Dubai-based Aleph Hospitality has launched its Innovation Lab to incubate pre-seed stage start-ups that may have solutions to the sector’s problems

Haddad is optimistic there are answers to the pressing challenges and that the Innovation lab can help find them.

A Dubai-based independent hotel management company is looking to the region’s start-ups to assist in the overall recovery of the hospitality industry.

Most aspects of the sector – from guest relations and services to the role artificial intelligence plays – have been shaken up as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

And there appears more questions than anyone in the UAE’s hospitality industry has answers for.

The Innovation Lab is accepting applications now, looking for start-ups with solutions for how AI can be incorporated across the sector, among other areas.

“We’re also looking at some other areas such as gift services, employee services, and community services,” Haddad said. “The other area we are hoping to cover with this initiative is related to the technology and everything that makes the consumer journey easier, faster, and as compact as possible.”

Covid-19 spurred an interest in alternative management solutions and services, and Aleph Hospitality doubled their portfolio during this period, the founder said.

On the flip said, Haddad said they’re also looking at employee satisfaction.

The Innovation Lab is accepting applications, looking for start-ups with solutions for how AI can be incorporated across the sector, among other areas.

“It’s an industry which is suffering from a lack of talent and suffering from [a lack of] attractiveness. And what we’re seeing in many parts of the world today are employees who have been made redundant,” he said. “And now that the industry is starting to pick up again, they’re not asking to come back to the hospitality industry anymore. So we’re hoping that some of these start-ups will have ideas which will help us attract talent and human resources.”

Perceived job insecurity in the industry has been found to exacerbate the fear of economic crisis, non-employability, and mental health, a 2021 study that assessed over 300 workers in the sector published in the Journal of Open Innovation found.

Little data from the Middle East region exists on the topic, but in the US, an estimated 4 million hotel and restaurant workers lost their job during the pandemic, with many of them shifting gears, rather than re-entering the hospitality sector. In the Gulf, when restaurants temporarily shut, employees who were furloughed faced having to go home if their work visa expired, adding another layer of instability.

But Haddad is optimistic there are answers to these pressing challenges and that the Innovation lab can help find them.

Following the application process, three-to-five start-ups will be admitted to the program where they will have access to mentoring on soft skills, physical space, and the ability to test their product within Aleph Hospitality’s portfolio hotels.

“And the final stage would be, once this product is ready, we’ll offer you… the seeds required to grow your company,” he said. “Ultimately the goal is to seed these start-ups either through our network or through external investors within our network.”

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