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.
Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) announced the 10 finalists of its international Futurism Program 2019, a zero-equity accelerator initiative run in collaboration with leading professional services company Accenture. The goal is to further boost technology innovation, create transformative tourism experiences and enhance Dubai’s position as a leading hub for start-ups.
The 2019 edition of the program provided entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase innovative technology solutions to help drive a variety of futurism themes, including hyper-personalization, connected travel, digitizing operations, first-choice destination, conscious travel and ‘phygital’ experiences.
The 3rd edition of the program generated strong interest, with 155 start-ups worldwide submitting applications. Out of these, the 10 most innovative concepts were shortlisted for the final round by a special judging panel representing the program partners. The 10 shortlisted start-ups are Stayhopper, Ads-Flight, Stayology, Further Network, Ariadne Maps, Airlines Technology, Omniflow S.A, Chatdesk, Cerebri AI and Xandar Kardian.
The 10 finalists are now undergoing a six-week accelerator program featuring boot camp sessions, networking with key industry partners and one-on-one mentorships. During this phase, each of the selected start-ups will receive guidance from Dubai Tourism and its partners on finalizing a pilot project and ways in which they could use their innovative solutions across Dubai’s travel and tourism sector. The start-ups will then pitch to a select jury of business owners, investors and venture capitalists at the Dubai Tourism stand at GITEX Future Stars, the largest startup event in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, part of the GITEX Technology Week – which will be hosted in October. The winning start-up and runner-up will win a prize totaling AED 100,000, as well as licensing, relevant visas in Dubai, office space and the opportunity to secure potential future funding.
Commenting on the selection, Yousuf Lootah, Executive Director, Tourism Development and Investments of Dubai Tourism said, “The overwhelming response to our Futurism Program speaks volumes of Dubai’s attractiveness as a regional technology hub and our ongoing efforts to drive the tourism industry into the digital era in line with the 10x initiative launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to create a Dubai that will be 10 years ahead of other world cities. The high level of interest shown by start-ups worldwide is testament to Dubai’s reputation as an entrepreneurial hub that is committed to inspiring future technology leaders to think beyond traditional business models and limitations. We look forward to working closely with our finalists and connecting them with industry pioneers so they can truly realize their potential and support us in our goal to provide end-to-end seamless experiences to tourists from around the world. With the 3rd edition of the Futurism Program now reaching a crucial and interesting stage, we would also like to express our appreciation for the wholehearted support extended by our partners from diverse sectors, as we continue to collaborate to offer a platform for technology start-ups to succeed and add exceptional value to the tourist’s journey to Dubai.”
In addition to Accenture, the Program also has the support of key industry partners and investors representing a broad spectrum of sectors, from travel to hospitality, and aviation to legal, finance to technology and transportation. They include strategic partner, Seera Group, industry partners Atlantis The Palm, Emaar Hospitality Group, the Emirates Group and Accor Hotels. The partnership network also includes Dubai SME, Shorooq Investments, Wamda, Middle East Venture Partners, Microsoft, Amazon, Dentons, Alteryx and Careem.
“Collaborating with Dubai Tourism to co-create a program that nurtures innovative talent is a fundamental priority because of the immense benefits it brings to the economy and society,” said Norberto Cibien, Products Client Service Group lead, Accenture Middle East and Turkey. “Accenture is committed to the region’s Travel and Tourism aspirations and this collaboration with Dubai Tourism is an example of our dedication to bringing and embedding an exceptional quality of start-ups into the Dubai ecosystem to grow the industry. We are proud to play our part by bringing our expertise in building and running similar programs around the world to support Dubai Tourism in creating an internationally renowned ecosystem where travel and tourism start-ups can thrive.”
Abdulrahman Mutrib, Executive Vice President and CTO, Seera Group, commented, “We are excited about our partnership with the Futurism Program by Dubai Tourism that aims to bring innovative travel and tourism technology trends to life in the region. We are looking forward to working and mentoring the final dynamic 10 start-ups in Dubai to establish a collaborative travel ecosystem and an enriched tourism experience in the digital world. With such abundant demand for travel, such progressive digitization partnerships are needed to meet the needs of tomorrow’s travelers. The tourism industry has been at the forefront of digital innovation and continues to be transformed at a remarkable rate across the world. At Seera, we have embraced digital transformation that brings great value and efficiencies for our customers.”
Alex Alexander, Group Chief Technology Officer, Emirates Group, added, “If the brave, fast and furious world of technology and innovation had a capital city, that would be Dubai. What the city has achieved and is aiming to do in the future is incredible, not just in terms of the scale of its ambition, or the scope and the sheer investments involved, but also in the unwavering intent and the strong leadership it provides. As one of the leading global organizations based in Dubai, the Emirates Group is committed to the vision and the future of the city. The innovations we drive today in the travel and tourism space will reverberate well into the future. This is why Futurism and the innovation ecosystem that we are creating today is so important. We look forward to the next edition, to welcoming the 10 finalists to Dubai and to opening another chapter in the world of infinite possibilities.”
Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group remarked, “We are delighted to continue our ongoing partnership with the third edition of the Futurism Program, supporting DTCM in their endeavor to further position Dubai as innovative global leader in tourism and hospitality. The Emaar Hospitality Group has established itself as an influential leader in hospitality within the GCC and we recognize that the travel industry is becoming more digitally-driven and travelers are ever-evolving. We are therefore proud to be involved in this program, which supports the development of new technology solutions for the new generation traveler, and nurtures fresh, forward-thinking talent in the process.”
Anthony Lynsdale, Vice President, Information Technology, Atlantis, The Palm said, “Atlantis, The Palm is once again very excited to partner with the Futurism Program. This opportunity allows us to connect with enthusiastic innovative start-ups that are looking to improve how guests interact with technology across the hospitality and tourism sector. We are especially keen to see how these companies can help us reduce the friction our guests encounter with their arrival and in-resort experiences. Two key areas for us to explore would be; the seamless check-ins and the ability to further digitize the resort’s operations team when it comes to communicating with and anticipating guest needs.”
Yigit Sezgin, Chief Commercial Officer, Accor Middle East and Africa, clarified, “As the largest hotel operator in the Middle East, Accor has a strong interest in moving the region’s tourism industry forward and as a champion of innovation, believes in adopting an open approach to everything, from new technology, practices and generations to professions, businesses, start-ups and more. Supporting the Futurism Program, which enables disruptive technologies to shine, is a natural fit. It gives us the opportunity to work alongside the DTCM and its partners on innovative solutions that will benefit our guests, employees and owners and the wider travel and tourism sector.”
Floor Bleeker, Chief Information Officer, Accor Middle East and Africa, as well as President of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG), the world’s largest hospitality technology trade organization, concluded, “Accor is a pioneer of innovation, driven by the ambition of shaping the hospitality landscape of the future. We believe technology start-ups, SMEs and next-generation disruptors are crucial to creating tomorrow’s world and we work closely with all of them to generate value for our guests, our organization and our partners. We are therefore excited to work in partnership with the DTCM and Accenture on the Futurism Program, which will boost the start-up eco-system in Dubai, strengthening its position as a dynamic regional hub for technology and tourism. On behalf of Accor, I would like to wish the 10 finalists every success as they embark on the accelerator program and look forward to discovering what concepts will prove industry game-changers.”Add to Favorites