Until the whole pandemic, I wasn't much of a traveler, to say the very least. I mean, I liked going on vacations as much as the next guy. The normal 2-3 weeks summer vacation and a couple of city breaks here and there. But never felt that eagerness to simply pack my bags and go.
On top of that, a 6 month business trip between May '19 and October '19 made me even more home-sick.
So by the end of 2019, all I wanted to do was stay home, in my little corner of an office...
Careful what you wish for, right?
One of my first projects as a full-time freelancer was for a travel start-up, that started in December 2019.
Working for more than a year with a client that's building a start-up in tourism during a pandemic is no walk in the park, for either parties involved.
Nonetheless, this particular industry sparked an interest, as a developer and creator.
Despite the huge competitive space of tourism and travel tech, there's a lot of space to innovate.
We all relish traveling, don’t we? But it definitely won't be as we knew it before.
It's been a huge industry for a long time and one of the most hard- hit by pandemic, but now things are starting to come back around.
We see customer behavior and expectations changing and the entire industry is shifting gears to embrace new technology and innovation.
A massive paradigm shift of a more digital world of travel is happening as you read this.
Travel businesses need to be aware of these changes and keep up with the technology trends. Especially when this new trends can improve the customer experience.
Now, I’m a home automation fanatic and I’m always looking to add a bit more of it in my house.
Seeing this automation trend spread to the hospitality world, I have to say, it only delights me.
The gimmicks, gadgets and whatnots that once used to keep me home (just because), will now start to be around us in places we travel
So, I'm ready to pack my bags and explore a new kind of travel:
Devices like Google Home and Alexa have long been in our everyday lives, at least in home environments.
It’s obvious that the technology behind these smart speakers only gets better and better by the year. It’s not only a gadget that tells you the weather anymore.
“Whether it’s Alexa and Amazon or Apple and Home pod or Google with voice, we will be searching using voice in the next decade to come”
said Gary Vee back in 2018.
So, voice technology is here to stay.
The benefits of these type of experiences in travel industry are game-changing.
We see famous hotel chains, like Marriot and Hilton, integrate voice technology in their rooms to make customers feel a more personalized experience.
Voice-enabled accommodations let you control in-room devices.
The room greets you by your name, gives you insights about its amenities and hotel information, like room service or breakfast timeline.
The TV in the room preloads your favorite pictures or Netflix shows so it feels more familiar as your own space.
You can control all the in-room devices like room temperature, tv channels and lights with your voice.
Imagine you make dinner reservations at the hotel or check and order room service. Or find restaurants and cafes near you, or simply book a cab, all these only with your voice.
Travel businesses need to capitalize on this and optimize for a voice-search experience.
When someone will ask Google Home or Alexa “Find me some hotels in New York near the Central Park”, they would want to be in the first results, if not the first one.
One drawback, or more like a concern about this is around privacy. TK
As a way to prepare for business recovery, the travel and tourism industry is trying to make sure travelers feel more safe in a post-pandemic world, by having less surfaces to touch and reduce the face-to-face interaction with staff.
Some say that contactless interaction technology could be next big thing in travel industry.
We’ve already seen this technology used before the pandemic, especially in airports, like bag drop self kiosk and check-in via mobile app. It’s been working for years now.
But the post-pandemic world brings to life a more health-conscious traveler.
This makes mobile check-in technology an important addition in all travel and tourism aspects.
After airports and airlines, hotels and vacation rentals are showing an increased adoption of mobile and contactless check-in solutions to ensure guests and staff feel more safe.
Key-less entry via a smartphone app, contactless payments and smart home sensors are few of the many examples that are part of the contactless technology trend.
This only adds up to an overall contactless stay experience.
Besides being a customer reassurance short-term strategy, contactless technology can also have a great long-term businesses impact when it comes to costs and brand.
Businesses can reduce the logistical strains placed upon in-house staff, show marketing offers in-app while the check-in process or offer discounts in the future through the app, to boost brand loyalty.
Chatbots are not a novelty in the hospitality industry. The trend has been emerging for several years now, but the technology behind has improved, thanks to the rise of AI and Deep learning.
You can think of a chatbot as a 24/7 employee, that ensures a constant customer support and answers your guest’s most common questions. Not to mention that it can have conversations with thousands of people, simultaneous.
These chatbots provide an on-demand personalized experience to customers. All based on their profile and online behavior.
To name a few of the potential applications:
- accepting bookings and payments
- sharing inspiration and tips
- offer recommendations
These type of ... make chatbot technology a great addition to any travel business.
Today’s chatbot technology, combined with AI and Machine Learning, can integrate more complicated workflows and automation within the hospitality business.
This can improve not only the customer experience, but also the staff experience.
The IoT space continues to expand across all major industries, but tourism is one of the sectors that can benefit the most from this growing trend.
For the customer, it gives experiences that feel more personalized.
For the staff, it increases automation level, simplifies routine tasks in daily operations.
These smart devices go hand in hand with the previous mentioned technologies, like Voice experience devices and mobile check-in solutions.
In fact, all these should be considered more as a holistic solution, rather than stand alone.
Smart door-locks and electronic key-cards allow guests to benefit from the mentioned mobile check-in feature, whereas smart internet-connected sensors, thermostats and lights is what truly makes a voice-enabled room feel more personalized to a customer's needs.
A lot of hospitality businesses have already incorporated IoT in so-called hyper-personalized rooms, allowing guests to control everything with an app or with their voice.
On the other side of Things (pun intended), interconnected devices can give near-realtime information about operating status, and predictive repairs and maintenance. This makes staff’s life easier in their day-to-day operations.
Another application for this technology can be location-specific information with the help of beacon technology or other types of sensor.
Imagine you arrive at a restaurant and just before you’re at the entrance, you already receive a message with your table number. Special sensors can identify when you arrive, notifying the restaurant staff you’re table number right away.
Virtual Reality is one of the biggest emerging technology trends in the last decade and while it's in an early potential, it wins more and more adoption across many industries.
When it comes to the travel sector, there’s some skepticism against it and no doubt, people need to travel physically. That need will never go away.
With all that, travel industry is seeing an increase acceleration in adopting this technology not to replace travel, but to expand on the opportunities.
Travel and hospitality companies can provide their potential customers with unique ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience to get a feeling of their services, before they go through the whole booking process.
Hotels are converting their physical rooms into 3D versions to provide customers the ability to experience parts of the hotel or have a glimpse their room prior to booking.
It expands on the description and details of all the amenities and features so that the customer can experience things for themselves before-hand.
It’s one thing to go through details of a room on a website and another thing to actually go through the room, virtually, right before buy-in.
It’s a perfect “try before you buy” kind of experience.
Even so, the technology is still in early phase and not quite accessible to every-day consumer.
For many people, headsets are heavy, expensive and uncomfortable to wear for more than 20-30 minutes.
The downside of all these, as of now is that it’s still pretty expensive and the technology is not ready yet.
Headsets are heavy, expensive and uncomfortable to wear for more than 30 minutes.
But as the technology becomes more sophisticated, we can see the benefits it could bring to the travel industry.
For people who are physically unable to visit certain parts of the world, this technology can open new doors and opportunities for them.
It can also brings a sustainability factor to the table, as certain landmarks that are closed to the public can be experienced in a VR setup, keeping them preserved.
Needless to say, all the aforementioned trends and technologies have one common goal - Boost customer experience across travel sectors.
Each of this technology brings amazing new value to customers and travel businesses, but if we zoom out a bit, the real great value is when all of them are combined into one synergetic customer experience.