No part of your business is untouched by technology – the way you implement it takes its cue from trends in travel consumption. 2020 has brought our industry some unforeseen challenges and threats to factor into our planning; meanwhile, the bar is set for tourism products to respond with opportunities to make travel better for our clients. How’s that?

The situation in travel now

The travel industry faces uncertain times with the impact of COVID-19. While there have always been threats like natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, social and political upheaval, and other health scares, we’re in the uncomfortable position of having to maneouvre around fear and several unknowns.

We keep a sharp eye on developments and implement any mitigable measures where we can.

Whatever the traveller worries about, we’ve got to be seen to care and be sensitive about.

Being practical, we have a responsibility to our clients to communicate what we know and how we intend to manage their safety.

Saying nothing is not an option – our clients are looking to us to guide them as best we can. Looking forward, we must continue engaging travellers on the various social platforms to understand how we can address their concerns and how we can appeal to them as we plan for recovery.

With some coincidence, one major trend among travel consumers is the expectation of smart solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT). They’ll want to move away from paper-based admin towards cloud-based check-in/out processes, the use of smart keys for accommodation, even facial recognition.

They want to control more of their stay using their mobile phones, which they expect to connect them with more experiences during travel. It doesn’t just offer them more freedom of independent movement, it also limits the amount of contact with other people. Extend that to an IoT mobile app for control over temperature, lights and other in-room conveniences. Save them from touching switches and buttons and service your guests with self-service tech!

Travelers can adjust room temperatures, operate TV, utilize heaters & set alarm timing via apps.

ColorWhistle

Obviously you’re applying stricter protocols around cleaning guest rooms and general access – boost your efforts by making alcohol-based hand sanitiser liberally available around your premises. Ensure your cleaning staff are adequately trained to deal with the new anti-virus requirements. If capacity allows, you could even allocate guests at higher risk their own germ-free areas. Take a fresh look at your air circulation and drainage systems: external flow poses a lower risk of infection. We have a choice: submit to the panic or pause and take mindful action. We’ll get through this together.

Whatever you do to safeguard guests and staff, communicate your efforts – information dispensed in a calm, level-headed manner will bring factual relief to the anxiety fed by fake news and panic.

Tech and experiential trends

It’s not all about limiting human contact – there’s actually a growing expectation of technology in the travel purchasing journey, and during travel. Voice search is making itself heard loud and clear, already being used to research deals, promotions, personalised travel tips, upcoming events and to access tourism services like yours. Voice on mobile will only grow in popularity. Travellers will want to try before they buy, seeking out content that enables an immersive, interactive consumer experience. Virtual Reality imagery and tours will become a staple content form that enhances the discovery stage, offering travellers an insider view of rooms, activities and facilities, helping you sell your products better. The option to book once a decision is made needs to be present, visible and mobile-responsive.

60% of Generation Z book travel online via mobile

Travelport

Hot on the heels of your experiential travel-mad Millennials is the younger Generation Z, both born and bred tech savvy consumers dictating the tech imperative to the travel industry. With growing travel spend and influence, these are the demographics to lavish attention on to bring the business of tourism back to life. When they travel, they want the same 5G immersive digital experience they enjoy in their everyday lives; they want streaming boxes in-room to access their favourite entertainment wherever they stay, from TV shows to gaming.

Service for them, and even their older counterparts, is the convenience of direct messaging with hotel staff. Enable them to manage anything they need during their stay via AI-inspired concierge services, whether it’s planning what to do or where to go in-destination or getting restaurant, transfer or guide contacts. It’s a service approach that will satisfy health safety concerns too.

Tech and the environment

In your operations, structural design of your property, and affiliations, observe more sustainable standards in consumption, emissions, waste and community engagement. Take advantage of this temporary tourism lull to implement eco-friendly measures like smart lighting used with occupancy sensors (so the lights only go on when someone’s home!) and examine where and how to incorporate indigenous materials in your property.

Travelport studies show that 55% of business travellers choose eco-friendly travel options. Post-Corona recovery will probably start with them; so wrap your head around smart energy management now to benefit later. This way you can improve the guest experience and reduce your business costs, finishing with fanfare promotion of your pro-sustainability brand.

The tech in your marketing soup

Reviews, loyalty and data highlight the way forward. Your online reputation has never been more important; so ensure you have someone dedicated to your social media (SM) platforms to engage with travellers, monitor and manage what gets said about your brand. Invite reviews, feature and share them, because travellers will increasingly influence each other’s travel choices this year. Elicit imagery from your happy clients too, because UGC adds a great deal of value to your visual content marketing. Online communities share information and reviews, providing a rich resource for you to harvest data from. Discover the age groups of prominent participants, their lifestyles, jobs, gender and hobbies, for insights to help you develop relevant, new USPs.

Openly discuss issues that worry travellers (viral infection, conflict, weather events) because misinformation serves nobody, and they will appreciate your candour. Loyalty programmes are investments in future revenue for your business – millennials are amenable to these but make them straightforward and simple, because nobody has time for complicated. Poll them, survey them, analyse your big data, and put those findings towards your planning. Data collected from previous and repeat visits will help you predict guest behaviour, develop your products and personalised offerings, as well as adapt your marketing campaigns.

Speaking of counting clicks, it looks like travellers will prefer to book directly with you rather than going through an intermediary; so optimise your website and booking engine. Self-service is going to be big this year – to meet the demand, automate your process, personalise the buying experience, and enable informed choices with rich contentAdd translations of your content into different languages and you’ll access more markets and encourage bookings from further afield than usual. Mobile is imperative.

Even without the spectre of corona virus hovering over the tourism industry, the role of technology would still be deeply entrenched in the travel buying journey. If it helps us make travel better and a bit safer in the face of infection too, then that’s the best we can do for our traveller.

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