Does technology rule the travel industry

I wrote about  A.I (Artificial Intelligence) in a previous article and its major role in the travel industry. It is however, just one aspect of the incredible technologies that are literally revolutionising the industry on a daily basis.

As we have come to almost mid-2019, it seems that what I wrote about at the start of the year is almost old technology by comparison to the extensive inroads that other forms of technology have made. Before we answer the question “does technology rule the travel industry?” however, we need to take a brief look what some of these technologies are and what they are achieving:

VR – Virtual reality

What can sell a customer on a destination more convincingly than to feel that they are actually there? Virtual Reality headsets enable interactive 360-degree images and videos. Travel professionals are digitally transporting people to hotels, who find this technology particularly useful, as they showcase rooms, reception areas and even some local hotspots.

AR – Augmented Reality

Cheaper than Virtual Reality, as it is available on mobile devices and tablets, AR differs from VR in that it augments the traveller’s real-life situation as opposed to transporting them elsewhere. Simply by pointing your phone at places around you, graphical overlays enhance your experience, providing you with information and entertainment.

IoT – The Internet of Things

This is internet-based technology that plays a most important role in travel – it connects things. Interconnectivity between devices that allows the sending and receiving of data, enable a traveller to connect everything in their hotel room through one device. Lights, TV, aircon- all at the push of a button or two. Suffice to say the interconnection of data to various devices also plays a significant role in many other aspects of travel too.

RT – Recognition Technology

Imagine if you could pay for your meal at a restaurant by simply getting up and leaving! It’s a reality and not in the too distant future either. Face, finger and eye scan recognition will all be the way customers are identified, and many hotels are already employing these as check in and out methods.

Robotics

Now imagine a suitcase that follows you… This is also not too far off and will be one deployment of robotics. Already robots with artificial intelligence and speech recognition are used at information points in some of the hotels of larger hotel groups. From a security aspect, they can be used to detect concealed weapons at airports too.

I have really just touched on the tip of the iceberg here. As previously stated, A.I has revolutionised many aspects of the industry, making it technically more streamlined and efficient. The technologies mentioned here are all ‘cool’ stuff that can enhance the travel experience, but is there a danger that lurks behind these innovations?

Does technology rule?

The answer to the question is one of balance. The travel industry is – and always will be, about people and the customer experience. A disturbing trend that has come to my attention (I will write about in a future article) is that many travel clients are beginning to feel isolated through these technologies and starting to take a lot of travel arrangements into their own hands.

As travel professionals, we have no choice but to align with technology and keep up to survive. We cannot, however, ever let our customers feel that there is not a human being at the end of the phone who, with real empathy and professional training, has ‘got their back.’

Travel still revolves around meaningful interactions between human beings. We can enhance the travel experience through many aspects of technology and we should, but let this never distract us from what really rules the travel industry – seamless, personalised, customer-driven travel experiences.

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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