although the hospitality industry was late to the AI party, it is now implementing and experimenting a lot with it. Now that people are vaccinated and traveling, it is imperative for hotels to implement the latest technologies. They must do so not only to beat their competitors but also to satisfy the evolving needs of their customers. Although, currently, most AI technologies gain attraction only for novelty purposes rather than their usability, any tech that doesn't involve an AI element will be considered obsolete in the coming days. Similarly, any service sector not implementing AI will struggle to survive because customer experience and quality of service are paramount.
There is a strong correlation between access to fast internet and guest satisfaction. This forces hoteliers to continuously invest in better Wi-Fi infrastructure and services that will improve the quality of experience to end-users The area where hotels seem to struggle is the ever-increasing cost that cannot be offset if the amenity is offered for free. That is when tiered pricing was introduced, which means that all guests will have free Wi-Fi access, but guests can pay a fee to upgrade their bandwidth and gain access to faster internet The guests today consider free Wi-Fi as a necessity and not a luxury. Roomzzz, an English hotelier, surveyed guests and found that 46% of guests considered Wi-Fi as a must-have amenity, otherwise they would look for alternate accommodations.
Hotels have become more than just a place where a weary traveler can rest. They have become centers of activity that are heavily dependent on technology. The role of technology here is of paramount importance as it helps stitch together seamless customer experience and efficient hotel operations.
As data becomes more & more valuable, a major challenge for organizations today is to identify the right technology mix that maintains the integrity of their customer’s information. Reports suggest that loyalty frauds have increased by 89% in 2019. While enterprises focus on attracting customers through their loyalty programs, their rewards have continuously proven to be more lucrative to cybercriminals.
The ongoing pandemic has indeed accelerated the demand for certain technologies/trends that will either help various industries in maintaining the “new” standard operating procedures at the workplace or transforming the way business is done in order to generate new sources of revenues
Let us pick up some industries and evaluate how the pandemic has made way for certain technologies/trends:
Enterprises like Hotels, Retail Malls, Restaurants, Cafes, etc. that have built their Guest Wi-Fi networks with MAC addresses as unique user identity will now struggle to provide a seamless experience to their guests. Using MAC reauthorization such enterprises identify and provide seamless wi-fi connections to their returning guests or even allow them to roam between multiple venues. With this new update, guests will now be forced to re-authenticate their devices via captive portal every 24 hours as their device MAC address will change. This will not only disrupt the connections of guests every day during their stay at any hotel but also returning customers will not be recognized automatically and would need to verify themselves every time they visit the venue.
The world is currently battling with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19. The severe situation had stalled travel plans for the majority of the people around the world but it is expected that hotel bookings will see a recovery after September 2020. However, it is also predicted that people will be more inclined towards traveling domestic rather than international. Thus, it is imperative for the hotels to be prepared before the business starts to ramp up and use this interim period as an opportunity to overhaul their legacy systems. In a post COVID scenario, technology will have a big role to play in furthering the digital transformation journey of the hotels. Digital solutions that can identify touchpoints and ensure minimum physical contact among the guests and the employees at each point of contact will take the center stage.
Gone are those days when a visit to a brick-and-mortar travel agent was mandatory every time one needed to plan a family vacation. Fast forward to now, in the era of digital transformation and next-gen mobility, travelers today, are playing a much larger role in building their holiday experiences.
Technology has revolutionized the way we travel, and with an exclusive focus on customer experience today, it is only set to get better in the following years. Let us look at a typical customer journey through their travel itinerary from holiday planning to its completion.
Technological advances have been instrumental in driving change in human lives and in steering the digital transformation journey of several industries. The hospitality industry is one such industry that has been reaping rich dividends by the application of technology. Right from enhancing the customer experience to streamlining front-end and back-end operations, technology is helping hospitality service providers conduct efficient resource utilization, optimize costs and improve customer experience. The introduction of over-the-top content has transformed the hospitality television landscape. Guests prefer the interactive and content-based OTT services to the linear content that was once the norm. Guestroom TVs have evolved from mere devices that help watch movies and shows to comprehensive interactive systems that entertain, inform and control guests thereby elevating the customer experience.
The hospitality industry must deal with ever-evolving customers’ tastes every single day. Major advances owing to digital innovation has enabled the market entry of brand new segments which are also performing wonderfully. What were once fledgling private accommodation and ride-hailing brands in 2009 are already at par with the Goliaths of travel.
Quite obviously, technology has brought in an unprecedented revolution as guests now demand and judge the premises based on the level of personalized experiences they get. It is no mean feat, therefore, to satisfy the trifecta of expectations that the modern customer has. This includes hyper-personalized services, seamless user experience and availability of technology that helps bridge the gap.
A lot of the ‘video as applicable to Travel and Hospitality Industry’ articles focus on brand new experiences that are not mainstream today. Most of the focus here is on Augmented, Virtual or Mixed reality. Virtual Reality (VR) is primarily focused on giving potential customers a view of their ‘target destination’ in the first person. In this use-case, they put in specialized VR headsets and they see themselves in target destinations. In other words, this is very similar to the VR gaming industry, just applied to a different ‘end user experience’. Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand is becoming more mainstream and is actually offered by many vendors today. For example, Amazon today allows you to shop for items, then ‘place the item anywhere in your house’ to see how it would look using your phone camera and AR. Similarly, several fashion brands allow you to try on catalog items on yourself using AR.
In today’s connected world, access to Wi-Fi is a necessity. Players in the hospitality industry are expected to offer Wi-Fi access to their guests during their stay at their facilities for a connected experience. There are several technology companies across the globe that are enabling digital transformation in the travel and hospitality sector with numerous offerings that help design, develop and deploy an effective WiFi services management solution.
In today’s world, guest Wi-Fi is ranked among the top desired amenity across the globe and therefore it is a critical component of the digital experience for many companies. A frictionless Wi-Fi experience is defined by various factors which play an important role in the end-user experience such as accessibility, speed, coverage, and security of the network. Though much has been done for improving the speed and coverage part, however when it comes to providing seamless guest access to Wi-Fi there is still a long way to go.
Digital Transformation is much more than a disruption or technology. A case in point is the retail giant Walmart. Amazon's epic takeover of the online retail market has compelled companies like Walmart to adjust or perish. Toys R Us is a good example. Toys R Us was one of the world’s most famous toy brands which buckled under due to growing online competition. They filed for bankruptcy last September and are now shutting down their stores. Walmart, however, is clearly trying to up the ante as it plans to add 500 more pick-up towers to its already existing network of brick and mortar stores and 200 pickup towers. It is trying to blur the line between online and offline sales by allowing the buyer to pick-up online ordered products from any of its pickup towers. In the process it gives buyers discounts for picking up their stuff, thereby, saving delivery cost. With an employee base of more than 2.3 Mn, retail giant Walmart has a good insight on purchasing habits of people. Recent retail industry reports suggest that they are now prioritizing the extraction of client data. With data being the new currency, they have realized that to continue succeeding in their game they will need to transform how and what they sell. Such a paradigm shift in their way of doing business has enabled them to maintain a thorough catalog, while providing significant value to their customers.
Social data analytics helps Hoteliers to get a clear understanding of segment behavior, needs, and expectations. It helps them identify profitable customer segments, their buying preferences: personalized methods can be devised to target profitable segments. Right Positioning for these segments helps to encourage repeated visits, increase sales during their stay by upselling profitable services like fine dining, exotic wines & cocktails, gyms, spa services, golf theatre, local site trips etc.
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