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Enabling Independent Hoteliers to Compete with Large Chains

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Manu Midha, the Regional Head for Middle East at OYO Hotels & Homes, speaks to Gadget Voize about the budget hotels economy in the region

What sort of market do you see for budget hotels in the region?
The Middle East offers a huge potential for budget hotels and the market welcomes all categories of travellers. Last year Dubai witnessed nearly 16 million visitors, with the highest number of visitors from India.The hospitality industry in the Middle East is enjoying a good footfall from several countries.

As per a study by Dubai Tourism, the Emirate’s room supply is expected to touch 132,000 by the end of 2019. The UAE and Dubai, in particular, enjoy being a popular destination for tourists from around the world. The hospitality industry in the Emirates has grown to accommodate the rising number of visitors and is currently evolving basis the needs of these travellers. We, at OYO Hotels and Homes, are proud to deliver high-quality, standardized and affordable accommodation experience to our guests.

How many hotels / properties have you tied up with in this region?
OYO established its footprint in the UAE in the first half of 2018 and has already served close to 120,000 guests from 80 plus countries in 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. OYO currently manages 1300+ exclusive rooms across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman and 40 homes in Dubai.

What benefits does OYO offer in comparison with other budget hotel offerings?
Delivering quality-assured experiences is at the heart of what we do at OYO Hotels and Homes. We are committed to offering customers good quality, affordable and predictable living experiences while globally empowering over 18,000+ franchise partners and asset owners with the operational expertise, technology capabilities, and talents. We work with small-scale budget hoteliers to improve guest experience and occupancy. No other hotel company is using technology in this way or empowering small hotels to deliver value.

Our biggest differentiator is the full-stack fulfillment led model, where we fully acquire hotels and homes, on franchise, manchise or lease, renovate it and bring it up to OYO standards, use our technology and operational capabilities to ensure seamless management of the property – revenue, pricing, day to day guest experience, etc., and then use an omni-channel distribution strategy, across online and offline channels, leading to over 90% of our demand. We have invested in four key competencies. 

The first one is the ability to identify and onboard strategic buildings within a shorter time period (vs. others), the second is the renovation and upgrade the living spaces in record time by leveraging the design and engineering talent, three, the sustained demand generation, across offline and online channels and, lastly, immersive technology that redefines the hospitality experience at every customer and hotel owner touchpoint. OYO uses innovative technology solutions to facilitate standardization of services, amenities and in-room experience, thereby helping maintain service standards. This is further enhanced by the diverse talent that includes people with design background, tech experts, and more.

Additionally, we have OYO Captains (key contacts for guests and hoteliers in a certain geographical area) for auditing the buildings and making sure we can maintain the quality of all OYO buildings and thereby enriching the guest experience.

What benefit does OYO have over platforms such as Airbnb or Couchsurfing in the region?
OYO is not a room aggregator. OYO is not an online travel agency. OYO is not a certification company. OYO is not a marketplace. We are a full-scale hotel chain with a capability-led model. We bring capabilities that help a small and independent hotelier compete with large chains. This includes interventions across, identification of buildings, transformation, operations, technology backed day-to-day, and revenue management as well as distribution.

