The Eye for Travel Summit Europe 2017 is an annual travel conference held in London where European executives in the travel and hospitality industries come together to explore key trends and potential strategies.
This year was focused on leveraging artificial intelligence, mobilization, machine learning and other technologies to create the ultimate "customer experience journey" for guests.
With digital initiatives and technology becoming more prominent nowadays, it is time for the hospitality industry to keep up with the trend and stay relevant. In the age of robot concierges, mobile self-check ins and smartphone keys, a digitalized customer experience is no longer just “good to have”.
“It is imperative to evolve our guest experiences to meet growing consumer demand for more digital interactions,” said Michael Mrini, director of IT at Edwardian Hotels London.
The Edwardian Hotels IT director dedicated his keynote to the introduction of their newest member, Edward the Virtual Host. With the hotel’s first artificially intelligent “employee” introduced to help service the daily needs of guests, this is evidence that industry leaders are determined to ride on this trend. Edward works through an automated platform that is powered by adaptable machine learning algorithms. Accessible 24/7, Edward can send in personalized room service orders, provide guests with directions or restaurant tips and receive guest complaints in a matter of seconds via SMS. While Edward can help resolve many requests, human assistance could also be called when desired. The hospitality industry’s integration of AI technologies indicates the pertinence of leveraging technologies to generate “user addiction”, instead of “user adaption” as a way to tap into customer loyalty.
“Changing the course of tourism through innovation”
As more and more people travel the globe, seeking out unique experiences, reselling has become an important trend in the tourism and travel industry. As travel increases, so do logistical details and products offered. As a response to this increase in booking complexity, online platforms which pool data from other sites and companies have become increasingly popular vehicles for bookings – both from the consumer as well as from the business side – given the ease with which information is made available and the fact that purchases can be made all in one place. In a rapidly changing travel economy, consolidations and synergies are becoming key to staying ahead the curve.
Companies such as Bókun, tourism reselling and cross-selling platform created in Iceland, have come about to bring innovation to the way in which people book their hotels, cars, restaurants and activities during their travels. With Bókun, all of these bookings can take place on the same platform, in the same “marketplace” as they call it, meaning that the customers only have to visit one site to get all the information they need and book their travels easily in the same place. Indeed, platforms like Bókun’s allow tourism businesses to reach the widest audience possible by leveraging the possibility of reselling on cross selling on an all-in-one platform.
Ultimately, Bókun is an innovative booking engine with perks for both customers and businesses: convenient online payments, channel management, ability to create virtual packaging and add-ons, and price management; all in an effort to enhance the product offering and re-think the traveling customer’s experience. While other all-in-one platforms similar to Bókun exist, the popular Icelandic platform offers something new for customers and businesses alike in an effort to consolidate, improve and render seamless the consumer experience. It is certainly a trend we will keep seeing in the travel and tourism industry of tomorrow.
Another technological trend that will be majorly impacting the hospitality industry is the “internet of things”. This wide-spread term refers to the interconnection through the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Gatwick Airport, London is currently working on the interconnection of the whole airport, with the aim to become “Europe’s most technologically advanced airport”. Gatwick is known as one of the busiest single runway airports in the world. That alone underlines the importance of being able to predict passenger flows. With the help of Splunk Cloud they will have access to historic, real-time and predictive analytics that enables them to react instantly to occurring events. The system extracts data from many different sources, such as road, rail and bus services, people counting and location systems, electronic flight progress strips, electronic way finding and many more. The delivery of real-time data and predictive analysis enables Gatwick airport to troubleshoot, make the airport more efficient and ensures that passengers get to departures faster. And this, eventually, results in an improved customer experience.
Technology is moving at an incredibly fast pace and it is essential for the hospitality industry to keep up with the evolvements to stay competitive. Not only is technology useful for the business to improve internal processes, but also does it facilitate and bring convenience to the customer. Whether it is the example of the virtual host of the Edwardian hotels, the all-in one booking platform of Bókun or the interconnection of Gatwick’s airport, it all has the ultimate goal of operational efficiency and happier customers.
Many different players of the industry have joined the event and it made the exchange very diverse and gave opportunity to see things from different perspectives. For us as hospitality students, The Eye for Travel event was a truly enriching experience. For two days we got an insight of current, major industry trends and got inspired by many new and innovative ideas.
Authors: Nicolia Ng & Marlene Baumann - EHL Bachelor Students & Elena Goldblatt - EHL EMBA Student