Comment: Tech can make travel experiences even more memorable

Celebrity Cruises’ Giles Hawke says embracing technology in the right way will enable the industry to deliver more meaningful and authentic moments

Over the past decade, we have witnessed one of the most disruptive periods in travel, but with that disruption has come some of the fastest innovation and evolution the industry has ever seen.

Today, technology continues to progress at lightning speed, as it becomes an integral part of every aspect of travel, creating smarter and more efficient businesses that also provide enhanced experiences for our customers, right from booking and planning to the overall holiday experience.

In 1946, American Airlines’ first automated reservation system paved the way for the modern hospitality industry’s reservation and booking systems. Fast-forward and we see AI-driven personalisation and virtual reality pushing the boundaries in hospitality, leveraging its focus on tech to enhance guest experiences and improve operational efficiency. That’s a gargantuan shift, and the pace of development just keeps getting faster.

As individuals, we are comfortable using contactless payments, voice search and mobile solutions, so it makes sense that travel technology trends are following this same basic pattern. Travellers are becoming used to seamless journeys and expecting more from travel providers. From AI-powered travel assistants creating customised itineraries to contactless payment and check-in technologies and biometric security systems, businesses are having to keep up with ever-increasing expectations.

Innovating with tech

And the industry is responding: innovative hotels and cruise lines have incorporated smart tech into the guest experience, including keyless check-in, voice-activated assistants and smart mirrors, and automated lighting, temperature controls and entertainment activation from guests’ mobile devices.

At the other end of the scale, innovations such as Atari’s so-called ‘Blade Runner hotels’ for the ultimate gamer, Hotel 1000’s virtual golf course or Marriott’s ‘space suites’, which connect to space via Nasa TV, all pique the interest of travellers, meeting the need for greater personalisation when it comes to delivering enhanced customer experiences.

Robots delivering room service, turning down beds and even working on front desks may have been something out of a sci-fi movie not long ago, but now it’s a growing trend. There is pretty much a robot for everything, from Hilton’s concierge robot to Crowne Plaza’s food delivery robot – and I can’t be the only person who has tried to get a cleaner robot at Heathrow to bump into me!

Industry benefits

But is it all going too far? Are we losing the personal touch for the sake of novelty factor, or is it the way of the future? Granted, some of these innovations sound gimmicky, and there remains the question over whether it’s what today’s traveller really wants.

Ultimately, it’s all about choice. And while some may revel in the wow factor, even taken at its simplest the tech it relies on can only serve to be useful for us in the industry.

As robots take over manual work, staff can focus on guest-oriented tasks, enhancing experiences and streamlining hotel operations through technological innovation.

Love it or hate it, new tech is shaping our future. It’s influencing and enabling all our decisions, including our purchasing behaviour, and enhancing our experiences.

Businesses must create highly personalised travel experiences to keep up, tailoring recommendations and content to individual preferences. Travel companies should be investigating robust data strategies to gain insights, anticipate needs, enhance engagement and build trust.

If we start implementing these technologies, we will be better equipped to handle multiple client queries, tailor travel itineraries in hyper-personalised ways, strengthen client relationships through seamless communication, and boost marketing efforts to remain competitive.

We will also free up our people to do things only humans can do – create real connections, go the extra mile in our interactions, deliver elevated experiences, and smile and make people feel special. As long as we use technology to do these things even better, we are delivering what people crave and need – meaningful, authentic, memorable moments.

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