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Businessworld — BW Hotelier, India: Cognizant’s Senior Director of Travel and Hospitality Consulting Says the Hospitality Industry Must Act on Opportunities Made Possible by Digital-Era Innovations

“The way digital age customers purchase and consume hospitality services is changing dramatically, forcing the hospitality industry to transform its offerings, products, services and infrastructure,” writes Samrat Sen. Excerpts:

“In the future, most conversions for the hospitality sector are likely to happen through experiences — physical experiences, curated and delivered through digital means. For example, tech-savvy customers exploring a prospective hotel room through a virtual reality (VR) headset will be a far more compelling sales pitch than browsing a static image or reading through a brochure. Views could be converted into purchases by means of a mix of experiences that blend technologies, and enable hyper-personalization.

Conversational software bots could soon be answering all basic inquiries. Following the hospitality industry’s widespread adoption of in-house apps and instant messaging, chatbots are expected to flourish in the hospitality industry, winning over phone, email and just-in-time communications. With chatbots on duty 24X7, guests could also explore options at their own pace.

Modelled on text conversations with call center agents and website navigation paths, bots may be able to not only fulfil reservations, but also upsell rooms and help with in-room service in line with customer preferences.

Blockchain holds great potential for helping hospitality companies manage the accrual and redemption of loyalty points and settling agent commissions in a transparent manner.

The straight-to-your-room experience looks poised to go mainstream, making check-in lines a distant memory. Once guests are in their rooms, safety is of paramount concern. This will lead to a bigger, more crucial role for biometrics in the hospitality sector. Facial recognition will help identify guests, and fingerprint scans will offer secure access to rooms and amenities.

Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is already hard at work in the hospitality industry, taking fast food orders and helping travelers plan trips. While still in its infancy, robotics holds enormous potential in transforming booking and purchasing. More importantly, it will lower the cost of service via automation.

Hoteliers should examine how robotics and self-service options can enhance their efficiency and productivity without detracting from the focus on enhancing the customer experience. In the future, hotels will increasingly leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to manage utility costs and generate alerts for facilities maintenance.

Matching experiences to individual customer preferences is the ultimate challenge for any customer-centric industry, and in hospitality, it’s a powerful tool to retain customers and acquire new ones. Leveraging IoT will enable companies to gain impressive returns and command a significant share of the global market.

Beacons detect customer identities and their physical locations, which hotels could use to win hearts by targeting and offering tailor-made, thoughtful, just-in-time offers to customers that they simply cannot refuse. While customers’ smart wearables make the guest experience seamless, smart machines could analyze data and provide the best recommendations.

It is imperative for the hospitality industry to act on the opportunities made possible in the digital era.”

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