Digital transformation trends are now abundantly visible in different industries like healthcare, banking, media, and entertainment. However, the industry which seems to have been disrupted the most, or better say has been literally turned on its head, is the hospitality and tourism industry. The reasons for the same, of course, aren’t difficult to explain, as the travel and tourism industry was amongst the earliest adopters of digital transformation.
Gone are the days when one had to stand in serpentine queues to book railway tickets. Now you can easily secure a railway reservation over the internet. The same is the case with airline tickets, or bus tickets, which can be booked online in a jiffy. Such has been the positive impact of digital transformation on the travel industry.
But technology’s expanding footprint over the travel industry isn’t merely confined to planning a leisure trip with a few taps of the finger on your smartphone or tablet. Digitalization goes a long way in making travel more affordable, accessible and convenient than it has ever been. For example, online travel portals allow you to compare and book hotels and airline tickets at prices that match your budget, so as to avoid burning a hole in one’s pocket.
Another great example in this regard would be the hotel reviews posted on travel portals by fellow travellers. Coming straight out of the horse’s mouth, from those who’ve had a first-hand experience of the property, these reviews are in most cases, genuine and unbiased. At the end of the day, these reviews prove crucial in determining the popularity of a hotel, as no traveller wants to have what would be best described as the “Bates Motel experience”. In fact, a survey conducted sometime back by American travel bookings website TripAdvisor revealed that millennial travellers read 6-12 reviews before booking a hotel online.
With the advent of newer and more innovative technologies, the complete landscape of the travel industry is undergoing a sea of change. The latest to join the bandwagon of pre-existing technologies is the self-service checkout, which allows a more customer-centric experience by passing on complete control of planning the trip to the traveller himself.
Let’s have a look at Top 3 Digital Transformation Trends in the Travel and Hospitality Industry
#1 Personalization is the Key to Success
Personalizing packages and offerings based on user preferences has become much easier with the emergence of technologies like big data and cloud computing. Engulfing the travel industry at breakneck speed, personalization has become synonymous with success.
A fine example of personalization in the hospitality industry would be micro travel junkets which offer less hectic itineraries and are focused on a particular interest. Travel companies achieve personalization by deploying big data which helps provide insights into the travellers’ minds including favourite destinations, airline preferences, and much more.
Mobile apps are being designed to send out personalized emails and notifications to entice travellers and keeping them up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the travel industry.
Personalization is expected to play an even larger role in the travel industry in days to come as delivering relevant information and content for enhancing user experience takes centre stage.
#2 Latest technologies like Cognitive Computing are no longer Science Fiction but Distant Reality!
It may sound straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, but just imagine describing your thoughts about an impending trip to your computer and your computer, in turn, inundating you with recommendations filtered on the basis of your past travel behaviour! The computer would then book your entire package including airline tickets, hotel accommodation, etc., based on your profile. All this is today possible by Cognitive Computing – an innovative technology which is creating waves in the travel industry.
Initially made popular by IBM’s Watson, Cognitive Computing is a self-learning system that works by using voice recognition, pattern recognition, data mining and natural language processing to replicate a human brain.
A hint of this technology is already visible today. Just pull out your iPhone and ask Siri about the prevailing weather conditions in the neighbouring town!
#3 Without mobile presence a travel business doesn’t even exist!
According to the Travel Flash Report by Criteo, over one thirds of the world’s people use a mobile device to book a hotel room. The report further informs that Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have an impressive 45% share of mobile bookings.
Interestingly, according to the report, Asia and the Middle East are ahead of North America and Europe in mobile bookings. While in Asia mobile bookings stand somewhere between 45 to 49%, in the Middle East they account for around 53%. On the other hand for North America and Europe, the figure is 28% and 33% respectively.
All this data clearly points out that if a travel-related business like a hotel or OTA isn’t available on mobile, it simply doesn’t exist.
Why Investing in Digital Travel Solutions has become a Necessity rather than Luxury?
In the digital age, we have become a generation of DIY travellers who plan, book and manage our travel aided by online travel marketplaces. The days of brick and mortar travel agencies are long gone.
While digital transformation has driven most run-of-the-mill travel agents and tour operators to the brink of extinction, those who have managed to survive the tide have had to adapt by going digital.
In order to serve its customers in a more seamless way, Thomas Cook has recently stepped up its digital innovation by introducing virtual reality experiences across select stores.
Digital transformation, in fact, has overwhelmed the entire travel ecosystem, triggering a formidable rise in competition, as travel brands need to measure up to customers’ rising expectations.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals worldwide will grow by 3-4 per cent this year, up from 1,235 million in 2016. The travel and tourism industry’s global business is touching $1.3 trillion today, so it makes perfect sense for travel businesses to invest in digital transformation to grow it even more.
With such projected rise in demand for travel, further digitalisation will be the key bare essential if the expectations of tomorrow’s traveller are to be met.