As we approach the end of the year, we look at some of the top technology trends hitting the travel and hospitality industry in 2019. As hotel rooms and booking processes become increasingly digitized and connected, traveling has become more convenient and personalized. The coming year will take this to the next level through wider technological adoption and proliferation.
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1. The Proliferation of Chatbots and Voice Assistants
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With more processes becoming automated, 2019 will see the continued growth of AI utilization in the travel and hospitality industry. Customer expectations are increasing every day, and as millennials are becoming the largest consumer base in the world, new technologies are being adopted to meet their preferences. In a recent Forbes article, contributor Andrew Arnold writes that most millennials prefer communicating with chatbots compared to a person, with up to 55% of them reporting positive perception of the business after interaction.
“Chatbots may be the key to providing millennials with the user experience they desire when it comes to booking their next vacation.”
— Andrew Arnold, Contributor at Forbes
It comes as no surprise that some companies have already adopted chatbots in order to better cater for their biggest consumer group. Many industry players have launched chatbots on Facebook Messenger as a means of providing customer service to their audience, Expedia is one such company. Users simply log on and tell the chatbot about their travel plans, and the AI will provide the five most popular hotel options for the desired location based on information provided by the user.
Alongside chatbots, voice assistants will also come to the fore, providing a similarly quick, tailored, and conversational experience to travelers. Devices and AI technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana are already providing mobile or in-home voice solutions that, consumers will soon be accustomed to for services such as bookings and making purchases.
“Microsoft claims that travelers in Great Britain are increasingly researching accommodations through its Cortana digital assistant on mobile devices with hotel searches seeing an increase of 343% year-over-year and flight searches increasing by 277%.”
— Max Starkov, President and CEO, HEBS Digital
As reliance on chatbots and voice assistants are on the rise in travel, some other industry players have also started noticing this wave. 2019 will see the rise of chatbots and voice assistants particularly in the hospitality industry.
2. Greater Convenience and Security Through Digitization
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The modern traveler demands a faster, friction-less, and personalized guest experience. With the added benefit of increased security, digitization of certain travel experience processes can address these requirements. One such technology is facial recognition.
As the feature becomes more readily available on mobile phones and consumers become more habituated, the technology will become more widespread in the hospitality industry in 2019. With facial recognition, not only will guests be able to check-in effortlessly, but hotels and airlines will be able to collect more — and better — information about their customers to personalize their guests’ experiences.
Security is also enhanced, as facial recognition makes possible improved ability to identify individuals. With these benefits, advanced hospitality markets such as China have already adopted facial recognition technology within the industry. Alibaba’s online travel agency Fliggy, and Shiji, a hotel information systems manufacturer have already launched the technology at 50 hotels to expedite check-in processes. 2019 may be an experimental year for facial recognition with the potential for more hotels or airlines adopting this technology into their practices.
“The hospitality industry is a competitive space where every advantage over competitors makes a difference. Using and investing in technology has been a method for hotels to gain an edge over competitors for ages, and face recognition is one of the technologies many organizations have invested in to not only increase revenue, but also enhance guest experiences in meaningful, memorable ways.”
— 3 Ways Facial Recognition Tech Can Generate Revenue for Hotels, Hospitality Technology
Also increasing in prevalence is mobile payment solutions. As virtual payment becomes a preference among the millennial generation for its smooth convenience, travelers can instantaneously pay for goods and services with a single tap of their phone. As Debra Moss explains, there are two main reasons behind the sudden growth in virtual payments in the travel and entertainment industry:
“First, the technology infrastructure to make a virtual payment seamless for the traveler has caught up with the security, control, and data visibility benefits that are inherent within virtual payments. Second, as more and more millennials enter positions of leadership in these organizations, the overall level of comfort with virtual payment technology increases. All of this points to a future in which virtual payments are commonplace.”
— Debra Moss, Managing Director at Acquis Consulting
Without the need for travelers to carry cash or cards, Choice Hotels International recently became the first hotel company to offer with this hassle-free service. The hotel group adopted a virtual payment option for its consumer-facing website. As we progress into 2019, we will likely see more hospitality and travel industry players adopting this new payment method.
3. Seamless Connectivity
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Voice assistants can far extend beyond its utility in pre-trip planning and travel booking. Also serving as an IoT hub for better in-destination guest experiences, voice assistants hold the all-encompassing ability to personalize individual services holistically. The proliferation of voice assistants in the domestic realm translates to more travelers becoming accustomed to the technology, and hospitality providers would be smart to incorporate this feature as an in-room solution. Amazon has recently launched Alexa for Hospitality, focusing its Alexa AI to address hospitality needs.
In-room technologies look to improve guest access to amenities and improve employee productivity as part of creating overall seamless experience. Guests can control in-room devices, such as televisions, curtains, lights, and even thermostats all via voice control. With hotels like Hilton already providing an IoT app that largely mirrors the functionality of Alexa for Hospitality, adding voice technology into the mix as part of the central control hub could be the next major step forward in 2019.
4. Increased In-Destination Support
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Complementing in-room solutions such as voice assistants is also a wave of intelligent travel companions improving the guest experience in and out of the hotel room. Hospitality players are providing AI-enabled devices, such as tablets and complementary smartphones that bring seamless convenience to travelers at no extra cost. In so doing, hotels are able to learn more about their guests while managing the guest experience even better.
