It is the classic example of a symbiotic relationship. A tourist attraction can welcome people from far and wide only if adequate accommodation facilities are available in the vicinity, while guests will check into a hotel only if they have a compelling reason to be in the locality. In other words, hotels enable tourism while tourism provides a basis for hotels to do business.
The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the two sectors account for 10% of all jobs globally. The industry has outpaced the world economy in terms of percentage growth for the past six years consecutively. Around 28% of spending originates from outside the borders of the country where the service is delivered, which means it generates a significant flow of foreign currency (and is therefore classified as an export-oriented sector) as per the same report. The World Bank has proposed tourism as a key element of sustainable development agenda in both urban and rural economies, and also acknowledges the role played by travel technology in transforming the way travel is "researched, purchased, provided and experienced" today.
Deploying technology at the right points will therefore directly impact the growth of economies. The key, as always, is innovation!
In my previous blog, Treasure Hunter: Gamification of travel strikes gold at the IATA NDC Hackathon I had detailed the innovative app which won the Corporate prize at the IATA NDC hackathon earlier this year. To summarize: Treasure Hunter invokes the power of gamification and incentivizes travellers to follow a predefined itinerary at their chosen destination. By checking off each milestone, the traveller gains loyalty points which may be redeemed on their return flight. In addition to the obvious advantage for travellers, cities/towns gain more control over their local tourism, and the revenue from tourism is spread better across multiple businesses in the area rather than at one or two primary tourist attractions.
Hotels (and other commercial lodging facilities) typically play a dual role in promoting the tourism industry in any geography. Not only do they provide accommodation for travellers, but they also act as sources of information about the local tourist attractions.
Typically, when a guest checks into a hotel in an unfamiliar destination he/she has two primary ways of getting to know the place and deciding his/her itinerary. One is to use online sources like search engines or local travel apps. The other, is to check offline with hotel travel desks which can help engage local tour operators and guides to design a good travel experience using their hyperlocal knowledge. Both of these are initiated by the hotel guest.
Think With Google, the research wing of the search giant, estimates that 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination. This means hotels always have a chance to take control of their guests' tour plans by pushing information and engagement opportunities in a proactive manner. This is the point where options like gamification can be effectively sold to customers.
Why exactly is a particular guest staying in your hotel? Business travelers tend to have a set agenda – business events, conferences, client meetings, sales calls, etc. although these days the lines are blurring to facilitate "bleisure" travel. However pure leisure travelers, as well as business travelers on a residual phase of their trips, are prime candidates for short term themed tours.
Based on what kind of package the customer seeks, an itinerary may be formulated – one that draws the traveler to specific sets of partners of the hotel, who in turn will issue tokens of loyalty to the customer as they "play the game". These theme based itineraries can be seasonal or permanent, and periodically evaluated based on popularity, promised returns and future value potential. These partnerships allow hotels to gain a greater share of wallet from each guest.
Once the hotel effectively sells a customized, gamified tour plan to a guest, what happens further down the chain? What advantage does the hotel gain from bringing in more vendor-partners into their network? How do the local attractions and vendors keep up their end of the bargain? More on that, as well as technology based solutions, in the next post in the series.