Quarantine, lockdowns, and other coronavirus restrictions have affected most businesses in the world, but the tourism industry probably got one of the hardest hits. While states are gradually opening the borders for travelers, a fear of being infected and a risk of losing the money or staying closed in a foreign country doesn’t allow the sector to fully recover. The COVID-19 vaccine is already on the horizon. But to prepare for coronavirus-like situations, companies in the travel industry should think more strategically, embrace innovation, and invest in software development services.
Exoft has been working in the mobile and web development market for more than seven years.
In this article, we collected top technology solutions that can help tourism businesses recover from the current pandemic and get ready for similar health crises.
COVID-19 status databases
National borders were shut to minimize the migration of infected people and slow down the spread of COVID-19. However, if governments knew that only healthy travelers move across countries, there would be no need for such strict measures. That’s why developing databases that would contain the COVID-19 status of all people who travel internationally seems to be an effective solution for the pandemic and post-pandemic times.
This idea can be implemented through a public-private partnership that enables sharing of health data from laboratory information systems with state authorities. In this context, particular attention should be paid to the system security that must meet the highest standards. Ideally, national databases certifying that people are free of COVID-19 should also be connected to similar solutions in other countries. It will create all the necessary conditions for safe tourism despite the coronavirus.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council report, nearly 70 percent of respondents would make a booking if there was an option to re-book for free. What does this mean for tourism businesses? People are ready to travel. They just want to know that it’s possible to change everything without financial losses if they’re unable to go on a trip. Uncertainty is an obstacle for any long-term plans, and tourism is no exception. However, companies that operate in the tourism sector can solve this problem by increasing the level of flexibility for travelers.
Basically, the solution can be anything, from user-friendly traveler portals added to the existing booking or reservation platform to a separate mobile app. The main requirement is that such a product should allow quick rebooking, cancelation, and refund processes. It must give people confidence that they will be able to adapt to ever-changing conditions in a few clicks without the necessity to contact the call center or go through long and tiresome bureaucratic procedures.
Most viruses can be transmitted not only in droplets through the air but also through touches to surfaces. That’s why using contactless technologies can significantly reduce the risk of being infected during a business or leisure trip. Fortunately, many aspects of travel and hospitality experiences can be made touch-free. Focusing on these opportunities is a promising step towards the revival of the entire tourism industry.
For instance, hotels can build mobile applications that allow for contactless check-in and check-out, remote access to front-desk and concierge services, self-service options at the majority of touchpoints, and so on. It’ll probably lead to the more active adoption of artificial intelligence technologies (e.g., AI chatbots) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Besides, face-to-face interactions and common points of shared touch can be also replaced at the airports. For example, the use of such biometric identification as fingerprinting can be reduced with the implementation of alternative solutions such as facial recognition and iris scanning.
Traveler decision-making depends a lot on whether there is the confidence that the targeted travel environments ensure the proper level of protection against the spread of viruses. But, in situations like the current pandemic, manual processes fail to provide the required level of control to hospitality managers and officers of transportation stations or airports. Technological support is a must. So building compliance monitoring solutions can become an industry standard for tourism businesses in the foreseeable future.
What types of software can it be? The list of options is rather long since every tourism business can develop a unique product tailored explicitly to its requirements. But such solutions as cameras with mask-detection functionality or tools for distanced temperature-taking are something that any travel or transportation organization will benefit from. Also, hotels can take advantage of the innovative cleaning and sanitation technologies that ensure that sterilization measures are appropriate and prevent the spread of infections.
Although we all hope that the tourism industry will recover quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic, travel businesses won’t be the same again even when it happens. Studies show that the current health crisis cost the hospitality sector more than $300 billion. It means that tourism companies will need to survive in the critical scarcity of resources, while the harsh competition will require to keep the service level even higher than before. The automation of operations and processes is the only plausible way to achieve this in practice.
We’ve already mentioned the increase of self-service solutions and automated check-in/check-out. Besides, hotels, airports, and other companies operating in the tourism industry will be forced to implement various business management systems (e.g., CRMs, ERPs) that will allow them to reduce labor costs. We can also expect the rise of robotic hospitality technologies such as robotic maids, receptionists, waiters, etc.
According to some predictions, the travel industry will require up to four years to resume to pre-coronavirus levels. In the meantime, people will likely search for alternative ways to receive tourist experiences. For instance, local tourism is already growing in popularity. Research shows that Airbnb rentals in some European countries have almost returned to a normal level but with mostly local travelers.
However, traveling inside the country can still be unsafe and restricted. So, the adoption of VR technologies can become a game-changer for tourism businesses. Virtual reality tours and 360-degree videos can provide users with near-realistic immersive experiences from the comfort of their sofas. Today, there is a lot of skepticism around this topic. But the success and popularity of computer games that have a similar nature can refute all the arguments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a devastating disruption for the tourism industry. To recover from this crisis, most travel businesses will have to rethink the way they operate and serve people. It’s difficult to make any predictions in such an unstable situation. But we can say for sure that new technologies and digital transformation will play a crucial role in this process and most likely will bring fundamental changes to the way we explore the world.