The travel industry has always been innovative, adopting new ideas to better the customer experience and their own product offerings. Technology developments are at the heart of this drive for change. Man vs. Machine has been a big debate in the industry over the last couple of years. We have seen robot bartenders introduced on cruise ships, the likes of Whatsapp adopted for communicating with guests whilst in hotels, and 'personalised' itinerary options sent to you based on previous travel habits. But where do we draw the line?
Of course, I'm not suggesting that technology has not made a positive impact on the travel experience. But it is important to remember that the travel industry is inherently personal and very much based on emotion, and as such we should be careful not to lose the human touch. Innovative technology should therefore always dovetail with human, real, contact and experiences.
Tess Mattison, Choice Hotels, explains in this report that before adopting smart technology, a brand must start with good data - they need to feed off something. And, importantly, this data must be respected and used to positively impact the customer. Otherwise it is creepy and will simply turn them away.
The adoption and introduction of new technologies should always put the traveller's experience first. If the introduction is for their experience rather than the businesses own gains then brands stand the most chance of implementing it effectively. It is in these instances where businesses will then reap the rewards. This will differ from segment to segment, for instance, in the luxury travel market, travellers expect a personal experience where they have human contact and form relationships with brands. On the other hand you have business travel, which is a more functional and practical travel need. Business travellers crave simplicity and efficiency and so technology can be more heavy touch to support this audience's specific needs.
The scope for innovation in the travel industry is limitless, but by putting the traveller and the customer experience at the heart we can ensure that we don't lose the personality of the industry. And that, I think, is the most important thing for securing the future of travel.
This year, with the rise of smart technologies like artificial intelligence, we have examined how human innovation and digital disruption are driving change in the travel industry, and how brands can leverage man and machine across the complex customer journey.