Future of Tech infused hotel and travel industry
Back in the older days, hospitality industry was just about finding a place for the people to rest their heads and meeting their basic needs. In time, the number of players in the industry grew and the game has moved to a whole new arena of structured business. Service offerings changed from just bed to bed-bath and then to bed-bath-breakfast. Invention of mobiles and internet has revolutionized the service industry further with the addition of fourth important ‘B’- Broadband (High Speed Internet Access). Companies leveraging on Internet, CRS, e-commerce and distribution are able to attract customers in better way. In the last two decades, more ‘B’s related to technology has transformed our hotel and travel business, viz., Big data, Block Chain, Business Intelligence, Bots/Robots etc.
Millennials and Generation M, born with mobiles in their hand and who are growing in tandem with technology have volatile mindset. This young internet-savvy population is one of the major potential travelers in the country. Gone are those days when travelers scoured through magazines and newspapers to book hotels and plan a vacation. Due to the increased internet and mobile usage, travelers have become more informed and they prefer scanning through hotel reviews before selecting one. Players in travel and hospitality industries integrated their business model with newest technology and constantly updated the features to cope up and stay in the business.
Social media is the powerful tech tool and word-of-mouth has evolved to text-on-screen. Any positive comment about a brand from any social media handle has the potential to reach masses and elevate the brand’s perception and at the same time, a bad remark from any traveler has the power to jeopardize the brand image. In addition to the physical tangible aspects, inventories and distribution system, a digitally enabled e-commerce platform has become a significant asset of any hotel and travel company. Hoteliers are making efforts and investing resources to build a robust and sophisticated online booking platform integrated with various intelligent and analytical systems for themselves to reach out to their potential customers and ensuring that room inventories do not remain unsold as rooms are perishable. Further, rooms are also sold by yielding the best possible rate coping up with the competitors.
Absence of timely investment in technologies from the existing players who were busy in attaining operational efficiency, led to the bloom of new era of OTAs and online room aggregators. They have leveraged their business by concentrating on technologies to increase their visibility and indulging in target marketing using the power of Internet and SMAC (Social Media Analytics and Cloud).
Travel and hospitality industries have started using advantages of existing technologies like Big data, Business analytics, Business Intelligence, Block chain and next gen evolving technologies to take business lead.
We are in the era of ‘Screen age’ where everyone is surrounded by and busy in screens of mobile, tabs, laptop, and TV. Customers mostly buy what they see and companies are taking advantage of the same fact. For Example, the data from the user who has searched flights for Goa is used and the potential traveler’s social handles and emails are blasted with different marketing ads related to travel services like staying, dining, taxi bookings using target marketing technologies such as SMAC.
The OTA’s, online room aggregators like Airbnb and others ADS invest heavily in their initial market spends with various lucrative offers, discounts and minimal commission rates to penetrate into the market base. The pricing has also become transparent since this digital reform and more offers and discounts are worked out to boost sales. These aggregators also provide bundled services where people can book flights, hotels, restaurants under the same umbrella in lower rates. They are providing aggressive discounts and some companies even spend more than their net revenue growth to lead in the fierce competition. In the long run, they pose one of the biggest threats to the hospitality service players as eventually commission rates are increased and discounts are also reduced. To remain sustainable, the players in travel and hospitality industry are making all the possible efforts to cope up with OTA’s offerings by providing various offers for other hotel offered services like discount of F&B, spa, and others.
The ticket booking scenario has changed completely after the invention and infusion of technology into the lives of the travelers. Instead of standing in a long line at booking stations, ticket bookings are being done just in a few clicks. WhatsApp messenger which devoured Blackberry messenger, has been very helpful in handling guest’s booking, service requests and complaints and also has enabled service customizations just by sending WhatsApp messages to the hotel’s prescribed number.
Overall, the advancement in technology has been a win-win game for both customers and service providers as it has put customers at ease in selecting and booking any service and has helped the service provider with guest handling, planning, upselling, cross-selling, improving branding and PR and in effective ORM (Online Reputation Management). Service providers are even able to improve their quality of service by listening to the customers through online feedback and comments on travel blogs/ social media. The Social media also enables companies to host successful marketing campaigns to increase brand awareness and to build a customer base, uplift the business and reap the benefits.
The future of Travel and hotel booking has become seamless with responsive desktop websites, mobile websites and AI (Artificial intelligence) integrated Chatbots and machine learning process, which comes with cognitive Automation and embedded analytics to give a human-like conversational experience and perform activities from booking to dealing with traveler queries. This is done by RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology which has ability to handle the mundane and repetitive tasks of the business operations. The hotel booking experience is also revamped with the usage of 360 photos and videos replacing the still images on the website and the user can take a virtual walk through the room using AR integrated website.
The change is constant and the technologies are evolving in a rapid pace. Companies should embrace the change and adapt themselves at the same pace to cater to the customers in line with their business objectives. They should invest in and equip themselves with latest technologies to sustain in this tech-savvy modern world.