I hope you found my last article about general tourism trends interesting and useful. In today’s blog post I would like to introduce a special area - the latest tourism tech innovations - that you can encounter as a hotelier or as a guest. Some are already known and used in other industries, while there are also tourism-specific trends. What they have in common is that almost all the solutions are designed for the changed guest habits and behaviour due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before delving in, first clarify what a robot is. A robot is a machine built to perform tasks that can be operated by computer programming. Some robots have human-like exteriors, but most of the designs are focused on the flawless performance of their basic function. Imitating the human figure is not effective enough for most tasks anyway, so it is doubtful we will see humanoid robots in general use in the near future, except for some very human-specific work.
That said, I think this is the area that can bring the most exciting new trends in travel technology. It provides a solution for both the hygiene and social distancing requirements caused by the pandemic, and partly for labour shortage problems.
Robots in hotel
Many hotels use robots for concierge-like tasks: informing guests, answering questions and ordering basic services. In some places, their tasks have been expanded to include luggage handling, cleaning, and even transporting items to rooms.
As a hotel manager, I personally experienced how robot vacuums and window cleaners make housekeepers’ work much easier, so they can concentrate on adhering to high hotel cleanliness standards. In Japan, the haven of robotics, there are hotels where a humanoid robot operates the whole reception, but this is still more of an innovation than a general reality.
Robots in other tourism sectors
Restaurants, airports and even travel agencies can use robots in many areas, probably more easily than hotels. Automated systems for preparing food in restaurants are already widespread. With the development of robotics and automation, the need for human intervention is steadily declining in many areas. Therefore, I believe we will soon encounter these machines and systems in catering and airport security roles as well.
Artificial Intelligence or AI is used for many tasks other than controlling robots. The most known area of use is customer service support, which creates another significant tourism tech trend. AI-based chatbots can send fast and accurate answers to the most frequently asked customer questions, saving you and your employees time, while increasing customer satisfaction. Their quick answers are available 0-24 hours every day of the year, helping to gain the trust of customers and guests early on.
You can get the most out of chatbots with frequently asked questions that you would give general answers to anyway. Due to the pandemic, these are now typically issues related to COVID-19 guidelines and hygiene practices.
In addition to information, AI can be of great support in data management since it can accurately and continuously sort through a huge amount of data. It can draw conclusions on business performance, changing customer behaviour, inventory, and customer satisfaction data. Besides replacing humans, it also works much more accurately than any of us could, so I suggest you follow and - if you can - apply the novelties of this tourism tech trend.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
VR has become very popular in other industries, but it is definitely a very significant tech trend in tourism. Travellers can see and experience different destinations from their own homes first, which can help them decide whether to visit them or not.
With the help of VR tours, hotel guests also get an amazing opportunity to visit the selected hotel virtually before booking, walk around the area and decide whether this is what they want. The need for this new travel technology has been accelerated by COVID-19, but service providers are still slow to respond. It means that by introducing this solution you can gain a competitive advantage in the short term. Besides, in my opinion, it will become an almost mandatory sales tool in the medium term.
AR, or augmented reality, is an expanding technology, just like VR, but it’s important not to mix the two up. Augmented reality - as its name suggests - involves augmenting a person’s real surroundings rather than replacing them. While VR is more about helping you in sales and attracting new guests, AR is about giving them an unforgettable experience.
The advantage of augmented reality is that it is more affordable than VR. Users can access the virtual experience provided by AR with their smartphone or tablet, which can be further enhanced by inserting real objects. With AR, you can provide them with valuable information and a special experience to increase their overall satisfaction.
When it comes to technology, I think it’s very important to mention this area, as it receives less attention in tourism than it should. Since hotels, travel agencies and flight operators are handling more and more customer data, the risk of cyber-attacks is increasing too, affecting even the biggest “players” in the industry.
The largest threats in this area are phishing and ransomware attacks. However, the success of these attacks is typically due to human error or an omission on the side of the victim. Therefore, I suggest you consider hiring a cybersecurity professional and using security hardware and software solutions to keep your business safe.
The development of technology is unrelenting in all areas of our lives, and travel and tourism are no exception. Those who ignore these trends will be at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors – of that there is no doubt. As a counter-argument in the hotel and catering industry, we often hear that machines are no substitute for the guest experience of personal contact.
We agree. But let’s take a step back and put things in a different light. Tech innovations and automation don’t take the work away from you and your co-workers, they complement and help you with it. This way you can spend more time on what is most important: the satisfaction of your guests.