Years ago, the internet rewrote the rules for the travel and tourism industry. Now companies are responding to the shift to mobile with further innovations, with apps.
Where once people might have turned to a travel agency or a tour operator to find and book the best deals and curate the best experiences, the internet has opened the world to individual travelers, giving them unprecedented control over booking transportation and hospitality options. Information about destinations, down to the neighborhood level, from reviews, is just a few swipes away on a smartphone.
Companies throughout the travel and tourism industry have had to find new ways to add value for potential customers, who no longer have to rely on intermediaries to plan and book trips and excursions and who are no longer confined to staying in hotels. This is being seen in the use of technology to radically personalize the guest experience.
In recent years, as mobile devices have become the dominant means for people to access the internet, companies have begun relying on smartphone apps as a means of serving and reaching potential customers. Apps are everywhere, and they can give companies access to a treasure of customer data that allows them to tailor their services on a personal level for guests, targeting them with customized services and offerings.
But, as always, the needs of all stakeholders must be accounted for. Ana Andjelic, author of “The Business of Aspiration,” writes about how keeping focused on human needs can result in powerful products:
Putting human needs and behaviors first in defining business strategy and deciding investments in technology is a powerful change of perspective. It reminds us that behind every business need there is a human need.
Instead of just handling commercial transactions, apps are now being integrated into the guest experience, sometimes in surprising ways. Writing in Design Thinking: Turning Challenges into Opportunities, Mamood Qasmi recounted how one hotel, in particular, used its smartphone app to enhance her family’s stay at a hotel:
The moment my family and I stepped through the front entrance; we were greeted by a welcome notification on my smartphone. In a highly intuitive fashion, the hotel app guided us through the check-in process; one that we could easily complete ourselves. How easy? Well, let me put it this way; instead of a concierge guiding us to our room, my daughter took us thereby interacting with a virtual assistant (in the form of a teddy bear no less) that walked along the walls of the hotel corridors.
Apps, powered by machine learning and Big Data analysis, can be used to truly enhance the guest experience — supporting transactions, keeping touchpoints free of friction, helping staff engage with guests, and even creating moments of magic. In the end, apps are a valuable tool in the guest experience that doesn’t replace the human touch in hospitality — they help amplify it.