Contributors’ 2021 Expectations

Contributors’ 2021 Expectations

Without a shadow of a doubt, 2020 forced countless companies around the world to rethink their strategies and adapt to new norms. With this in mind, we asked a selection of our contributors what lessons they learned last year and how they foresee the business landscape in 2021.

Lessons of 2020
Last year was all about alternative thinking, versatility, diversity, quick execution and adaptation.

What to expect in 2021
There are a number of things that will define the market in 2021:

  • The plant-based revolution is here to stay.
  • Semi-vegetarianism, also known as “flexitarianism,” is on the rise.
  • Dining out will not be the same, and there will be far fewer restaurants in general.
  • Restaurants will sell more homemade pantry items.
  • Street food, on-the-go meals and outdoor dining will keep growing.
  • Celebrity chefs will invest more in pop-up concepts than in brick and mortar.
  • Sustainable products, local sourcing, environmental awareness and social responsibility will continue being key phrases.
  • Dark kitchens will become increasingly popular.
  • Online shopping will grow exponentially.
  • African food will join the ethnic cuisine scene.

Gebran Bekhazi
Managing partner, The Food Studio

Lessons of 2020
The consequences of border and flight restrictions and the overall lack of customer demand have been deeply felt throughout the tourism industry. Being an expert in price optimization and distribution channel management, my key challenge in 2020 was forecasting demand. There is little information to benchmark how the market is changing, which means businesses cannot simply rely on past data to make future predictions; long-term forecasting is not significant, and short-term forecasting is down to a week or even days. This crisis has been unlike any other in terms of intensity and length.

What to expect in 2021
Revenue management might evolve in the post-Covid-19 world by:

  • Resetting the counter on historical trends.
  • Focusing on content.

Serge Chamelian
Managing partner, h-hotelier

What to expect in 2021
The world will continue to be dynamic, and we build new muscles along the way to cope and succeed. Human resilience will always rise above any challenge and find a way to treat its fate. A positive mindset, ethical behavior, togetherness and adaptability will remain the core foundations for a sustainable and rewarding tomorrow.

Hala Matar Choufany 
President of Middle East, Africa and South Asia of HVS Middle East

Lessons of 2020
The strength of your value to your customers was revealed in 2020. If your clients truly love and appreciate you, you are still doing business. Companies that focus on caring for their people fare better than those who focus on protecting their organization.

What to expect in 2021
Those who have a valid and workable disaster plan in place will pivot quicker than those who have to start from scratch; work on one now. This year will be defined by your attitude, so have a good one!

Mark Dickinson 
Founder, DONE! Hospitality Training Solutions

Lessons of 2020
Since reopening its borders to tourists in late June, the UAE’s hospitality industry rapidly adopted certification processes to ensure international standards of cleanliness and sanitization. Many hotels in the country established contactless check-in and check-out facilities, digital menus and keyless entry, while food and beverage outlets increased delivery services. These changes speak to an evolving industry that’s driven by consumers looking for safer leisure activities.

What to expect in 2021
The domestic tourism and leisure sector will continue to play a key role in the UAE’s economic recovery for some time to come while international tourism picks up. As staycations have gained momentum during the pandemic, industry operators will have to be even more innovative in the way they operate and attract guests.

Sidharth Mehta  
 Partner, head of building, construction and real estate, KPMG Lower Gulf

Lessons of 2020
Nagi: It was a rough and challenging year for all of us. We saw how an already precarious situation can still spiral out of control, and we were realized how important it is to prepare for the unexpected.

What to expect in 2021
Nada: This year is expected to be a transitional one, as we are still trying to define our “new normal.” Work will remain online for at least the first six months. The hospitality and airline industries will need to remain vigilant in terms of safety until confidence is regained.

Nagi Morkos and Nada Alameddine,
Partner & Managing Partner, Hodema consulting services

Lessons of 2020
In 2020, it was about survival of the fittest. We tend to compare tough years in the hospitality industry to rollercoasters. However, we all jumped on the biggest rollercoaster last year that took us into a long, dark tunnel. We are obviously learning the hard way how bullish a market can become in no time and how the survival of relies on how quickly you are able to adapt your business model to this new, never-before-seen situation.

Ralph Nader
CEO, Amber Consulting

Lessons of 2020
It might surprise some, but beyond operations and logistics, it is the restaurants that successfully built strong rapports with their clientele that made it through 2020. Businesses with lower profit margins even outperformed established firms, as they were already familiar with controlling costs and supply chains. In 2020, communicating outside the restaurant was key, whether by starting conversations online, creating loyalty and brand value or through the packaging and delivery experience that helped companies become part of their clients’ lockdown routine.

Boudy Nasrala  
CEO, WonderEight

Lessons of 2020
If I could summarize what the hospitality industry learned in 2020 in just three words, it would be: flexibility, resilience and humility.

What to expect in 2021
The 2021 forecast is clearly one of recovery, not to the levels they were in 2019 but certainly a big first step toward it.

Kostas Nikolaidis
Middle East, Africa & Greece executive, STR

Lessons of 2020
A valuable lesson has been the ability to be adaptive and react quickly to tough situations, such as a no income paired with high fixed costs. We have also been reminded that cash is king; it saved many leading operators/businesses in the sector.

What to expect in 2021
In terms of forecasting 2021, the UAE has already begun to pick up the pace but with a greater focus on the high-end hospitality. Tourist numbers are also growing alongside high net worth spending.  Attention has been refocused on Expo 2021, which has been rescheduled but promises great avenues for potential. The Saudi market has also begun to pick up due an increase in internal demand, with sales at outlet levels returning to pre-Covid-19 levels. In addition, numerous upcoming Saudi projects, including The Red Sea Project, will be focus heavily on tourism.

Abdul Kader Saadi
Managing director, Glee Hospitality Solutions

What to expect in 2021
Much like 2020, 2021 will be challenging given the unprecedented uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Any strategies put in place will have to be particularly flexible and need fallback plans. There will be a continued focus on payroll and on the capability and productivity of hospitality personnel. It is the time, more than ever, to invest in training staff and improving their skills. On the bright side, people will ultimately want to get away and enjoy that holiday or business trip they had postponed.

Chirine Salha,

Lessons of 2020
Diversification is key to success and sustainability in any business. All firms should be able to provide services or products to satisfy multiple target markets and different social classes.

What to expect in 2021
The internal structure is becoming more flexible with regard to titles and job combinations, so teams should be able to rotate. This requires ongoing development and training. With this in mind, it will be even more essential to include a business development department for all concepts, big or small, to focus on adapting the strategy depending on the social and economic conditions in the market.

Manal Syriani,  
HR & Organizational Development Manager, The Lebanese Bakery

Lessons of 2020
The most valuable lesson we learned in 2020 was the importance of adaptability. Properties that adapted to the new reality weathered the storm best, from serviced apartments pivoting to more medium and long-stay demand to hotels reimaging their spaces to ensure services and amenities were provided in a safe manner.

James Wrenn  
Associate director, Colliers International

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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