  1. Sophisticated leasing and franchising process: At OYO, we have developed the ability to scientifically identify and onboard strategic buildings within a shorter time period (vs. others). The approach and strategy of our Business Development team is powered by Orbis. The app was built in-house to assist the team in identifying the right lead, pitching the right deals to owners and having the building transformed to OYO standards.
  2. Best-in-class renovation capabilities: Our deep renovation capabilities have empowered us to add 64,000 exclusive keys to our chain every month at a global level. As the world’s fastest-growing chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes & spaces we have set a new benchmark in transforming and renovating assets in a record time of within 14 days –  a stark contrast to the industry standard of upto 90 days. With a 1,200 OYOpreneur-strong team of civil engineers and designers in India, China and other international markets, OYO Hotels has powered the transformation of thousands of buildings across territories while promoting sustainable infrastructure in the hospitality sector.
  3. Hotel Operations: Delivering quality-assured experiences is at the heart of what we do at OYO Hotels and Homes. We are committed to offering customers good quality, affordable and predictable living experiences while empowering over 18,000+ franchise partners and asset owners with operational expertise and technology capabilities. We focus heavily on service quality and invest in it, both in the form of technology and talent. We also have over 26 OYO Skill Institutes where we train hundreds of hospitality enthusiasts every month. We are benefiting from improving operating efficiencies while maintaining customer loyalty, with over 70% of the top line in India coming from repeat customers and over 90% from repeat and word of mouth customers.
  4. Higher yields for asset owners: All the above-mentioned facets come together and create an ecosystem of efficiency through which we are able to deliver higher yields for our asset owners. Every hotel or asset that becomes a part of OYO’s chain, witnesses an increase in average occupancy from 25% to 65% in a brief span of three months. We have a team of revenue managers who are able to derive and drive the best pricing mechanism in the industry with the help of advanced machine learning and AI tools, so as to optimize for best outcomes for customers and partner franchisees alike.

Tell about your Collection O brand. Is this available in this region?
Collection O is a newly launched hotel brand that caters to the requirements of discerning business travellers. The category offers bigger and spacious rooms with premium furnishing and linen, on-request laundry, unlimited breakfast, 24X7 in-room dining, high speed WiFi, workstations in every room and OYO-trained customer service. With 12 hotels already a part of the brand, we are aiming to touch close to 650 hotels with over 20,000 rooms by 2019-end. Currently, the brand is available in India.

Since OYO focusses on travelers who travel for business, have you tied up with any regional event organizers or MICE associations to offer special prices to business travelers?
OYO is a preferred brand of choice for both vacationers and business travellers. We have witnessed a double-digit percentage rise in trade visitors within the MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector within the first two months of 2019. 

Dubai’s MICE industry is currently growing at a rapid pace and leads in several aspects when compared to other global MICE hubs such as the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. We look forward to tapping this opportunity in the future by offering business travellers OYO’s high-quality, standardized and affordable experience.

You have tie-ups with travel portals such as MakeMyTrip. Do you plan to have similar tie-ups with local players like Tajawal, Musafir, and so on?
Being a full-stack hospitality tech company, we have built capabilities to run high-quality, standardized accommodations across different formats to cater to different kinds of travellers who are always on the lookout for unique experiences. We have also built a strong distribution network by investing in self-operated channels and creating a strong foundation. 

Our mission is to create quality living spaces and offer those to guests and travelers across the world, and global strategic relationships support that work. None of these relationships are exclusive in nature as OYO will always strive to offer its accommodation spaces to every potential guest. We don’t have anything further to comment at the moment.

Do you offer co-working spaces in this region, similar to your partnerships with Innov8 in India?
In the UAE, our product offerings include the 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. Our target is to reach 150 hotels by 2020.

Any other info you would like to add?
OYO Hotels & Homes, South Asia’s largest, one of China’s top five, and the world’s 6th largest chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes & living spaces. OYO’s mission is to upgrade all forms of real estate and thereby provide quality living spaces to travelers around the world. 

Since its launch back in 2013, OYO Hotels has brought about a change in the budget hotel franchising and leasing segment, by offering standardized good quality hospitality experiences at affordable prices. OYO today host guests from around the world in over 18,000 franchised and leased hotels and over 515,000 rooms, adding over 64,000 rooms every month, globally.

We started our journey in the Middle East with the launch in Dubai and have swiftly expanded our footprint to five emirates, including Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman. We have recently announced our foray into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where we are present across 7+cities,  with over 3,000 rooms & over 50 signed buildings. 

We will employ over 300 local citizens it calls ‘OYOpreneurs’ by the end of 2019 and generate employment for over 5,000 Saudi citizens by 2020. We will also setup 2 training institutes one in Riyadh and Jeddah to train Saudi graduates in Hotel Management. We are using technology extensively to sustain and increase the quality of operations while reducing the cost. At present, we offer multiple app-based solutions to ensure hassle-free operations at our hotels while delivering quality-assured experience to our guests.

