In my last article, I spoke about my recent visit to ITB in Berlin and how heart-warming it was to see such a great South African presence and demand for travel to our country. However, another thing that was so prevalent that I feel I need to comment on it, was seeing suppliers from all over the globe punting their latest technologies relevant to the travel and tourism industries and the massive interest in these from travel companies.
But exactly how important is tech in the travel space? Should we be buying every new technology that comes onto the market, thinking this will give us the edge over competitors, or should we be approaching this with some caution when considering that there are also cons to the technological invasion? I’d have to say, tech is so important that no travel company can ignore it but where do we draw the line between utilising it and knowing where it can be damaging, and most importantly ensuring that the vital “human” element remains in our service offering?
When to embrace it
Whatever service you are delivering in the tourism sector, you need to embrace the tech that works for you but also be mindful of which technologies specifically will enhance your offering to clients and which technologies can be avoided to prevent some of the risk factors and disadvantages of technology.
I found that the technologies being offered in 2023 are very different to what was being offered in 2018 and I can only put that down to the rapid advance in the last few years of AI, and IoT. I also found that a lot of the technologies that were deemed to be a ‘nice to have’ before the pandemic now seem to make sense. For example, there is now a need for the likes of an online platform to booking meeting venues for physical meetings. This type of product has far more relevance post COVID as we have moved into greater ‘work from home’ environment but need venues to have those all important face to face collaborative meetings.
I particularly like the tech that enables keyless entries to your hotel room, particularly when you arrive late at night. This is not a time when you want to have to check in an old-fashioned way! We are also seeing the forward thinking airport tech, like beacon monitoring on your mobile devices aiding you to navigate your way through the airport to avoid congestion and finding your departure gate. This has really come to the fore in our post-COVID world.
When to be wary
There are some cons to technology in travel (and for that matter in many other industries) but what comes to mind is the security aspect for one, as cybercrime is always present and travel companies need to be wary of new technologies being safe and reliable for travellers. We also, unfortunately, are witnessing many scams with online bookings and it is sometimes quite easy to be conned into thinking that you have found extra cheap flights, packages or accommodations that don’t in fact even exist. The best way to avoid this is to ensure you deal only with recognised and accredited Travel Management Companies.
Don’t take hospitality out of the hospitality industry
Finally, I believe a vitally important aspect to consider is that the technologies you incorporate into your service offering should never replace the warmth and reassurance that one experiences when dealing with real people who are trained to understand your issues and deal with them efficiently and professionally. The embracing of technology should always be to make the travel and hospitality experience as seamless and frictionless as possible but never to disregard the human element. Regardless of what technologies we embrace, people should still always matter!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER