While some travel brands such as resorts and hotels have been slow to respond, most are now beginning to realise that they need to innovate to stay ahead of the curve, or face becoming obsolete. There are many disruptive brands that have entered the market, most notably AirBnb, and doubtless more on the horizon as technology continues to improve.

The digital revolution is in full swing, but this revolution is about so much more than just using social media effectively, monitoring review sites such as TripAdvisor, or offering a high-speed reliable wifi service to your guests. What hotels and resorts need to realise is that the innovative digital technological changes being developed right now will have a massive influence on the travel industry in 2018. What is almost certain is that brands that fail to embrace innovation and change will be left behind.

Countless forms of technology that many would have thought impossible in the past such as the powerful computer in your pocket (your smartphone) are now taken for granted. These technologies have completely altered the way people live including browsing for and shopping for holidays, hotel rooms and flights via high speed mobile internet. There have been those, including business owners at various stages throughout recent history who doubted that the internet, email, mobile phones and online shopping and other innovations would take off. Clearly all of these have; just as social media and digital content consumption in more recent years have.

The following technologies also have their doubters but are highly likely to strongly influence the travel Industry in 2018:

Artificial Intelligence (AI):

In its most basic terms, artificial intelligence refers to the use of intelligent computers and machines to take over tasks that would traditionally have been performed by humans. Intelligent machines are increasingly being used in many industries as AI grows in complexity and continues to improve.

One area in which artificial intelligence has proven to be very promising for brands in which it has been implemented is within front-facing customer service roles. Due to this success within the business world, it is highly likely that this will be rolled out by brands within other industries, such as the Travel Industry.

For the Travel Industry, including hotels and resorts, customer service is of utmost importance. If guests at your resort, feel the customer service has been lacking then the consequences could include no repeat stay, no recommendation to friends or family and even worse, bad reviews on review sites or social media. Overall bad customer service can result in a bad experience for your guest and a loss of profit.

Artificial Intelligence can be used to improve the customer experience, through improved customer experience. While intelligent machines are unable to replace some of the human aspects of customer service at present such as emotional intelligence and empathy, it can certainly outperform humans in some vital areas.

One prominent example which many travel firms have already started utilizing successfully are chatbots and direct messaging. AI can respond almost instantaneously to simple questions 24/7 with no rest time needed. This means guests or potential guests no longer have to wait thus avoiding frustration for impatient individuals. In addition, with each question asked and issue that comes up, the system becomes smarter and smarter thus offering a better and better service. This is therefore a highly recommended option for your resort to improve the guest experience through the use of innovative digital technology.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the uses of artificial intelligence though, as much bigger things are on the horizon such as the analysis of huge amounts of data to better understand your guests. The data that can be obtained from your guest’s social media posts, responses to questionnaires and personal data obtained from bookings can be analysed by intelligent computer programs to find out what’s working in your resort and what improvements need to be made.

Even more impressive AI technology that is already being tested in some hotels and will become much more prominent next year, are artificially intelligent robots.  For example the Hilton hotel group has partnered with IBM and has begun experimenting with a robot concierge  called Connie which is able to respond to human speech to give directions and answer other simple questions. This in turn frees up the time of human employees to offer a better service in terms of more complex issues and tasks. As you can see your resort can make significant use of artificial intelligence to improve your guest experience.

AI Example: Meet “Connie,” The AI Powered Robot Concierge:

Virtual Reality (VR):

Virtual Reality is an incredible technology that offers an immersive experience which simulates being within another environment through the use of a specially designed headset. VR technology has really started to take off in the last couple of years, beginning to become part of the mainstream such as within video gaming and other areas of entertainment.

It should not just be viewed as technology for entertainment purposes though, as the business possibilities are huge, including within the travel industry. This is technology that your resort should strongly start considering as it has fantastic potential to increase bookings.

As holidays are typically a big decision for most people due to the often significant cost that can be involved, many factors can go into influencing their final thought process on where to go and which hotel or resort to stay at. Anything your resort can do to sway that decision in your favour should be looked at.

What is becoming more apparent is that it is increasingly more common for people to pick their holiday not just on the accommodation, but on the experiences they can have while staying there. Already many travel brands are utilising social media channels to showcase blog posts, photos and videos of different experiences that their guests can enjoy. The next logical step is through VR content. Brands can create content showcasing the area surrounding their resort such as the local town/city or amazing local landscape such as beaches and mountains, and different excursions that can be done nearby like a helicopter flight or off-road buggy adventure. While these look good on regular video, the immersive experience of VR will allow potential guests to experience what they can do when they stay at your resort.

In addition to this, your brand can provide a VR tour of your rooms and other areas of the resort. Again, as spending money on a holiday is a big decision for most people, they want to try and make the best possible choice. With a VR tour of your resort, they will be more likely to book with you, because they will have the opportunity to see what it is like to stay there. Also it will show that your resort is innovative and really cares about providing the best possible guest experience.

VR Example: Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo Virtual Reality Tour

Augmented Reality (AR):

While Virtual Reality provides a fully immersive experience making the user feel like they are in a totally different virtual environment, Augmented Reality overlays digital objects onto the real world. It is similar in effect to VR, but is perfect for travel brands such as resort companies to utilize when their guests are already staying with them.

One of the most famous examples of AR so far has been the Pokemon Go game which took the world by storm for several months. This was a game app on smartphones and made it appear like Pokemon characters were walking around in the real world, when viewed through the phone screen. You could literally see people everywhere wandering around cities all around the world trying to catch virtual Pokemon characters on their phones, thus showing the huge allure of AR. Another prominent example of AR currently already in use includes within the hugely popular Snapchat messaging app, in which virtual characters are overlaid into real world environments. This Snapchat is used by almost 200 million people worldwide and AR is one of its most popular features.

This technology continues to become more and more impressive, thus increasing the possibility of uses for your travel brand. Possible uses include maps on the wall of your resort which offer additional information when viewed through an app on a guest’s smartphone. The map could provide information on popular attractions nearby to your resort such as walking time, best route to take, prices and more. There could also be information on the best local restaurants and many other features surrounding your resort.

There are a whole host of possible uses of AR technology within resorts to significantly enhance the guest experience. These include virtual entertainment such as interactive trivia games, customizable selfies and suggested food and drink pairings when aimed at a special beverage coaster. Guests could also have the option to re-decorate their rooms virtually and AR elements could be projected onto dining tables, allowing your guests to select their own table theme, order items from a multimedia rich menu, or even watch a live video feed from the kitchen directly from their table.

As with VR and AI the possibilities for VR to create an improved guest experience within your resort are incredible. Find out more about the uses of AR in this article: “What is Augmented Reality and why should your brand be using it?

AR Example: Augmented Reality Quest at the Best Western Kelowna

As you can see, the digital revolution is not going away and is only set to get stronger. Rather than dismissing it as a passing fad or trying to deny it is happening, your brand should embrace these exciting possibilities. They will allow you to greatly strengthen the guest-resort relationship by improving your guest experience before, during and after their stay. Investing in these forms of technology is an investment in your brand’s future. Instead of trying to beat the likes of AirBnb on price, you can compete with them on quality, experiences and customer services, especially through utilising innovative technologies.

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