A perfect holiday: Rejuvenating tourism with digital support

Uma Ganesh | November 1, 2021 |

Smart usage of AI and data modelling can help create safe and unique travel experiences

THE Tourism industry that contributes 10% of the global GDP creating one tenth of the jobs is one of the worst affected industries the world over due to Covid-19. As per World Travel and Tourism Council (WTC 2020) report, 31% of the jobs in this sector have been lost; that’s approximately 100 million. As per NCAER report, India has lost around 21. 5 million jobs in this sector in the first three quarters of 2021; it would take 3-4 years for the revival of the sector.

We have started seeing green shoots in domestic tourism but we are a long way off for international tourist arrivals to pick up momentum. There are a number of measures required to revive the sector including financial concessions, vaccination drive, diplomacy and communication to rebuild confidence amongst travelers. In addition to all of these measures, this is also the time to review current practices of the industry in view of the expectations of travelers and redesign the overall experience of Indian tourism. In this context, AI and other digital tools could help greatly to innovate and rejuvenate the industry.

Since safety and unique experiences having become top requirements for many travelers, the government and tourism and travel agencies could work together to foster sustainable tourism aided by data modelling. By understanding the preferences and habits of various demographics and the places from where tourists originate, how long they stayed, and which places they visited, tourism companies can create and offer tailor-made experiences. Travel planning continues to be disintegrated and has a huge scope for making it a seamless experience at a reasonable cost specially for international tourists. Indian tourism will get a big lift and create a new niche for itself by facilitating personalised end-to-end travel planning with the help of digital tools that would support more transparency and ease of travel in the targeted locations.

In order to assure travelers of safety and meet with their expectations of contactless mechanisms for check-in and check-out processes, self-service aided by voice assistants and robots capable of predicting travelers’ requirements could be implemented. Service at airports could be enhanced with further automated baggage handling system with the focus on tracking lost luggage. A good example is that of Eindhoven Airport that has successfully used AI-powered luggage handling systems without baggage labels. Social media listening and sentiment analysis of posts on social media would give a wealth of insights on travelers’ concerns and preferences which could be used to provide customised options in a timely manner thus being able to get the maximum share of the customer spend.

Tourism industry has several intermediaries and is one of the sectors with traditional practices and hence disruption in this sector resulting in large scale benefit to all the stakeholders seems a daunting task. The proposed interventions could be planned in a phased manner in select 100 tourist destinations aligned with smart city initiatives wherever possible, starting with Wi-Fi access in public places and use of AR/VR to create transformative experiences for the travelers. Countries like Mexico and several European countries have achieved to build footfalls even in small places as a result of integrated approach to all needs of the travelers. India has an opportunity to showcase the richness of its culture and history and create a new niche for itself in the post covid era on the strength of digital capabilities. Are we ready to work on this opportunity?

Originally appeared in Financial Express