  • OYO OS: The next gen of hotel management system. Every hotel which is a part of OYO’s chain works on the OYO operating system giving them a cutting-edge advantage with sophisticated features, including express check-in, check-out. It further allows online procurement and inventory management. The OS further offers apps for housekeeping and audits while introducing solutions for multiple hotel management aspects like expense management, staff training and engagement along with performance reviews and incentives for the hotel staff. All these facets come together to deliver technology-driven efficiency for our hotels while improving serviceability.
  • The Property Manager app acts as an end to end one-stop solution tablet-based app for managing all daily functions of the building – visibility bookings, sales channels, customer requests, housekeeping, finances
  • Co-OYO (Owner’s App) – A simple and handy app for continuous engagement and complete visibility of cash flows, business performance, pricing, customer reviews and recommendations. There has been a 60% reduction in the number of owner-related queries since the introduction of the Owner App, and concurrent savings in manpower and resources to service these concerns.
  • Krypton App – A mobile audit app enabling OYO Captains to audit buildings and assure an excellent guest experience. The updated Krypton app called Krypton V2 is built to function on smart phones that cost less than $100, supports Android versions released as far back as 2014 and works in areas with low network connectivity. Aside from this feat of engineering, Krypton v2 is built using two core principles of design thinking and data orientation.
  • Orbis App – A mobile-franchising app enabling OYO’s Business Development managers to onboard new buildings in record time
  • OYO Rocket (MM App for the demand manager)– Using the Rocket App, the demand managers can make the bookings for guests, identify the right set of hotels, they also have more capabilities to carry out rate negotiations for corporate and other specific contracts
  • OYO Optimus, the dedicated transformation app, helps OYO teams understand the transformation requirements of a building while giving cost estimates, budget in addition to assigning tasks and tracking the pace at which the process is taking place. It also enables overall visibility on the process to all the respective stakeholders including the hotel owner and the OYO teams
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Apps

UAE Entrepreneurs Launch Private Messaging App

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UAE-based entrepreneurs have launched a private messaging app, which enables users to send voice and written messages that disappear as soon as they are sent, read, and played. “The application called Oh!Message, brings users back to the classical period of simple communications tools, but by using the best privacy-enhancing features, to be the first chat application with this high privacy developed in the ME region by Arab expertise,” said Mohammed Othman and Haian Nayouf, the makers of the app.

With this free app, the sent message will disappear from the sender’s account after 10 seconds if it is read by the recipient or not, and it will also disappear from the recipient’s account after 10 seconds of opening or playing it. The message will be destroyed completely within the application and will not be stored on the app servers. Each written message is limited to 100 characters while the audio message is 10 seconds.

“Oh!Message is end-to-end encrypted but it has also other features that make it the most private app among messaging apps,” said Engineer Mohammed Othman, Co-Founder and Chief of Technology at Oh!Message. “In this app, which is available in Apple and Android stores, the user doesn’t appear online while using it, and his/her location is not tracked.”

“The first period of the app launch is in the UAE, the Gulf region, and Arab countries,” said Haian Nayouf, Co-Founder and Chief of Communications at Oh!Message. “The UAE is the capital for talent, companies, and investments in the areas of digital and technical excellence globally, and this has greatly motivated us to work on this project in UAE, and the app is the first of its kind in the Arab world with these strong privacy features.”

The app is now available for both iOS and Android devices.

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Taiwan’s First International Streaming Platform Called Taiwan+ is Now Live

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Taiwan Plus (Taiwan+), the first English-language international streaming platform of Taiwan, was unveiled by Vice President Lai Ching-te, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun, Culture Minister Lee Yung-te, Central News Agency (CNA) Chairman Liu Ka-shiang, Taiwan+ CEO Joanne Tsai, and H.E. Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins of Embassy of Saint Christopher and Nevis at the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei on Aug. 30.

