Two hotel customers on summer vacations and a waiter serving them drinks with the ocean in the background; Shutterstock ID 443200663

For Today’s Travel Technology, All Roads Point to Experience-as-a-Service

Emerging technologies such as computer vision and social analytics are reinventing travel.

With warmer weather and longer days upon us, many have likely begun forming travel plans for the remainder of the year. In 2024, travel frequency is expected to rise, with 40 percent of Americans planning to travel more than they did last year.

Amid a potential uptick in prepared itineraries and packed suitcases, innovative technologies are taking center stage to create customized travel experiences for every aspiring adventurer. Travel and hospitality technology is advancing beyond simple customer service tools to further automate and streamline recommendations and bookings in 2024. Programs like Experience-as-a-Service, inspired by SaaS, will provide travelers with a more interactive, immersive approach to planning.

Let’s explore the emerging technologies that are reinventing travel and highlight how businesses can prepare for more personalized adventures in 2024 and beyond.

Computer Vision Delivers Real-Time Insights on Foot Traffic and Crowds

With numerous applications throughout the hospitality industry, computer vision will allow businesses to operate more efficiently and intelligently. AI/ML-enabled computers can be trained to analyze visual inputs like video feeds to provide useful information about foot traffic, crowd density, and more.

Cruise ship managers can use computer vision to determine the relative crowd density at each of its restaurants during peak times. These real-time insights can help influence restaurant promotions or special deals and help operations staff anticipate guest activity.

Computer vision can help airports optimize pathway layouts, seating areas, food courts, and boarding zones. A centralized monitoring station gives operations teams a convenient way to ensure travelers can move smoothly throughout the facility.

For any business dealing with heavy crowds, computer vision unlocks a superior customer experience. The technology gives management teams real-time glimpses into how people can move from A to B, which attractions create lingering crowds, and whether any bottlenecks need to be addressed.

Social Analytics Modernize Customer Feedback Forms

It’s well understood that social media communities have the power to make anything “go viral,” and hospitality is no exception. Why should customer success teams wait for retroactive feedback forms when they can glean real-time insights from real-time customers?

Millennials, the “pics or it didn’t happen” generation, and Gen Zers, the denizens of TikTok, are likely to post to social media as their vacation unfolds—sharing both the good experiences and the bad. Hospitality businesses can leverage social analytics to aggregate feedback and identify popular attractions.

For instance, a beach resort can use social analytics to determine which of its restaurants is most popular on Saturday nights. Hotels can filter through popular hashtags to see how their business is being described online. In the age of the influencer, one popular content creator can have an outsized effect on a business’ reputation.

Printed comment cards are a thing of the past. If customers have something to say, they’ll say it online—and hospitality businesses can leverage social analytics to listen in to the conversation.

Hyper-Personalization Begets Brand Loyalty

The development of targeted ads and online cookies has raised the bar when it comes to personalization, and customers now expect a bespoke experience when it comes to travel and hospitality.

Hotels can offer a superior caliber of personalization from check-in to check-out with just a few additional pieces of guest information. By learning of a dietary restriction ahead of time, hotels can use AI to preemptively package up a list of recommended restaurants that accommodate that restriction. If the concierge already knows that a guest loves the outdoors, they can be prepared with specific tour or outing recommendations.

When these guests check in and are greeted with personalized offers, they’ll know the hotel has taken the time to get to know them and will start to develop a sense of loyalty.

By asking a few simple questions at the outset of the customer engagement, hotels can make a world of a difference in their guests’ experience. Hyper-personalization is a very powerful tool when used by any individual business, but its potential skyrockets when different hospitality businesses partner together to offer one personalized, extended travel experience.

Experience-as-a-Service Ties It All Together

To win lifelong customers, travel and hospitality businesses are now looking to offer Experience-as-a-Service, which goes far beyond the period between check-in and check-out.

Imagine a customer books a trip which will require airfare, local transportation, a hotel stay, and recreational events. What if all the businesses agreed to share customer data to offer a collectively superior customer experience? 

If the customer shares their flight information during hotel registration, the concierge could reach out with recommended airport restaurants that offer their favorite foods. The team at the rental car counter could pre-set the car’s radio station to align with the guest’s taste. The tour guide would have advance notice of the guest’s passion for art history. The possibilities are endless with Experience-as-a-Service. Each piece of information might seem small, but these personalized touchpoints add up to one superior experience.

This hyper-personalized approach will, of course, create very happy customers, but it will also instill simultaneous brand loyalty for all businesses who partner together in these arrangements.

As we move into the peak travel season of 2024, businesses should look to technology to help them offer the best customer experience possible. Any one of these trends—computer vision, social analytics, or hyper-personalization—is powerful on its own, but if businesses can synthesize advanced technology to offer true Experience-as-a-Service, they’ll reap the benefits. With all their needs anticipated, the only question left on customers’ minds will be, “How soon can I leave?”

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