The digitalisation process is advancing in the tourism sector in record time, driven by the global coronavirus health crisis. Numerous studies have pointed out that hotels will need a more powerful digital profile, as this is one of the main ways for them to recover the levels of business they had before the COVID-19 outbreak; when the tourism sector represented 12% of GDP in Spain and 10.4% of GDP in the world.
Although putting technology at the service of travellers will not be the only factor resulting in a more prosperous future for tourism: accommodation centres will also have to work on other aspects such as sustainability.
Technology: from being an occasional support to becoming a habit
According to the Tourist Digitalisation report prepared by the Tourism Digitalisation Institute, digital activity has become a habit in recent months; this undoubtedly signals a new relationship between technology and travellers in what we now know as the “new normal”.
Concerns were made about a possible lack of security and too much bureaucracy, during stays in tourist accommodation, by 52% of people surveyed for this report; although they considered that technology could help improve these factors. The study also highlights the importance of automation in reducing contact with other guests and recommends a commitment to digital media.
Some examples of technology in action
- Electronic locks in hotels and holiday rentals: So that traditional keys can be replaced with digital keys, ranging from electronic cards to the customer’s own mobile phone, both of which are contactless.
- Online check in and contactless registration: Recording travellers' data is a mandatory requirement in Spain and in many other countries. This is normally done by handling the traveller’s passport or identity document to read off the appropriate information. Fortunately, technology can also lend a hand in this regard, as it is now possible to obtain devices and applications to scan this information quickly without having to touch guests’ belongings.
- Remote management of accommodation: When the owner cannot be present personally at the holiday home, or when checking in at hotels without a 24-hour reception. Systems such as Rent&Pass allow the owner of the tourist apartment or hotel to send an electronic key to the guest with a validity period appropriate for the reservation.
Technology, fundamental for recovery
Looking at the report, The response of the tourism sector to coronavirus, by Minsait, technology use is specified as a fundamental part of the recovery for the tourism sector following these health and financial crises.
According to the report, 5 trends will be dominant:
- Assisted communication with the customer, based on Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Personalised service via Internet of Things (IoT) platforms
- Financial innovation with alternative payment methods
- Robotic process automation (RPA) leading to operating cost reduction
- Promotion of cybersecurity
Learn from customers via their digital fingerprint
Technology is not only an ally for security and the confidence of guests, it can also help offer more satisfaction to the new, "permanently connected", traveller. As well as cybersecurity, the IoT, new means of payment and robotics, data management will be another of the key factors for the future of tourism.
Currently, most travellers find information online and, although not all of them book this way, the Internet has undoubtedly become one of the main channels for finding tourist services. Thus, the sector can learn a lot about the behaviour and preferences of travellers, both globally and in small environments, using the data obtained via hotel applications.
In short, there is no doubt that the digitalisation of the tourism sector will provide a competitive advantage for those companies that invest in improving services through technology. Now, the question is how to achieve this, without neglecting their other objectives, such as providing tourism which is increasingly sustainable and accessible for all travellers.