Technology Advancements Transforming the Travel and Hospitality Space

Carlson Wagonlit Travel | Insights Success

Emerging technologies and quantum advances in existing technologies is fundamentally changing the way we go about our daily lives. Less than a generation ago, the words Cloud, Apps, Social Media, Blockchain, AI etc had a very different connotation than today. Nowadays it’s common parlance not just in the professional world but even in elementary schools.  The utilization of these technologies is interwoven into almost every aspect of our day to lives from hailing a cab right from your smartphone, to free domestic and internal calls via VOIP platforms, to sharing an enormous amount of digital content with friends and family in real time via social media, you get the point. So how can Travel and Hospitality remain untouched. It after all accounts for roughly 10% of the World’s GDP and employs about 1 in 10 people in the global workforce today.
Travel as a domain has probably seen more widespread adoption of these technologies than is commonly known, primarily because it is so widespread and also because it sits across a cross-section of many other verticals, like fintech, new materials and packaging, e-commerce health & wellness, safety & security, transportation and urban mobility, just to name a few.  It’s almost an ancient memory now for people to print a reservation confirmation or a boarding pass. Your smartphone is both your records database and a check in kiosk. Or for that matter how often do we now ask a distant travel agent for recommendations for hotels in a places neither of you have visited prior. The default now is to trust user generated content from meta-search sites like TripAdvisor or even Google. Somehow 10,000 strangers on TripAdvisor carry a higher degree of your confidence than a Travel Agent who you may have known for generations.
The rate of change in technology adoption is unprecedented and this poses some stark questions which business leaders of today need to grapple with. More specifically the question they need to answer is whether an investment in any kind of technology runs a risk of quick obsolescence. Take Hotel Front Desk for example. It’s ever present in all hotels and hotel schools globally still offer instructional courses in running efficient Front Desk operations. Hotels also employ a gamut of technologies and back-end systems to facilitate Front Desk Operations. What we also know is that there is a plethora of startups actively seeking to make Front Desk redundant as we speak. You make a reservation, you get a notification, via email or SMS inviting you to check-in  on your mobile device just like the airlines do. You click on the link and boom, your check-in is complete and you receive a digital key which allows you to bypass the Front desk altogether and proceed directly to your room. No waiting in lines anymore. So what’s the use of a Front Desk in this scenario. This reality is not distant, it’s imminent.  Delta and a few other airlines are also actually piloting a technology using image recognition to help you bypass traveler screening and ID checks. This makes a whole bunch of hardware, software and unfortunately some people, redundant.
With huge advances in computing capability and Artificial Intelligence we are also seeing an enormous amount of applications which have a profound impact on Travel. Predictive Analytics is of particular interest to Hotels, Airlines, Cruise Lines and pretty much anywhere where inventory is highly perishable (an empty airline seat on a flight is lost revenue opportunity forever) and demand patterns volatile. Using highly sophisticated mathematical models it is now possible to price a unit of inventory precisely at a point acceptable to each individual consumer. In practice this means that if two people book a same itinerary at exactly the same time, they could see different prices and more personalized content based on the algorithms’ prediction of the preferences and price sensitivity. This, of course is already being practiced at a rudimentary level in the industry and is popularly called Yield Management or Revenue Management, but the application of AI literally puts this discipline on steroids.
There are also lesser talked about but highly consequential developments in Travel Technology space like tokenized identities. What this simply means is that you may not need to provide your Personally Identifiable Information (PII data) each time you check in to a hotel or an airline or even at immigration. Instead what you carry is an encrypted and digitized token which validates your identity without necessarily sharing your name, email etc. with the establishment. You, the Traveler essentially get to choose who you wish to share your PII information with. This has huge ramifications for marketers as they can no longer spam you with their messages without your explicit content. Moreover, in the event they are hacked, your information is still secure.
Finally, no conversation is complete without the customary mention about Blockchain. In its simplest form, it is essentially a distributed ledger wherein each subscriber becomes a “node”. Every transaction between two or more parties gets validated by every participating node which could be in hundreds, thousands millions or more. This feature makes the database tamper-proof because any node trying to record a false or invalid entry will get automatically flagged as suspicious by other nodes. The practical utility of this technology is in diverse applications from loyalty programs to inventory distribution to CRM and many more.
While all these advances in technology have certainly made, not just travel but also our lives in general more convenient and easier, there is still an area where humans excel over machines and that is cognition and empathy. And this key advantage is not going away any time soon.
About the Author
Utpal Kaul is the Head of Global New Product Incubation at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a leading Travel Management Company with presence in more than 130 countries. He is a highly experienced senior executive with global experience in hospitality, travel & tourism industry. Utpal holds a Master’s degree from the prestigious Cornell University.
Source :-The 10 Highly Recommended Business & Corporate Travel Companies

Related Posts