Progress and Opportunities Digitizing the Travel & Hospitality Industry

Connected Smart Devices offer the opportunity to transform the travel and hospitality industry with benefits to both businesses and customers. Some experiences have the potential to offer real value while others may appear to be a gimmick. Here’s a scenario where I incorporate some disparate digital solutions that are already influencing the travel and hospitality value chain with a little bit of imagination, and recommend opportunities for improvement.

At home

Based on my destination research or browsing activity, sites like Google and Facebook are good at recommending holidays to me.

I can book my flight, car, hotel, cruise and transfers on one or multiple sites, and have my trip itinerary automatically generated based on the email confirmations that are sent to me (e.g. using TripIt which monitors my Gmail account for any travel confirmation). That itinerary can be used for my visa applications and it also includes a weather forecast prediction for my trip which will help me with packing. Loyalty point wallet apps advise me if I have sufficient points to redeem for my destination.

Using Smart Luggage that has features including weighing itself, I pack my bag. Some gear is regular and other is smart (e.g. smart camera, smart flashlights, etc). I check-in for my flight based on a reminder from the airline or one of my trip management applications. Based on my loyalty program profile the airline knows my seat preferences and dietary preferences. Using my banks app, I can indicate that I am travelling abroad (enable bank card to be used abroad), order forex to be delivered to me and request a letter from my bank confirming funds in my account if it is required for a visa application. Using my mobile operators app, I can enable or disable roaming and voicemail on my sim card.

Airport

I drive to the airport guided by voice navigation which has real-time traffic updates. As I enter the airport, the voice navigation guides me to an available parking bay (the parking lots have sensors in each bay to monitor occupancy). My car is parked in the long-term parking carport and my parking location is recorded on my smartphone. Just as I unload my smart luggage, a self-driving car arrives to transport me to the departure terminal building.

After checking-in my luggage I proceed through security into the boarding area. I launch the airport’s app which lists a directory of public services available. It will notify me of gate changes and provides indoor navigation to any location within the airport that I am interested in.

Behind the scenes, the airport has sensors that are constantly detecting the pattern and movement of passengers within the airport. The location of airport personnel, airport equipment, location of baggage and aircraft food, supplemented with data on passenger movements and flight statuses allows the airport to predict and optimally manage the movement of everything under their control in real-time.

On the plane

My mobile device extends many multimedia services to me while I am on-board. It can be charged on the USB port at my seat, connect to the aircraft’s multimedia library to watch movies and TV shows, provides me with detailed information on the flight I am on and alerts on any connecting flights. The WiFi on-board also gives me full access to the internet. I can connect with my smart luggage to see that it made it on-board with me, and if I forgot to switch-off the geyser at home, I can connect to my smart home control panel which has access to the geyser switch.

In the background, there’s also a lot of sensors on the aircraft that collect data on the aircraft performance which informs planning and maintenance.

Taxi / Public Transport / Transit

With my GPS enabled smartphone with internet connectivity, I can arrange transport anywhere that Uber, Taxify, BlaBlaCar, Lyft or a myriad of other ride-sharing service providers have a presence. Not just personal transport but for freight and food. Fares are predictable and with the real-time language translator on my smartphone I can communicate with the service provider or any locals without any difficulty.

My smart watch has automatically adjusted the time because I am in a new timezone. I take a photo of the city from my smart camera which will automatically be captioned with the location name when I upload it online.

Hotel / Hostel / Lodge

In transit, I remotely check-in for my accommodation from my smartphone. It is still a few hours before the normal check-in time, but the place that I am staying at has a free room. Depending on my loyalty status they can offer me an early check-in for free or at a charge.

Upon arrival, I head straight to my room, knowing my room number from the hotel app. My smartphone can be used for key-less entry into the room (by NFC or Bluetooth). I am pleased to see that my favorite snacks have been placed on a table, together with that extra blanket I requested on a previous visit to the same hospitality chain.

The room has a smart voice-enabled device that controls the room lighting, curtains and air-conditioner. Its knowledge base can provide answers on frequent questions that other guests ask (e.g. what restaurants are currently open nearby, where is the closest money-changer, where can I iron my suit, etc.). I cast a movie from my smartphone onto the big LCD TV screen in the room. I’m feeling for some hot popcorn and soda and ask the smart voice-enabled device to organise a room-service delivery for me. I am informed it will be delivered in 7 minutes. 7 Minutes later a small robot arrives into my room via a small duct with my order, directly from the kitchen.

Based on the ambient lighting and my presence in the room the ‘Do Not Disturb’ light at the door is automatically lit.

Using the rooms smart device or my smartphone I request breakfast delivery to my room at 6am the next day and a 7am shuttle transfer to the airport. Because of my intention for early checkout, the chambermaid and reservation system can anticipate a room that is potentially free for other guests to check-into earlier the next day.

When I leave the room that afternoon the control center switches off the lighting and air-conditioning to save power. If the power socket linked to the air-conditioner is drawing power irregularly, an alert is sent to hotel maintenance to investigate a potential issue. The chambermaid gets a notification that the room is empty and enters for the turn-down service.

The Opportunity

We’ve come quite far in the last 2 years with IoT devices, Mobility, Analytics and Social Media. As a customer, I have access to a lot of information from my smartphone. The problem though is friction. I must download a lot of apps, create different registration profiles with each service provider, shop around and compare the offerings from multiple services providers on my own before making a purchase, and make a lot of other decisions along the way. The experience isn’t seamless.

Many of these providers offer 3rd party API’s which other service providers can gain access to. There remains an opportunity for someone to aggregate these services into a single solution, and based on the information they have access to they can also provide targeted ads that myself as a customer may be interested in during my travels.

What’s better than an aggregated smartphone solution? Me not needing to fiddle with my smartphone throughout my journey. Augmented/Mixed reality, voice assisted and other artificially intelligent solutions that can be a virtual travel consultant and personal assistant to me, that knows my preferences and can make clever, cost-effective decisions for me and proactively perform actions would be a winner.

Travel and Hospitality Industry businesses looking for digitisation opportunities need to have a holistic outlook on what they want to achieve for both their customers and optimising facilities before embarking on a digital transformation journey. They need to work with service providers that they can still see in business a decade later (no fly by night providers or gimmicky solutions), choose a standardised platform that is extendable and integrates out of the box with multiple popular 3rd party service providers, offers out of the box analytical reports for planning & optimisation, and configurable so that the business can offer their own unique propositions to customers.

Article written by Zaid Mahomedy.

Zaid Mahomedy is certified Enterprise Architect, Travel Professional (see Travpacker.com) and Mixed Reality Entrepreneur with over a decade of experience as an IT consultant, Enterprise & Solution Architect; Digital Content Creator and Influencer. Zaid is available to consult to companies on how they can adopt disruptive technologies to transform themselves so that they can thrive in the Digital Age. For more info, check out www.immersiveauthority.com

References:

How 26 Billion “Internet of Things” Devices Will Impact the Hotel Industry

7 Trends for the Internet of Things in Hospitality

Smart travel product examples

IoT extends reach into the travel market

How the IoT is going to transform the travel industry

How IoT and Travel Go Hand-in-Hand

How the Internet of Things improves air travel

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