THEME Conference 2023: Where Hospitality Engineering Meets Sustainable Innovation

一    Radhika Arapally
|    May 29, 2023

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Step into the world of hospitality engineering, where innovation and sustainability converge. We recently had the privilege of attending the prestigious “THEME” conference, held at The Hotel Show Dubai 2023. As panel members and a moderator, we joined forces with engineering leaders from around the globe to shed light on crucial topics that shape the future of our industry.

Imagine a community of 10,000 dedicated engineers, united under the banner of THEME. This extraordinary network, the first and only of its kind in the Middle East, is a powerhouse of knowledge and collaboration, specifically tailored to meet the needs of hospitality engineers. Together, we explored the frontiers of AI, Green Buildings, Air Quality, and Waste Management.

Throughout the conference, a resounding theme emerged: the indispensable role of data-driven decision-making. We witnessed how accurate data collection, measurement, and analysis provide the foundation for meaningful solutions. With compelling examples shared by experts, it became clear that embracing data empowers us to tackle the challenges ahead.

AI and Hospitality

AI, the frontier of engineering, commanded attention during our discussions. While AI undeniably enhances operational efficiency and improves the guest experience, we questioned whether we risk going too far. The consensus among panellists was crystal clear – people and high-touch service remain the heartbeat of the hospitality industry. We firmly believe that human innovation and expertise are vital for driving guest satisfaction and innovation.

The Big Questions remained; “How do we maintain or retain the practical skills of engineers”?

As AI becomes increasingly prevalent, we cannot afford to neglect the practical skills of our engineers. There is a shared concern that a generation of engineers may emerge without the ability to troubleshoot and fix problems. Striking a delicate balance between automation and preserving the craft is crucial to ensuring the continued success of our industry.

Green Buildings Trends and Innovations

Green Buildings took centre stage, emphasizing the importance of integrating sustainability standards from the building’s design phase. We discovered that retrofits can often outperform new buildings in terms of sustainability, and they play a critical role in our mission to decarbonize. With 80% of the buildings, we’ll have in 2050 already in existence, retrofitting offers an essential pathway to achieving a 90% reduction in emissions per room by 2050 and 66% by 2030.

In our pursuit of sustainable hospitality, indoor air quality emerged as a significant component of Green Buildings. Panellists passionately discussed the urgent need to measure and improve this metric. It served as a wake-up call, urging us to take action and provide our guests with the healthiest and most comfortable environments possible.

Waste Management and Circular Practices

Addressing waste management and circular practices, we confronted the reality that, while our ideal world would generate no waste, our current reality falls short. Hotels have traditionally produced significant amounts of waste. Nevertheless, we now witness promising solutions in the market – compostable packaging, non-plastic amenities, refillable bathroom products, energy-efficient solutions, and on-site food waste management systems. Hospitality properties can embrace these innovations to align with their sustainability goals and reduce their environmental impact.

We mustn’t turn a blind eye to the waste our properties generate. Small plastic bottles, plastic toothpaste, and toothbrushes contribute to the staggering environmental consequences. To operate more efficiently, we need to rethink our approach to waste, alongside energy and water conservation.

Our Point of View From The Conference

Perhaps one of the most significant revelations of the conference was the underappreciated role of engineers. In an industry that often celebrates chefs, managers, and other prominent figures, the engineering team quietly operates behind the scenes, ensuring everything runs smoothly. From the moment a guest arrives until they depart, every aspect of their experience is touched by engineering expertise. It’s time to acknowledge the unsung heroes and celebrate their indispensable contributions.

Engineering is the true lifeblood of a hotel by which all functions flow. It is a somewhat forgotten resource within the hotels. It’s time for this to change; it is time to celebrate the engineers.  An effective hospitality team operates with all its moving parts (pardon the pun); hospitality operations run better when not in silos. 

As we reflect on our experience at THEME, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the visionary co-founders, Gurdiish Singh Sabharwal and Rannjeet Bhardwaj

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