Targeting an English-speaking audience, Taiwan+ consists of media professionals from the U.S., the U.K, Canada, France, and Australia, as well as local industry professionals, who work collaboratively to deliver the latest news about Taiwan, international affairs, and covers a wide range of topics. The platform also sources stories from Taiwan’s public and private media organizations.

Golden Melody-award-winning singer Sanpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw opened the event with a music performance. Held with COVID-19 prevention measures in place, the event was joined by representatives including Izumi Hiroyasu from Japan, Jordan Reeves from Canada, Andrew Wylegala and Don Shapiro from the U.S., and Henry Chang and Giuseppe Izzo from Europe.

H.E. Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins of the Embassy of Saint Christopher and Nevis in Taiwan said the international video platform is expected to connect Taiwan with the world. President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her pleasure to join the launch of Taiwan+ with a video message, saying “Taiwan+ is an exciting new initiative to tell Taiwan’s story. Generations of Taiwanese fought to transform this country into a vibrant democracy that protects freedom of speech and expression.”

Premier Su Tseng-chang wished the platform success. He stressed that Taiwan is a democratic and free country guided by the rule of law, and cares about universal values of human rights, freedom of speech, and diversity, noting that this is why many countries are willing to make friends and do business with Taiwan. Vice President Lai said, “I hope that the platform can be the starting point from which the world learns about what Taiwanese people think and want, what Taiwan is doing, and what we can contribute to the world.”

Legislative Speaker, You noted that, with China’s intimidation and political oppression against Taiwan, the establishment of Taiwan+ allows Taiwan to tell its stories to the world through its voices. Taiwan+, a project commissioned by the Ministry of Culture to the CNA, marks an important milestone in the country’s history of mass media, Minister Lee said. He expressed his gratitude to legislators and professionals for making this happen.

“I hope to make this platform a form of expansion, connection, and infinite possibilities, just like how Taiwan incorporates ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity, and introduce Taiwan to the world through dynamic storytelling and news,” said Tsai, a senior media professional with over 25 years of experience in international media outlets, such as NBC/CNBC, National Geographic, and Fox International Channels.

The content of Taiwan+ can be played on the Taiwan Plus app or viewed on its website and social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

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“Selfdrive” Launches Smart Mobility App

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Selfdrive, an entity of Pinewoods Tech Serve, has launched an all-in-one Smart Mobility App. The app is serving as a game-changer for the car rental space offering its users a seamless, reliable, and convenient mechanism to rent a car on demand. The cutting-edge mobile app provides direct access to dealership fleet to its users, allowing them to rent a car by the day, subscribe by the month, or lease a car up to 3 years, offering complete flexibility in booking duration.

The company to date has served over 50k customers and witnessed a 30% MoM growth in customer base in the past six months. The app is built on a proprietary tech foundation concept, Search – Select – Pay, that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to match customers’ profiles with the cars that they would like to drive, making the selection process and renting a car absolutely seamless experience.

This app is available to download on Android and iOS, which offers users the option to select from 65 different car models across 15 different car brands from 45 different locations in the UAE within three hours. Some of the key brands available to rent are Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Renault, Mazda, Infinity, Volkswagen (VW), BMW, and many more.

Speaking about the launch of its app, Soham Shah, CEO, and Co-Founder of Selfdrive said, “As one of the largest car rental service providers in the UAE, we strive to offer exceptional service to our customers every step of the way. We bring together exclusive offers on the app starting from AED 49 per day and AED 999 per month. That’s not all, with the launch of ‘Lease Pro’ in this app, users can now rent a brand new ‘Zero Km’ car under its 12 – 24 – 36 months subscription that would be exclusively registered on demand by the car dealer.”

“The smart mobility platform is a testament of our commitment to curate best deals on cars direct from the dealership, whilst making it possible for anyone to rent a car on demand and get it delivered too. This alleviates the hassle of going through multiple car rental agencies to find the best car models and rates on offer,” added Shah.

The Car rental market accounted for $86 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $131 billion by 2026, projecting a CAGR of about 7% during the forecast period. Selfdrive launched in 2017 is the UAE’s largest car rental tech platform that has crossed 2000 cars on road.

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