The usage of technology in the global travel and hospitality industry has grown tremendously, both at the back end and the front end. This has been triggered by the prevalence of smartphones and the proliferation of internet services, owing to which the modern-day tech-savvy traveller is well aware of most of the technologies across the spectrum of diverse applications. As a result of easy access to information and communication technology, guests’ experiences have intensified, right from the conception to the realisation of a travel plan.
A report by KPMG and FICCI states that the travel and hospitality industry is experiencing a rapid transformation with new tools, technologies and digital platforms being adopted by many companies, mainly to improve customer experience, build customer loyalty and run businesses efficiently. Further, the hotel industry is striving to satisfy the needs of modern-day travellers through the proliferation of hotel metasearch engines, in-room mobile technology, chatbots, online reviews and testimonials. Moreover, the list includes mobile applications, social media and technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
A look at the key technologies that have been prominently adopted by travel and hospitality companies…
The travel and hospitality industry is gradually adopting advanced technologies such as AI to grow and optimise all other hotel technologies. For instance, AI can meet the need for personalised packages for guests by collecting and interpreting their data. Further, accommodation facilities can minimise chances of error by using AI. The use of AI can also strengthen the marketing
strategies of hotels, resulting in a substantial boost for hospitality businesses.
Personal voice assistance
Thanks to the growing popularity of voice-based services such as Siri and Alexa, the travel and hospitality industry has realised the potential of such technologies in creating more personalised experiences for customers. Hotels now provide guests with personal voice assistants to make
their stays more comfortable and memorable. With voice-based assistance, guests can easily make restaurant reservations over the phone. For instance, Ixigo has launched a voice-based travel assistant named TARA. TARA is exactly like the travel agents of the past, except that she responds instantly and is available 24×7.
Chatbots are being used by hotel businesses to enhance customer satisfaction. Particularly during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, travellers want to be assured of the safety of their chosen hotel. A chatbot can answer any query from a potential customer online at any time of the day. In addition to their own apps and websites,
companies across a wide range of industries are creating such tools on popular messaging apps such as Slack, Facebook Messenger and Kik. Leading travel organisations such as Expedia.com, Kayak and Skyscanner have launched bots of their own on Facebook Messenger and Slack, helping travellers to book their hotels.
Hotels can use online review monitoring services to monitor what people are saying about them. They can then address negative reviews as soon as possible. Online monitoring thus allows hospitality companies to evaluate themselves and provide superior service to their customers.
Big data analytics
Big data is a fact of life in modern tourism management. Travel companies use data to improve personalisation by making specific adjustments to their offers based on the information collected. Big data can be used specifically by hotel owners for revenue management by forecasting demand levels through analysis of historic occupancy rates and other past trends. Pricing and promotional strategies can also be optimised when demand is predictable.
This technology, combined with AI, allows airlines and hotels to identify social media sentiment, resulting in a more complete understanding of a traveller’s journey through social media. When a customer posts about a particular flight delay on social media, expressing frustration, a listening tool analyses it and interacts with the customer in real time.
VR is an emerging technology in a number of different sectors, but its role within the tourism industry is especially significant. Since it provides a traveller with a chance to experience faraway countries from their own homes, it can be the deciding factor for a booking. In VR tours, customers can experience everything from virtual hotel tours and restaurants to landmarks, national parks and specific activities. Many VR tours and 360 degree tours can now be viewed via mainstream web browsers, helping those who are reluctant to travel due to Covid to see the benefits more clearly.
With this in mind, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, has partnered with OutsiteVR, a travel technology start-up, to enable people to virtually travel to India and further enhance Incredible India campaigns. OutsiteVR is an experiential platform that allows users to virtually travel across popular heritage sites, historical monuments and tourist attractions using a smartphone, a desktop or a VR headset.
Travel and hospitality businesses can greatly enhance customer experience through the use of graphical overlays, providing customers with valuable information or offering them pure entertainment. For instance, apps can allow for photographs to be augmented through filters and effects. As a customer points their smartphone at local destinations, details about those destinations can be displayed, providing information at the exact moment when it’s most relevant. As part of a plan to attract tourists, the Kerala government plans to launch an AR app that functions as a virtual tour guide. According to the Kerala tourism department, the government has awarded Rs 4.3 million for the development of a mobile app that will prove to be of great value to visitors. In addition to providing additional information about various sites, the app will act as a guide for tourists. As the app focuses on the Muziris Heritage Project, the user can take a virtual tour of Muziris sites.
The theft of the data of 4.5 million customers of Air India highlights how cybersecurity has become a major concern for the travel and tourism sector. Travel and hospitality enterprises, sustained by aviation, are majorly vulnerable, as they employ a large number of people and have extensive customer data. Phishing and ransomware are among the most common threats in this area. In order to keep enterprises safe, organisations are heavily investing in cybersecurity training as well as hardware and software solutions. For instance, as part of its mitigation strategy, Air India took a number of steps, including protecting the servers, notifying card issuers and changing its account passwords.
Internet of things
Among the most exciting emerging travel technology trends is IoT. It is already being deployed within the travel and tourism industry, and this will only increase in the future. In hotels, for example, IoT technology can be used to provide customers with a device that can control everything from the lights to the heaters and air conditioning. In airports, luggage cases can be equipped with sensors that alert passengers when they pass by.
Recently, OYO and Microsoft have entered into a multi-year strategic alliance to jointly develop travel and hospitality products and experiences. The experience will include self-check-in, a digital register of arrivals and departures, self-know-your-customer processes, and IoT-managed smart locks and virtual assistance via Azure IoT. Under the alliance, OYO will develop smart in-room experiences, such as premium and customised experiences for travellers on the OYO platform.
According to Expedition 3.0, India’s travel sector has expanded in recent years due to an increase in domestic travel spending, internet penetration and smartphone availability. The popularity of user-generated content and sharing economy services, backed by such applications, has opened up opportunities for many new travel start-ups, offering choices to tech-savvy travellers. Given the variety of technology solutions currently available in the Indian travel and hospitality market, and growth predictions eyeing double-digit growth, the real query is how to implement these services in hotels across the length and breadth of the country.
Travel and hospitality enterprises are using advanced technological tools to ensure customer satisfaction, and thus, the growth of their businesses. Ultimately, automating travel- and hospitality-related processes, saving time, reducing costs, and improving consumer experience are some of the main reasons to implement travel technology. Enterprises can streamline their processes with technology, or even automate processes that would traditionally require human intervention. This could reduce a business’s staffing requirements, reduce costs and increase their income, resulting in better financial results. Additionally, technology can aid travel and hospitality by improving accuracy and convenience, and reducing or eliminating human error. However, it is essential that the industry keep up with the technology trends to ensure that the best solutions are being used to cater to customers.