The pandemic is catalysing technology transformation in all areas of tourism. Leslie Bravo is Director of the master’s in business and Tourist Destinations at Nebrija University. She explained that the most promising applications are “video-surveillance systems for occupancy control, security systems applied to hygiene and distancing, temperature checks using robots, and real-time assistance platforms for travellers.”
In this digital transformation process, hotels have begun to follow the lead of the air travel industry, pointed out Álvaro Carrillo de Albornoz, General Director of the Instituto Tecnológico Hotelero (Hotel Technology Institute, ITH). “People stopped thinking about picking up their boarding pass at the airport counter, and now they’re used to checking in at hotel reception.” Now, with the current situation, “many businesses are encouraging their customers to do all the check-in online, beforehand, so that they only have to show their passport at the counter” (a necessary step for legal reasons).
According to Carrillo, hotels will have to promote a series of technologies that already existed but were not used until now. Technologies that not only make it easier to check in at the hotel, but also “to check out, the different services offered, and the customer’s experience.” Among the most promising developments for the most future, are online assistants, data management, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. These “will be able to provide information and experiences for customers when they need them and suited to their needs.” He also talked about “automation and robotization” to improve back-office operations and management in general.
Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain
Miguel Flecha is an expert with consultancy firm Accenture. He confirmed that “in the short term, technology will be essential for ensuring safety and hygiene in hotels.” So some actions will be speeded up to reduce friction in the customer experience. So, as well as “digital transformation for the check-in, room selection and key delivery processes”, other biometric and blockchain developments will become important for passenger monitoring and tracking. In the medium term, “automation and artificial intelligence” will also make hotel management more efficient and optimise back-office processes and customer service through call centres.
Jorge Schoenenberger is an expert from Deloitte. He said that “the present situation can drive the implementation of solutions that until now were looked on with some scepticism”. He added that there are already technologies available that focus on minimising employee and guest interaction while enhancing the overall service experience. “There are examples of applications to streamline check-in and check-out processes, artificial intelligence used to support room service, or big data and predictive algorithms to take the guest experience to another level and boost revenue generation through product and service recommendations to match guests’ tastes and interests.
Javier Morillas is Director of the Centre for Political Economy and Regulation-IED and Professor of Applied Economics at the University CEU San Pablo. He said that “the Spanish tourism sector will go through a new technological leap forward, extending digital transformation with the widespread adoption of applications for the entire Horeca chain of hotels, cafés and restaurants, in terms of menus, occupation, availability and others.” Also, among other issues, “we’ll see more facial recognition programs, health status and temperature checks. Digital marketing will be improved to reach potential travellers around the world, with direct offers in the hotel sector becoming more widespread.”