Amit Madhan, President and Group Head, Technology, E-Business and ESG, Thomas Cook (India) Limited and SOTC Travel

The Indian travel and hospitality industry has been undergoing rapid digitalisation. Enterprises in this domain are now relying heavily on new-age solutions to deliver highly personalised experience to customers. As such, technologies like internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are gaining traction among travel companies and hotels. Technologies like 5G and edge computing have multiple use cases for the travel and hospitality industry. They help enhance customer experience, improve security and take business decisions. Industry players share their views on the evolving technology trends, their uptake and the way forward…

What are the new digital solutions being leveraged by your organisation? How is technology assisting in the sector’s recovery in the post-pandemic era?

At Thomas Cook and SOTC, our unique hybrid “Clicks & Bricks” model harnesses the speed and efficiencies of technology with human expertise and reassurance. We have deployed end-to-end digital solutions and processes across business lines to en­sure a seamless delivery of contactless, sca­l­able, secure solutions to customers. Our recent digital delivery was an integrated accounts payable tool that automates all payment-related workflow across our lei­sure, MICE and corporate travel busi­ne­sses. This tool not only provides the pa­y­ment status to vendors on a real-time basis, but also acts as a single repository for all invoices against which payments have been made.

Further, the pandemic has changed traveller preferences, and we have witne­ss­ed a significant demand for individual travel. The new-age traveller seeks custo­mi­sed services. Hence, to empower our cu­stomers we created a unique platform called Dynamic Packaging Module, which can be accessed by our sellers as well as customers who can pick and choose experiences, transfers and hotels as per their requirements.

How are next-generation innovations such as AI/ML, AR/VR, cloud and automation reshaping the travel and hospitality sector? What are the main challenges faced while deploying these technologies? How will the emergence of the metaverse impact the travel and hospitality industry?

With next-generation technologies in place, organisations have access to real-­ti­me data from multiple sources to help th­em improve demand forecasting, guest pro­filing and resource planning. AI, ML, AR/VR, etc., have elevated to an advanced level of sophistication. These technologies have the potential to transform a company’s approach towards marketing, custo­mer insights and engagement, as well as to increase profitability for the company.

One of the challenges faced while de­p­loying new technologies is adoption. This is applicable to customers as well as the workforce. It takes some time for a compa­ny to let go of its usual way of working and adapt to a new and more advanced ma­nner.

Moreover, the travel industry is witnessing a significant digital transformation and concepts like metaverse in the travel industry are gaining traction among tech enthusiasts, travellers and business­es. Meta­verse is a broad term for an immersive virtual realm where people can interact with each other and the environment. Metaverse will deliver an immersive experience to customers, thus giving them a fair idea of what their actual travel will be like.