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How Technology Will Help Create A Safer Travel Experience

In 2019, the global travel industry was worth $2.9 trillion, accounted for more than 10.3% of the world’s GDP, and represented 1 out of every 4 new jobs created in the prior five years. It is impossible to fully capture the true magnitude of the human impact that occurred across 2020 as those in the industry and customers around the world struggled to contend with the coronavirus pandemic. Across 2020, every sector of the global travel industry was negatively affected and losses between 60-80% were recorded by industry analysts and intergovernmental organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As challenging as the current conditions are, we believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Consumer sentiment data has revealed emerging shifts in perception that have created a greater urgency for travel and hospitality service providers to implement protocols that further enhance safety, security, and hygiene. They also prepare us to continue to invigorate the leisure travel industry with guest services that deliver greater convenience, value, utility, and enjoyment of the end-to-end travel experience.

Healthy, Safe, and Secure: Implementing Seamless Technological Innovations across the Travel Ecosystem
The word seamless is defined as something that is “smooth and continuous, with no apparent gaps or spaces between one part and the next”. When we consider the meaning of this word, it is easier to understand why seamless technologies are at the heart of efforts to promote greater safety and security along every key touchpoint in the travel experience.

In the future, seamless technology will create a global travel ecosystem that allows guests to book a trip, move through international borders, use ground transportation, arrive at a resort, and begin enjoying activities — all without having to exchange papers, credit cards or documents with another person or through a public kiosk. Across our industry, many efforts are underway to create new touchless and contactless standards.

Contactless biometric ID verification and authentication systems in the future will depend on the ability for public and private stakeholders to share sensitive personal data in much quicker and more efficient ways. Technological solutions such as data-driven decision-making and A.I.-powered security and database management systems will make it safer for private and public entities to confidently share information. Using more advanced technological solutions that take control over personal data in radical new ways creates a greater need to promote true interoperability of services and the free flow of information, while also securing privacy and customer data.

Moving towards a seamless, end-to-end travel journey will take time, but it’s easy to see the transition underway. It is hard to predict how long it will take for every airport, train station, and resort in the world to be outfitted with self-cleaning and disinfecting infrastructure managed via the internet of things (IoT). Though right now cleaning and hygiene protocols are being operationalized and enhanced using a variety of different touchless, mobile, and cloud-based solutions, third-party cleanliness and hygiene verification is essential to creating transparent systems that help travelers feel safe as they enjoy vacation.

The pandemic has created a renewed incentive for travel and hospitality service providers to implement new technologies. Nonetheless, innovation and the spirit of continuous improvement is in our DNA. We first began to roll out innovations such as tablets in the guest rooms of our AMResorts branded resorts back in 2015. Guests use these devices to schedule spa treatments, make reservations, and order room service. Today, customers are taking greater advantage of services like this, and we are proud of our long-standing efforts to adopt technologies to improve our guest services.

Implementing seamless technology requires both internal innovation as well as external partnerships with the stakeholders that share the responsibility of caring for guests before, during, and after their vacations. It is impossible to deliver a truly end-to-end travel experience without considering all of the key touchpoints, platforms, hubs of infrastructure, and services our guests encounter. It is essential that our industry supports efforts to create global standards to ensure protocol consistency that transcends national borders, service providers, and languages.

Seamless technologies are diverse and varied but are unified by an ability to provide more efficient service delivery that promotes the health and safety guests need to feel confident resuming local, regional, and global leisure travel.

Challenges and Opportunities
Recently, Apple Vacations® conducted consumer sentiment research to better understand how our guests are thinking about and planning for travel this year. They found that as many as 75% of travelers fall into a category defined as “Distance Yearning”. These individuals really want to book trips and resume normalcy but are taking a position of “wait and see” in regards to shifting governmental policies, pandemic statistics, and other factors.

Before the pandemic, as many as 80% of our customers wanted to travel more. While that hasn’t changed for most people, 69% of respondents are concerned about “not wanting to get sick.” AMResorts® analyzed communications across its social media channels and found that 84% of guests respond favorably to efforts undertaken to promote health and safety; the only fear is losing the human connection that has been a hallmark of leisure travel experience, due to an increase of technology solutions.

The global travel and hospitality industry is one of the world’s most diverse, employing people of every socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, and sex. Our sector plays a vital role in generating prosperity and empowering women (53% of global travel industry employees) and young people (30% of global travel industry employees) to take positions of leadership and accountability in their local communities. We must strive to adopt technologies that enhance and enrich the human connections driving the success of our industry.

Human interaction is a key component of the travel experience, and particularly of a luxury one. Offering personalized services to our guests means leveraging technology to learn and track what they want, having our exceptional staff tend to their needs and taking their vacation experiences to the next level. Technology impacts our industry in many exciting ways, but we must not lose sight of the humanity and social connections that make our vacations so memorable.

It is essential that we continue to implement processes and change initiatives that address current needs while also securing future competitive advantages. As important as it is to promote health, safety, and hygiene standards right now, we must not lose sight of delivering the world-class human-focused experiences and services that our guests crave. The profitability of leisure travel resort development hinges on providing unparalleled opportunities for our guests to relax, unwind, and enjoy the finer things in life.

The luxury all-inclusive model creates the opportunity for our guests to enjoy unforgettable world-class vacations. Adopting and implementing seamless technologies allow us to deliver the key health and safety benefits that our guests crave now, while also preparing our properties to offer enhanced guest services and experiences in the years to come. Discover the incredible investment opportunities to be realized by developing premium vacation destinations with the Apple Leisure Group.

About the Author
Javier Coll, Executive Vice President, and Chief Strategy Officer
Javier Coll is Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Apple Leisure Group®. In his role, the multidisciplinary executive applies more than 25 years of international hospitality operations and finance experience to skillfully direct the group’s growth, development, mergers and acquisitions.

Prior to Javier’s appointment as Executive Vice President & CSO, he played a pivotal role in the development of Apple Leisure Group’s luxury resort management company, AMResorts®. Since the company’s 2001 inception, Javier was instrumental in developing financial strategies that would expand AMResorts’ world-class portfolio.

While occupying various leadership roles in AMResorts, including Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, Javier was directly involved in negotiating contracts, analyzing and selecting existing hotels for rebranding, plus supervising the development and construction of new hotels. While defining the signature attributes of AMResorts’ six luxurious brands, Javier also developed and implemented new operating procedures for each brand’s finance, administration, auditing, IT and legal departments.

Before joining AMResorts, Javier was the Deputy Managing Director of MAC Hotels, based in Palma de Mallorca, where he oversaw sales, marketing, operations and administration for the hotel chain. Javier was also Head of International Development (Spain), Managing Director (USA), and Director of Administration for Spain’s Barceló Group. He began his career as an economist, developing viability studies of the transition from traditional European-plan hotels to the all-inclusive format.

Originally from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Javier graduated from Universitat de les Illes Balears with a B.A. in Marketing & International Taxation and received an M.B.A. in Business Administration/Economics from Universitat de Barcelona.

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