Exploring the Impact of Self-Service Kiosks on the Tourism Sector in the Middle East

The Role of Self-Service Kiosks in the Tourism Industry of the Middle East

The Middle East tourism industry is a rich mix of diversity and dynamism. The tourism scene in the Middle East offers a blend of cultural and historical heritage, pilgrimage tourism, modernity, luxury tourism, and, of course, its enigmatic natural wonders. Yes, the Middle East has immense potential in the domain of tourism. With strategic planning and infrastructure development, policy-making and revision, technology inclusion, and the adoption of meaningful marketing campaigns, the countries in the Middle-east can attract even more visitors from all over the world.

To enhance client experiences, expedite processes, and maintain competitiveness in the international market, the travel and hospitality sector in the Middle East has been increasingly adopting a technology-inclusive approach. Self-service kiosk machines have become integral to this strategy. In this blog, we'll shed light on the various use-case scenarios of self-service kiosks and the associated benefits in the tourism and hospitality industry of the Middle East.

self service kiosk for tourism
ticket kiosk tourism

The rich and diverse middle-east tourism landscape

Travelers are drawn to the Middle East by its enticing mix of experiences, which attracts large numbers of people to the region. Middle Eastern travel experiences range from the thrilling rush of adventure destinations to the captivating attraction of cultural festivals and events. Tourists also enjoy the tax-free shopping benefits offered in the UAE. Let’s not forget that Dubai is one of the most preferred shopping destinations in the Middle East and Asia. It's a full package that lures guests in with an abundance of experiences and surprises just waiting to be discovered. Let’s explore what the Middle East has to offer for tourists.

  • Pilgrimage destinations – The region is a well-known pilgrimage centre for Muslims, Christians, and Jews for ages. Pilgrimage destinations like Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, attract a large number of visitors and pilgrims annually. Mecca is considered the holiest place of Islam.
  • The international news agency Reuters has an interesting report in this regard. The report mentions that before the pandemic broke out in 2020, as part of the Mecca-Medina haj and umrah pilgrimages, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia earned an estimated revenue of $12 billion in the year 2019. A whopping 19 million visitors gathered for umrah alone in the same year.
  • Cultural tourism – The countries like Egypt, Iran and Jordan holds historical and cultural treasures and attract tourists from all over the world. The region is a cradle of ancient civilizations, kingdoms and has huge archaeological significance. Egyptian pyramids, Petra – one of Jordan’s most visited tourist destinations, Baalbek in Lebanon, Persepolis in Iran, the ancient wonder of Babylon, and the list goes on.
  • Eco-tourism destinations – The region has varied landscapes like deserts, semi-arid areas, coastal regions, oases, mountains, and hills. There are many striking destinations in countries like the UAE and Oman that offer wildlife and desert exploration, as well as hiking opportunities for tourists, as part of eco-tourism plans.
  • Adventure tourism destinations – Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, Jordan, and Israel have a lot to offer when it comes to adventure tourism. These countries offer several engaging and fun-filled activities for adrenaline rush seekers like camel riding, sandboarding, desert trekking, hiking, etc., just to mention a few!
  • Cultural events, exhibitions and festivals – Cultural events and festivals happen frequently in the Middle East, attracting both local and international visitors in large numbers. Music, dance, art, cinema, food, and literature are showcased and celebrated in these events. The Winter Solstice in Petra, the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Abu Simbel Sun Festival, and the Dubai Food Festival are world-renowned. The Global Village Dubai is the meeting point of different cultures, a mini-world that showcases top-notch shopping and entertainment experiences in the bustling city of Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Festival, a colourful heritage festival held in Abu Dhabi attracts both local and international travellers alike. The Gitex Shopper is the region’s largest consumer electronics exhibition that brings together prominent electronics brands and retailers of the world under one roof.
dubai smart tourism
  • Culinary Tourism – Food is an integral part of the culture of middle-east. The middle-east offers varied culinary experiences to the visitors and tourists, both traditional and modern dishes, sophisticated and vibrant eatery outlets etc. Gulfood, the world’s biggest food and beverages event held in Dubai, is a celebration of food, where the world’s leading F&B companies participate. The event attracts thousands of food lovers from all over the world. Turkey is a haven for food lovers, and the country is well-known for its rich and diverse dishes, interesting culinary techniques, and hospitality.
  • Luxury tourism - The Middle East is well known for its lavish resorts, retail centres, and hotels. Dubai is world-renowned for its sophisticated buildings, luxury shopping destinations, and bustling nightlife, establishing itself firmly on the world tourism map. The Burj Khalifa has earned unique recognition as the most popular landmark in the world. A staggering fact about this mind-blowing architectural marvel is that it attracts around 17 million visitors annually!

