Arif Patel, Regional Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Hyatt India

The Indian travel and hospitality sector has been undergoing rapid digitalisation. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic further pushed the pedal on this trend. The players in this industry are now relying heavily on new-age solutions to deliver a highly personalised experience to customers. As such, technologies such as internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data are gaining prom­inence among travel companies and hotels. They are adopting these technologies not only to provide good customer experience, but also to re-engineer their core offerings and scale up operations. In addition, these solutions are enabling enterprises to enhance their customer acquisition rate. As the new normal takes more concrete shape, new technologies and digital solutions are here to stay. Arif Patel, Regional Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Hyatt India, share his views on the evolving technology trends in the sector and the way forward…

What are the key information and communications technology (ICT) trends dominating the travel and hospitality sector?

The past 18 months have brought about a major shift in the travel and hospitality landscape in India. We did come across several challenges, but they have only in­c­reased our focus on driving innovations in the sector. Technology adoption remains one of the biggest opportunity areas and it has truly helped us establish Hyatt as a trusted brand among our guests and colleagues. Today, safety and well-being are top priorities and integration of touchless experiences and hybrid meeting solutions will remain integral to driving enhanced guest experiences. Building on Hyatt’s deep-rooted expertise in delivering high quality meetings and events, we transformed our event planning and execution module, keeping in view the safety and well-being of the attendees. Today, we have a range of solutions, including virtual pro­perty tours, an event concierge app, a dedicated portal for meeting planners and even a group bill tool to guarantee that our guests have a hassle-free experience.

How has the onset of Covid-19 impacted the digitalisation of the travel and hospitality sector? What new approaches or changes in strategy did you adopt to sail through the pandemic?

We are catering to a new audience set that is extremely conscious about safety, security and hygiene standards. We must also un­derstand that there is a pent-up demand for travel. Guests are looking at breaking free from their mundane routines and luxury hotels are expected to witness an uptick in bookings as people have saved for long for memorable experiences. Their search me­tho­ds for identifying distinct experiences have changed today. In fact, we have seen a significant increase in redemptions on “World of Hyatt”, where the membership base has risen in the past 18 months. Tech­nology is truly at the centre of driving experiences that match expectations of our guests on all fronts. Accordingly, we have invested in enhanced digital amenities to provide guests with greater control over how they connect with us. We have also in­troduced hybrid event packages such as “Together by Hyatt”, to enable guests to re­discover the joy of connecting at global meetings and events, while keeping their safety and social distancing needs in mind.

How are you leveraging new-age technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain, cloud and big data? What are some of the challenges faced while deploying these solutions?

Technology innovations that resonate with our guests have remained integral to us during the past 18 months. Most of the new-age technologies are being channe­li­sed for getting closer to our guests and remaining adaptable as things evolve. We figured out that digital solutions were particularly relevant around helping guests control their on-property experience, such as scheduling housekeeping, mobile food ordering and seamless check-ins, and we acted swiftly in that direction. We also leveraged technology to introduce a solution for meeting planners that were keen on pivoting to hybrid event models. To­gether By Hyatt, which we introduced recently, unifies on-site and virtual experiences and uses AI to enhance remote att­endees’ experience.

What key digital trends will shape the travel and tourism industry going forward?

As I mentioned earlier, touchless experiences will remain integral to the transformation of the sector. Our purpose to care for people so that they can be their best continues to remain a guiding force as we work towards bringing such experiences to our guests. To ensure that we are providing smooth and hassle-free experience to our guests, our hotels are offering en­han­ced digital amenities through the World of Hyatt app, such as housekeeping scheduling, food order pick-up or knock-and-go, contactless check-in and check-out with mobile keys.

Additionally, the pandemic has brou­ght about a paradigm shift in the way ev­en­ts are being held and protocols are followed. With the use of seamless technology, our Together by Hyatt programme off­ers our guests the chance to host and participate in small- to large-scale meetings across multiple Hyatt hotels not just in India, but also in the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.