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Abu Dhabi investment ecosystem positions businesses for regional growth: H2O Hospitality CEO

Abu Dhabi investment ecosystem positions businesses for regional growth: H2O Hospitality CEO
5 May 2024 23:25

SARA ALZAABI (ABU DHABI)

The UAE's diverse investment climate and global status as a digital hub are major factors that draw foreign companies into the country, said John Lee, CEO of H2O Hospitality, a South Korean digital innovation company.

H2O Hospitality established its regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) in early 2024.

This has boosted the company's business growth and client trust, promoting inbound Asian tourists, Lee told Aletihad in an interview.

"H2O Hospitality is the largest hospitality tech company that provides digital transformation solutions to hotels, resorts, leisure facilities, and tourist attractions," Lee said.

He spotlighted the company's concentration on back-end and mid-end automation, enabling paperless procedures that enhance efficiency.

"For example, many people wait in long lines at the front desk, writing everything on paper, but we automate that process through your mobile phones without requiring you to download an app," Lee said.

He noted that the company utilises global chat apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk in providing solutions. The back-end solution is connected to these global chat apps, eliminating the need for customers to go through all the paperwork they would otherwise have to do.

"This is just one type of solution that we provide to hospitality properties," Lee continued.

With the new regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi's Global Market (ADGM), the company is eyeing opportunities in the MENA region.

The company operates in 34 cities spanning seven countries, Regarding the company's expansion plans, Lee said: "In East Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, H2O is very well developed. We wanted to become a more global company. Rather than expanding to the US directly, we wanted to settle down in the Middle East, a hub of the luxury hospitality industry."

"A lot of the luxury hotels are based in the UAE. Therefore, we wanted to tap into that market. At the same time, we aimed to expand to Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Pakistan, and India. Geographically, the UAE was a perfect fit. Additionally, the infrastructure and the government support also played significant roles," he added.

"Our main target properties are four- to five-star, very mainstream properties. The development of those mainstream properties was most prominent in the Middle East compared to all regions worldwide."

Lee also elaborated on the company's two-pronged approach: Promoting sustainable tourism and inbound tourism.

The first one is the digitisation of the operation. A lot of the operations in the value chain, including hotels and resorts, relies heavily on paper and plastic, posing a significant burden to the environment, he said.

"Therefore, our main target is zero paper and zero plastic through digitising a lot of those processes," Lee added.

As for promoting inbound tourism, Lee said that Abu Dhabi boasts an ideal infrastructure, and pointed to the need to attract more layover travellers.

"H2O truly believes that digital transformation will help not only the hospitality industry but also the entire tourism industry to become more sustainable," he said.

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