Travel in India used to be synonymous with the travails of bone crunching experiences .The local tourism had major headcounts of unorganized unplanned humanity making rounds of pilgrim centers. The rise of middle class and the well –to- do knowledge workers, have pitched the focus on quality of the composite format in travels, hospitality and the destinations.
The reach of broadband, mobility and the young profiles of today’s India have been creating a market, fresh with its own version of ‘magic carpet’ woven with the applications, serving the travel hungry, in terms of what is delivered , primed and customized . And all these through 3G or 4G sims while you are at your planning desk! The caretakers of hospitality have been forced--- by the speed of technology on which the customers want to ride—to demand their choices in travel plans, type of accommodations, security and the most essential gastronomies!
The travel and tourism industry has become one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors globally. Its contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment has increased multifold.
According to Phocuswright, a travel data aggregator, the online penetration in travel and tourism bookings is projected to increase from 41 percent in 2014 to 46 percent in 2017.
For India, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP is expected to grow 7.2 per cent per annum to US$ 88.6 billion (2.5 per cent of GDP) by 2025. Interestingly, as per the data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), during the period April 2000- May 2015, travel and tourism sector has drawn in around US $ 8.1 billion in FDI. Also, the tourism and hospitality sector is among the top 15 sectors in India to attract the highest foreign direct investment (FDI).
According to a research steered by SRI International, India is anticipated to be the fastest growing nation in the wellness tourism sector over the next five years, striking a growth rate of over 20 percent through 2017.
According to Phocuswright, a travel data aggregator, the online penetration in travel and tourism bookings is projected to increase from 41 percent in 2014 to 46 percent in 2017. This is good news for the online travel agencies – Makemy trip, Yatra.com and Clear trip.
The travel and tourism industry in India entailing domestic and international inbound travel is projected to increase at a CAGR of 12 percent to 27.5 billion in 2016 from S19.7 billion in 2013.At the same time, rising income levels, altering lifestyles, growth of varied tourism offerings and strategy and regulatory backing by the government are playing a focal role in modeling the travel and tourism sector in India.
The growth opportunities in the travel and tourism can be understood only with the progress of the hospitality sector. With the high amount of tourist inflows over the past few years, it is a major contributor to Indian economy.
The hospitality industry helps in the revival of the economy. The impact of technology to reach out to millions has added a fast and exciting boost to the economy. Technology is improving customer experience, operations and several other aspects. With the dawn of the groundbreaking enterprise solutions, the hospitality scene in India is improving.
PERSONALIZATION OF SERVICES TO GAIN MOMENTUM
Today, the hospitality industry has reached a fascinating stage, where the hotels are increasingly focusing on innovative technology to enhance their revenues, productivity, and augment guest experience.
At present, modern hotel guests have high expectations. They require hotels to deliver a personalized service which fulfills their core needs and wants. That’s why industry insiders name it as “Personalized model” of guest service.
Consider this: “Guests can decide through their smartphones, the lighting in their room, the size of their hotel room, the type of bed they will sleep on, the temperature the room will be set at, and the type of food stocked in the mini bar,” said Sudesh Agarwal, CIO, Sterling Holidays Resorts India.
Highlighting this point, Rajesh Chopra, Senior VP- IT, The Oberoi Group, said “Mobility helps in interaction of the guests before they arrive. It helps hotels in upselling the facility to guests and keeping a close touch with the guests during their stay in the hotel.”
“Personalization is becoming a reality across the hospitality industry”, Agarwal gives a really good example of one of the personalized services, “imagine this, you leave your hotel with the lights dimmed half-way, your favorite news station on the television, and the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Then, two weeks later you return to the same hotel, and you find the room exactly the way you left it, except the room number is different.”
On the note of personalization, firms can reach out to guests who comment on them on different social media platforms like a tweet on twitter or a post on their facebook pages, empowering them to respond to questions and complaints.
Interestingly, there is one company – Hyatt Hotels – which exploited the opportunity of using social media to reach out to customers. They launched a twitter Concierge Service in 2009. This service answers specific customer questions like assisting customers to find nearby attractions, or permitting them to make dinner reservations.
In an interview to Economic Times, Siddharth Mohan Gupta, Head IT of The Imperial said, “smart room convergence like room automation, opening and closing of doors, lighting and other things controlled by the touch of a button, providing convenience to the customers during their stay. Additionally, by utilizing technology, guests can talk directly to the front staff and hotels can stay ahead of their competition.”
“We are also looking at mobility to empower the sales people in the field. It will come up in the first half of this year,” said Chopra gushed with a renewed confidence.
A HOTEL IN THE CLOUD IN 2016
Another emerging trend in the hospitality sector is that many players are jumping into the cloud bandwagon.
Agarwal said, triumphantly, “cloud software as a service (SaaS) is increasingly been adopted by hoteliers as an alternative to on premise web servers. He said, in 2016 many hospitality players are likely to jump on the SaaS bandwagon. The main advantage of the SaaS platform is that the costs of maintaining servers, networks, other maintenance tasks, data backups, and storage capacity are nearly zero.”
At the same time, he added, “SaaS businesses apps are accessible anytime and anywhere by using an internet enabled device. Subsequently, hotels don’t have to invest in expensive equipment when they are operating on a cloud service.”
“With the cloud platform you are always logging into the latest updated version of property management software solutions (PMS). You will never again be behind the curve when it comes to latest software for hotels,” said Agarwal. Here is probably the’ virtual cloud’ settings under Hospitality putting the stake holders on a ‘cloud nine’!
Adding to Agarwal, Nilesh Patel Director of Information Technology, Accor Hotels, said that hotels are jumping on to the cloud bandwagon. The key advantage is cost and data mining. One can pull out the data and customer requirements from one particular data base itself. Otherwise, one has to go to each and every hotel and extract the data separately.
Kamlesh Barot, Director - VIE Hospitality, says, “At the backend, we have our entire inventory on the cloud. All our branches have got connected to the cloud and at the main headquarters we are able to see the movement of material from each and every outlet. The good part is: “We don’t have to maintain data in each office as the collation of data takes place at one place and it becomes easier to collaborate the data,” he says.
Last year, (IDC) held a web conference in December projecting the future of digital security. It was found that biometric technology coupled with facial recognition system is going to play a domineering role in digital security in the coming years.
Many CIOs feel that data and physical security will be of prime importance this year. Lemon tree Hotel has taken the initiative and upgraded their IT infrastructure by focusing on digital security.
Lemon tree has selected a face recognition solution named Neo Face to provide a secure and elevated guest experience. Incredibly, this software identifies a face and cuts it from the background and matches it with a database of stockpiled images.
In an interview to CXO today, Sumant Jadika, Chief Operating Officer – North, The Lemon Tree Hotel, said, “Safety and security of guests has always been paramount to us. It was thus essential that we adopted a solution that would merge innovative and path breaking technology with accuracy and consistency, but most importantly met the stringent guidelines defined by the Indian Security agencies.”
In volatile times like today, the security need to screen out the black listed persons listed as security risk. In a wired world such security management is a ‘just in time job’, which raises the bar to secured access .This sounds a cozy and warm ‘security blanket ‘!
Well, face recognition technology might solve all security concerns. Be careful violators, or else all hell will break loose!!
Bottomline: 2016 is the year to watch! Many tailwinds are expected to boost tremendous growth in India. High number of budget hotels in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, government’s initiative to build 150 new airports by 2020 and India’s passion for travel: these could add to a vigorous, long term growth outlook for India’s travel and tourism market. Technology adoption has added the high gear torque to the industry. Those who do not get on to this bandwagon will miss the bus.