Now let us delve into the various use-case scenarios of self-service kiosks in the middle-east tourism scene.

smart tourism kiosk

Streamlining airport experiences

Deploying a self-service airport kiosk is an excellent way to streamline airport operations and make customer check-in and boarding effortless.

The kiosk machine will print the boarding pass in a matter of minutes after you enter the required passenger information. These airport kiosks are loaded with passport scanner, Smart ID card reader, camera, printer, and other features that all work in unison to make sure that tourists have a quick and easy experience.

Benefits of deploying an Airport Kiosk

Let’s go through the benefits of deploying a typical self-service airport kiosk in the airport premises.

Airport kiosk deployment has benefits for both the passengers and airport authorities.

  • Improved passenger satisfaction – the passengers can perform the check-in, select their seats and print the boarding pass without any external assistance. Passengers feel empowered and confident by performing these tasks by themselves, which adds to passenger satisfaction.
  • Eliminate long lines – A self-service airport kiosk automates the process of check-in and boarding pass issuance, and hence speeds up the entire process. This eliminates the long lines in airports.
  • Multi-language facility - An airport self-service kiosk comes loaded with multi-language facility which is highly convenient for foreign tourists.
  • Improved operational efficiency – A more streamlined check-in experience via airports kiosk eliminates the conventional, time-consuming, check-in counter interactions. This significantly reduces passenger wait-times in airports and thus improves operational efficiency.
  • 24/7 seamless functionality – A self-service airport kiosk can function all day long without sacrificing operational efficiency. Inadequacies in the number of staffs will not affect the check-in and boarding pass issuance process.
  • Improved resource allocation – the conventional check-in counters consume significant space. The authorities can free up this space by deploying airports kiosks and use the freed-up space for more productive tasks.
  • Reduced expenses – The airport staff need not perform conventional check-in tasks, preventing them from indulging in age-old monotonous processes. Instead, they can be redeployed to handle more responsible and customer-centric tasks. Reduced staffing requirements bring down overall expenses to a significant extent.

Simplifying hotel check-in & check-out process

By introducing hotel check-in kiosk at the reception or lobby, you can prevent your guests from standing in the long lines. With the deployment of hotel check-in kiosk, guests enjoy a smooth and hassle-free check-in experience; thanks to these sleek and stylish machines that automate the conventional procedure. Let’s walk through the check-in process.

  • Guest identification - First, simply provide your booking details at the check-in kiosk, such as your name, confirmation message, or card-related information.
  • Room selection – Browse through the list of available rooms displayed on the kiosk screen and pick your desired room.
  • Key Issuance – Once you’ve made your selection, the kiosk machine immediately dispenses the room key card.

It’s that simple and convenient!

kiosk machine tourism

Benefits of deploying a self-service check-in Kiosk

The reception tasks become much easier and efficient through self-service check-in kiosk deployment. The benefits are many.

  • Reduces waiting time – At times, during peak hours, guests have to wait for several minutes in the lobby to meet the reception staff. A typical hotel check-in kiosk speeds up the process and reduces the guest waiting time.
  • Reduces congestion in lobby - Waiting in the lobby causes congestion that affects the travel experience of guests. Moreover, the sight of a congested lobby is not welcoming for other guests who are planning to book a room in the hotel. The image of a "congested lobby" gets imprinted in the minds of guests, creating a negative impression that may affect future bookings as well. Therefore, a congested lobby can equate to a drop in revenue.
  • 24/7 functionality – The reception staff may not be available in certain hotels during off-seasons, especially late at night or during morning hours. A hotel check-in kiosk can handle this situation with utmost efficiency by providing 24/7 check-in functionality.
  • Instils confidence in guests – Deploying self-service kiosks instils confidence in guests as they can perform the check-in all by themselves, at any comfortable time. They need not consider the reception timings or availability. And, of course, they feel empowered!
  • Virtual concierge – A hotel check-in kiosk serves as a 24/7 virtual concierge that helps guests plan their travel schedules. Guests can access travel-related information from a hotel kiosk such as the best places to visit, top restaurants, transportation facilities, and much more.
  • Request for room service – The guest can rely on the self-service check-in kiosk to demand services related to room service, cleaning, etc. eliminating the need to talk to a human concierge.
  • Make payments - Guests can access check-in kiosks to settle existing room rents, additional charges etc. The payments can be done securely via the kiosk machine prior to the check-out.
  • Gather guest feedbacks – Hotels can collect valuable guest feedbacks like stay experiences via check-in kiosk. Feedbacks helps to improve services offered by the hotel and revise the existing strategies, if needed.
  • Display promotion and special discounts – The interactive kiosk screen serves as an exceptional platform to display various offers and run promotional campaign, market special events etc.
  • Improved guest satisfaction – Offering a seamless check-in experience via a technology-powered self-service platform improves customer/guest satisfaction.
  • Improved revenue though upselling – Apart from performing the basic check-in functions, a hotel check-in kiosk can perform upselling tasks in various ways by offering room upgrades, personalised offers etc. to guests.
  • Gather valuable customer insights – A self-service hotel check-in kiosk can gather valuable data pertaining to customer’s booking preferences, previous responses and behaviours etc. Analysing customer data is crucial in devising new marketing strategies or restructuring the old ones.
  • Remote monitoring facility – The hotels can remotely monitor the performance of the kiosk machine, providing real-time updates and offers from a different location.

