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Digital Disruption Is Shaking Up the Travel Industry: Here's How to Stay Ahead

By Margaret Shine, Senior Vice President

Digital disruption is fueling innovation in the travel space right now — and for years to come.

Picture this: a weary business traveler steps off the plane. As she walks through the gate she receives a text message saying that her bags are waiting at carousel number four. Bags in hand, she receives another message from her hotel's loyalty program app, welcoming her to the city with the option to book and pay for a ride share to the hotel with a single click. When she arrives at the hotel, her smartphone registers an automatic check-in, the keyless door entry from her mobile app activates and the door automatically opens. Inside, she finds that the room temperature, extra pillows, turned-down bed and Earl Grey tea she always orders are all in place. Digital disruption has streamlined her entire journey — and this frictionless, convenient experience will likely encourage her to make a return stay.

Scenarios like this are already playing out with the most innovative hotels and airlines. And industry trailblazers are not stopping here. Leading travel organizations are leveraging real-time data and advanced analytics to capitalize on the next wave of digital innovations, drive guest satisfaction, and accelerate their business.

Compendium - Digital Distribution is shaking up the travel industry

Stay Ahead of Guest Expectations

According to the International Air Transport Association, today's travelers expect digital technology to provide them with more personal control over their travel experiences. Yet many travel and hospitality companies still struggle to craft personalization strategies that resonate with their guests.

By leveraging data-driven insights and analytics to gain a better understanding of past guest behavior, and employing new digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, beacons, chatbots and the Internet of Things (IoT), you can deliver on travelers' expectations for guest-centricity and personalization.

In order to truly understand the impact of such tactics in areas like guest satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, the bottom line, it is important to have the capabilities in place to measure the effects of each new program. These measurement capabilities will enable you to make data-driven decisions with confidence when it comes to evolving your strategy in today's digital world.

Stand Out in the Competitive Landscape

With so many different ways to travel, places to stay and attractions to visit, it's important to keep your offerings as flexible and relevant as possible. This means branching out beyond your vertical to offer travelers a wider breadth of options to increase engagement and drive brand loyalty.

To stay competitive, companies in the travel industry should think of themselves as one piece of the puzzle, working with others to provide a more complete travel experience. For example, when Hilton Honors members order an Uber directly from their Honors mobile app, they'll find that their hotel's address is pre-populated for the ride. Airlines and airports have even teamed up to allow international travelers to use biometrics for quick airport check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding.

To determine which partnerships will provide the most value for your guests, you first have to understand which benefits or experiences are most important to them. Then, test new offerings with a smaller population of guests to get feedback and data that can help you determine if the partnership is the right fit for your brand before rolling out the offering more broadly. By doing so, you reduce the risk of inadvertently introducing programs that compromise brand loyalty among some guest segments.

Prepare for Disruptions — Big and Small

Disruption comes in many sizes. It can make a huge splash, like self-driving cars, or it can make ripples in the form of chatbot service agents and robotic room service delivery. But all new ideas should have the common goal of making travelers' lives easier and their experiences more enjoyable in order to ultimately drive loyalty and spend.

To come out ahead in the world of digital disruption, hotels, airlines and other travel organizations need to continuously innovate and evolve the way they serve their guests. By using data insights and analytics to help you better understand travelers' wants and needs, you can adapt your offerings to provide the seamless, personalized experiences that keep guests coming back again and again.

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