Joyjit Chakravorty, General Manager,
Hilton Garden Inn, New Delhi/Saket

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. Joyjit Chakravorty, General Manager, Hilton Garden Inn, New Delhi/Saket 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 hospitality industry has evolved and we have adapted ourselves well with the new world. We are making efforts to constantly make life easier and safer for our team members and improve the overall experience of our guests, keeping safe distancing and health measures in mind. With regard to this, now our guests can have a touchless check-in/out experience and even choose their preferred rooms. Digital check-in through mobile phones has picked up steam and helps our team lower their workload and concentrate more on guests’ experiences. Voice searches and co­m­mands in the room with contactless payments are now widely available in most hotels. The industry and our teams are already on board with the concept of QR codes, online menus, hybrid virtual conferences and virtual show-arounds. Smart usage of technologies in energy management, predictive maintenance, parking and data management is in vogue and would be growing more in hospitality 2.0.

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?

Hospitality is a dynamic industry and personalisation is the key to succeed. With lockdowns and travel restrictions, the industry was severely affected and hence, all processes of investments were impacted. However, the pandemic also gave us the opportunity to go back and rethink our processes, products and costs, without affecting our guests’ experience and the sa­fety of our team. At par with other in­d­ustries, the hospitality industry and Hilton Garden Inn, New Delhi, has come up with touchless technologies, wh­ich are us­ed in our restaurants and rooms for fun­c­tions such as payments, tra­ining, etc. Fur­ther, conferences have gone virtual. Au­gmented reality (AR) pro­perty showcasing is being worked upon and we have already deployed cloud-based integrated solutions, which have created va­lue and mi­tigated costs, along with opening up new domestic markets and building more responsive and resilient business models.

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?

The hospitality industry has already started harnessing the benefits of new-age technologies. Be it for providing a working from anywhere experience to our new-age millennial guests, to enhancing digital capabilities and skills of our leadership, new-age technologies are playing a pivotal role in reviving the hospitality industry. Several new-age solutions are being leveraged. These include cybersecurity, cloud-based solutions, in-room entertainment with a tap, online reputation management. Besides, more intelligent hotels are being designed via converged local area networks, and guest experiences are being personalised through robots and infrared sensors, adapting to NFC technology for marketing, sm­art contracts based on blockchain and renewable energy technology.

After services by skilled workforce, lack of knowledge and inferior infrastructure still remain areas of improvement for technology companies.

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

In my opinion, the hospitality in­dustry 3.0 will evolve into niche markets (serving spe­­cific types of customers). Hen­ce, big data, mobile technology and CRM plus in­formation will provide personalised experiences to our guests and the industry to thrive. Virtual reality (VR) and AR are two of the next most promising digital trends in the tourism sphere. In addition, automation and robotics applications are here to grow as the next key trends for phy­sical tourism businesses along with online channels.