Such features include GPS capabilities, in-built hotel apps, free call accessibility, travel guides, promotional offers, and quick access to hotel services.
“Travelers have evolved lately and desire a great mixture of high-grade personalization and exceptional service standards on the go. On the other hand, hotel operations often get complicated due to heavy amounts of data about visitors and hotel staff, resulting in critical challenges related to flawless customer experience. This is where intelligent travel phones can come to assist.”
— How is the Hotel Industry using AI to Provide an Awesome User Experience, Maruti Techlabs, Chatbots Magazine
5. Immersive Experiences
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In recent years, virtual and augmented reality has been at the forefront of entertainment technology. As VR and AR become more affordable, accessible, and user-friendly, everyday consumers meet these features with greater acceptance and curiosity, discovering the value of its utility. 2019 is looking toward wider adoption of these technologies within the hospitality and travel industry.
According to an industry report by Oracle, “66% of consumers said virtual reality tours of properties during booking would enhance their experience”, while “44% of consumers said virtual reality lounges for entertainment would enhance their experience” at the hotel.
When used during both the pre-trip and in-stay stages, VR experiences can lead to greater brand loyalty and more repeat customers. 45% and 31% respectively said they would visit more often if hotels offered these features.
“Within the hospitality industry, VR has become particularly important, because of the amount of information the average customer needs before they will actually book a hotel room. Rather than reading through descriptions, which may or may not be trustworthy, it offers customers the chance to experience things for themselves.”
— How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry, Revfine
The industry has already seen Marriott International putting VR to good use in its Travel Brilliantly campaign. In New York City, guests are transported from booths to famous destinations all over the globe. Other hotels have also adopted VR to showcase their properties to prospective guests. The intent is to inspire making a book that will turn into a stay. With continued success of these campaigns, it is proven that VR holds the potential to be widely adopted when done right.
6. Predictive Analysis for Personalization
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In line with a more personalized experience for guests, technological advancements in predictive analysis will bring large improvements to 2019 marketing strategies for hospitality and travel industry players.
According to studies by Google and Phocuswire, 57% of travelers are of the opinion that “brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors.” Most significantly, “if a travel brand tailored its information and overall trip experience based on personal preferences or past behavior, 36% would be more likely to pay more for their services.”
statistics show that hotels and travel brands are likely to adopt predictive analysis into its arsenal of marketing tools, allowing intelligent algorithms to observe guests’ behaviors to calculate, or predict preferences. Future recommendations on in-destination activities and locales can be suggested upon a guest’s next travel booking, delivering a better and more tailored experience..
“With advances in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, hospitality companies will be able to create unique offers and experiences in real time (and at scale) that appeal to the needs and desires of each individual traveler.”
— Dilip Bhattacharjee, Partner at McKinsey
Starwood Hotels is a prime example of a hotel group harnessing the power of predictive analysis. The more a guest stays at any one of the group’s hotels, the more their app learns about them. Using this, they can predict guests’ preferences.
A number of airlines have also begun using predictive analysis, with Lufthansa and United Airlines among them. This could be a trend that materializes as a larger part of the travel industry in 2019.
Chatbots Magazine: Chatbots for Hospitality Industry — Connecting with Your Guests through Chatbots
Maruti Techlabs: Adoption of Artificial Intelligence in Hospitality - Impact on Operational Dynamics
Maruti Techlabs: How is the Hotel Industry using AI to Provide an Awesome User Experience
Forbes: Why Millennials Prefer Chatbots Over Travel Agents When Planning Their Vacations
HiJiffy: Top 3 chatbots that are changing the travel industry
Further: The impact of voice search on the travel industry
Skift: Voice Search Will Change Travel Marketing Faster Than You Think
Phocuswire: Hoteliers should care about voice technology - here’s why
Hospitality Technology: 3 Ways Facial Recognition Tech Can Generate Revenue for Hotels
Hotel Management: Facial recognition check-in rolled out at 50 hotels in China
SmarterWare: Analyzing the Growing Popularity of Virtual Payments
Hotel Management: Choice Hotels launches online virtual-payment option
VentureBeat: Amazon launches Alexa for Hospitality to bring voice-enabled services to hotel guests
Vodat International: At your service? What guests want from the connected hospitality experience
Evening Standard: From micro holidays to space travel: 8 of the biggest travel trends for 2019
Simplilearn: 8 Top Technology Trends for 2019 and the Jobs They’ll Create
Hilton: The Inside Story of Hilton’s New High-Tech Hotel Rooms - And What It Will Mean For Travelers
Revfine: How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry
GuestRevu: Trend Digest: Is VR a reality for hospitality?
Amadeus: Future Traveller Tribes 2020
Oracle: Hotel 2025: Emerging technologies destined to reshape our business
Oracle: Hotel 2025: How will virtual reality shape the future of hotels?
McKinsey&Company: Advanced analytics in hospitality
Think with Google: How to win travelers in the age of assistance
Think with Google: Data from: The future of travel - New consumer behavior and the technology giving it flight
Business Computing World: Predictive Analytics: The New Face Of Personalisation In Travel