Enhancing visitor experiences at travel destinations

Visitors pay to experience something new or incredible that they have not witnessed previously. A particular travel experience that can communicate effectively with visitors creates a lasting impact. Self-service kiosks, when installed at the right locations, can enhance the overall travel experiences of visitors to a great extent.

  • Information Kiosk – Hotels and tour companies may deploy a self-service Information kiosk at important travel destinations or busy locales to assist and inform tourists. The Information kiosk features an interactive screen that helps tourists gather a plethora of information regarding the destination, its cultural or historical significance, specific places of interest or value, interactive maps and guides for navigation, and information regarding basic amenities like restrooms and eating facilities. Tourists may listen to audio or video-assisted commentary or narration of the place, access headphones for private listening, and fully engage with their surroundings. This helps in improving the overall travel experience. An Information Kiosk is highly practical in tourism settings as the kiosk machine can provide real-time updates regarding weather, closing time details, emergency messages, etc. with least human intervention.
  • Wayfinding kiosk - A wayfinding kiosk can immensely help tourists with navigation, particularly if the destination is spread across large areas, making it difficult to navigate. Wayfinding kiosks are ideal for places like parks, shopping malls, airports, universities, college campuses, events, etc. An Information Kiosk/Wayfinding kiosk is easily customizable to meet specific demands or requirements. A visitor fully immersed and engaged with their surroundings is what travel companies, government authorities, and private players in the tourism and hospitality sector are aiming for.
  • Self-service kiosks for Cultural Institutions – Cultural institutions include museums, mosques, libraries, churches, historical monuments, cultural centres that conserve, propagate or share information regarding culture, arts, history, and information within a community. Yes, even cultural institutions can leverage the benefits of self-service kiosks. Here is how it can be done.
  • Real-time updates – The integration with Library Management Systems helps to publish real-time updates regarding the current status, access user records data, information related to previous transactions etc.
  • Fundraising platform – These institutions can deploy a self-service donation kiosk/charity kiosk at their premises to easily manage fundraising initiatives. The interactive kiosk screen can creatively convey the fundraising goals effectively to visitors or tourists, enabling positive engagement from their part.
  • Provide accurate, updated information - Tourists require updated and legitimate information. Any misinformation can adversely affect their itinerary, plans, and ultimately their precious time. Cultural institutions can disseminate updated and relevant information to visitors via a tourism kiosk.
  • Create Immersive experiences – Cultural institutions can deploy self-service kiosks to create diverse immersive experiences for visitors to improve visitor experience. A typical example is a museum kiosk.
  • Museums can improve visitor experiences by curating interactive exhibits, virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, interactive games, etc., to create a lively and exhilarating museum experience.
  • Promote special events – Cultural institutions can promote special events, workshops, meetings, and training sessions. Moreover, promotion of the events can be conducted in the most engaging ways through interactive videos, graphical animations, etc.
tourism kiosk machine

Multi-language support for international tourists

Millions of tourist flock to Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia each year. Tourists from various nationalities and cultures visit international travel destinations like Dubai. Therefore, providing adequate language support to this diverse tourist population is highly relevant, especially when it comes to improving guest experience.

Benefits

Deploying a self-service kiosk with multi-language facility at places of high footfall can immensely help foreign tourists.

  • Instant convenience – Once the user selects the desired language, the instructions are displayed in the selected language via the kiosk screen. Thus, the user can easily navigate through the instructions irrespective of the person’s language proficiency.
  • Seamless transaction assistance – Irrespective of the type of transaction, whether it’s ticket booking, a purchase, or simply reading through the instructions, the kiosk machine provides the necessary language assistance from the very start until the end of the transaction.
  • Improved guest satisfaction - When services are available to visitors in their native tongue, they feel more appreciated and welcomed, which ultimately enhances the guest experience.

Addressing the challenges in self-service kiosk deployment

The tourism industry of the middle-east experiences varied challenges, and therefore, it is vital to address them. Knowing the challenges involved will help us make well-informed decisions prior to deployment and judiciously optimize the use of resources as well. Here are the challenges involved.

  • Lack of infrastructure – Lack of adequate infrastructure can be a problem in some parts of the region. Uninterrupted electricity and internet connectivity are prerequisites for self-service kiosk deployment.
  • Unfamiliarity with technology – Implementing self-service kiosks in areas where the technology may be foreign necessitates extensive user training and orientation initiatives. A successful deployment depends on promoting adoption and resolving any user concerns or disagreements.
  • Cultural sensitivity - Cultural standards and sensibilities vary across the region. It takes considerable imagination and expertise to design self-service kiosks that honour regional traditions and customs while also providing effective service. As a team of professionals, Panashi is fully aware of the cultural and religious sensitivities that exist in the region. We have high regards for cultural norms and traditions. Our team is fully-equipped to provide customizable kiosk solutions, considering the design and content aspects, and fully adhering to the client’s requirements.
  • Harsh weather conditions – As we all know, the region experiences harsh weather conditions like extremes of temperature and violent sandstorms, which can pose a threat to outdoor kiosk machines. The Panashi technical team has top-notch expertise in deploying kiosk machines in harsh weather settings. Our Panashi kiosk enclosures adhere to the IP65 standard, guaranteeing durability and resilience against challenging weather conditions. We conduct water jet tests on the enclosure to assess its durability and rigidity, ensuring that our kiosks withstand the harshest of environments with ease. Special protective shades are incorporated on the kiosk enclosure to protect it from extreme heat.
  • Regulatory issues – Complex compliance-related norms and diverse jurisdiction regulations, at times, become challenging.

Benefits

  • Reduced wait times – Ticketing kiosk automates ticketing process efficiently, and therefore reduces wait times. Efficient ticketing process means added convenience for the visitors.
  • 24/7 ticketing – Unlike conventional ticketing counters that are managed by ticketing staff, a self-service ticketing kiosk remains operational 24/7.
  • Reduced expenses - self-service ticketing kiosk manages the repetitive, less-productive, ticketing task of the ticketing staff and serves as the perfect alternative, which in turn, brings down expenses.
  • Fast and smooth transactions – the user reads the information displayed on the kiosk screen, selects the number of tickets and does the payment. The ticket issuance or the booking confirmation receipt is received in few minutes.
  • Collect user data and insights – the ticketing authority gets access to the valuable insights related to user/visitor preferences and patterns like number of visitors during peak time, preferred ticket category, demographical insights etc.

The inclusion of technology in Tourism sector – Examples

The travel and tourism sector have successfully integrated technology to streamline various day-to-day operations like tour planning, booking and even experiencing travel. Some examples are listed below.

  • Online booking websites and apps – Most of us are familiar with online booking websites and apps like Trivago, Goibibo, Booking.com, Expedia etc. These websites and apps make tour planning and booking process highly convenient. They also provide highly useful features like price comparisons, reviews, recommendations etc so that visitors can make best travel-related decisions. Mobile apps like TripAdvisor, Hopper, Skyscanner, Rome2Rio are some of the best apps every serious traveller should know.
  • Virtual Reality technology – Now, you don't have to travel; the top travel destinations come to you via VR technology. Travel and exploration are now possible from the comfort of your home without physically visiting the destination. Yes, VR enables a fantastic and futuristic immersive experience. Select a convenient VR platform, download the VR app, and start your virtual exploration. Yes, the process is highly convenient and simple.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) - Augmented Reality technology offers immersive experiences to visitors and travellers by modifying the physical settings with digital overlays to create a significant improvement in understanding specific locations, structures, buildings, exhibits, etc. Augmented Reality opens up an exciting platform to add interactive user experiences through the power of storytelling.
  • Digital guides and Audio tours – It’s a common sight nowadays to find digital guides and audio tour platforms at busy travel destinations. The users can make use of their smartphones or other devices to access audio tours and digital guides. These digital platforms offer multimedia information and interactive maps coupled with insightful narration.

Conclusion

The introduction of self-service kiosks has truly transformed the tourist experiences in the Middle East. These kiosk solutions don’t just simplify business operations; They enhance the overall guest experience. Self-service kiosks are changing the way travellers perceive and interact with a wide range of industries in the Middle-eastern tourist landscape. Kiosk machines are deployed for a variety of requirements ranging from check-in at airports and hotels to interactive displays in museums. Interactive kiosk solutions will play a key role in transforming the future of the tourism industry in the Middle-east and its position as a prominent tourism hub in Asia. Whether exploring ancient sites or diving into modern wonders, self-service kiosks are changing how we interact with businesses in the Middle-east tourist landscape. Being able to successfully blend technology and hospitality, they not only organize tours; They form memories that last a lifetime.

If you are in the travel and hospitality sector, please let us know about your challenges and concerns. Our dedicated team of professionals is waiting to hear from you!