same fate of other loss-making businesses unless they embrace effective strategies for addressing the changes and rapid developments being witnessed across the travel and tourism industry.

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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