Why tech is vital to the hospitality industry revival

Thursday, December 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Hasnain Noorani, managing director PrideInn group of hotels. Photo/PD/Harriet James

As hotels start to see a ramp in demand for holiday stay this festive season, keeping their finger on the pulse for the latest technology is critical, especially with the advent of Covid-19 as customer expectations and requirements continuously shift.

Harriet James @harriet86jim

The travel and tourism industry has been widely and significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time ever, more than 70 per cent of the world’s hospitality sector has been shut down, changing the face of the world as we know it.

Under the shadow of strict control measures to limit the spread of the virus, many hospitality businesses have closed down and others have found themselves under the threat of closure. 

As the festive season gets into high gear, hoteliers are being challenged to redeem themselves by inspiring consumer confidence to travel again. 

A combination of leading-edge technologies, experts recommend, is the necessary solution to revive the hospitality sector.

“We are witnessing efforts to bolster consumer confidence and keep the economy rolling with protocols, such as mask-wearing, hand-sanitising and social distancing.

Planhotel Malindi general manager Alexander Zissimatos. Photo/PD/Harriet JAMES

Technologically, tactics for keeping people apart while continuing to conduct business, such as touch-free  or contactless solutions are also being adopted,” says Rael Njiru, a travel consultant.

From replacing tangible restaurant menus with scannable QR codes (Quick Response codes) to contactless hotel check-in, mobilephone room keys, touchless payments, and in-app ordering and appointments-booking, Rael says almost every aspect of the hospitality experience can now be accessed through guests’ mobile devices, provided that hotels have adopted the right software.

Reskilling, reinvention and innovation

Speaking recently during the tourism and hospitality professionals round table and the launch of the launch of Master in Hospitality Business Management programme at Strathmore University, the tourism and wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala emphasised on the significance of technology in rebuilding tourism.

“Workers in the tourism sector need reskilling, reinvention and innovation to survive in the competitive industry.

As the tourism sector gradually resumes operations, this is the moment to adapt, redesign and implement new ways and ideas to assist the sector accelerate recovery and reinvent the hospitality sector  tomorrow,” said the CS.

He further added that the players in the industry will need to rethink as well as reflect on several critical areas, such as use of technology, health as well as active involvement of local communities with direct benefits to create sustainable and resilient sector in future.

The age of travel communities on social media and online forums has resulted in the rise of a new breed of travellers who are hungry for new experiences based on the experiences of others, their past, or recent experience or their expectations of the subject destination.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. Diamond Dreams of Africa digitised conference room and a Quick Response code (QR code)menu. Photo/PD/Harriet JAMES

With about three million internet users in Kenya alone, it is clear that technology, is the next big thing in driving domestic tourism particularly as we enter the festivities. 

Consequently, all this digitisation in technology has led to the popularity of hybrid events that usually take place in a physical venue while permitting its audience to engage on its virtual platform too.

This kind of event is rising as a potential breakthrough for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry, particularly in this season where the sector has been feeling the deep impact of the pandemic combining digital marketing strategy with virtual reality.  

For instance, PrideInn Group of Hotels’ new initiative dubbed “RevMeet” (Real and Virtual Meeting Combined) has been designed to provide the hotel and event planners with a set of solutions aimed at assisting them drive corporate demand for conferences and gatherings at a time when MICE business has fallen off the cliff.

“Revmeet is a new edge conferencing and events solution that combines multi-hub, multi-platform, in-person and virtual conference participation. Such innovative conference and event platform is what we need to keep MICE business going.

Over the past two months, we have seen that the market really needed an easy-to-use meetings and events solution, which we provided,” says the group founder and managing director Hasnain Noorani.

The hotel has reported a surge in demand for hybrid conferences barely two months after piloting and launching the innovation and so far, has attracted over 100 conferences and events.

This solution enables participants to attend any one meeting or event in real time (in-person) or virtually across various locations seamlessly and securely using high end technology, therefore, saving time and budgets whilst keeping to strict Covid-19 health guidelines.

“Virtual events are the new normal and, even as the world starts to re-open, we believe it is forever changed.

Institutions and organisations need to be remote-ready to connect their audiences, wherever they are, and we are excited to help them create true collaboration with our platform,” says  Hasnain.

Emotional links with guests

Another hotel that is adapting technology in the new normal is Diamond Dream of Africa, which has transformed their conference venues from flip charts and white boards to having LED (Light-Emitting Diode) flip charts, 44 screens with a 4K digital white board in the board rooms all to accommodate the rise in demand of conference tourism. 

While advances in technology help remove such friction points, it is also important to ensure that the transition leads to positive emotional links with guests.

This is more so because the ‘wow effect’ of any new technology is short lived — guests become accustomed to it quickly.

“The real difference is made by the people, who have the ability to ‘wow’ guests time and time again — with their warm, attentive, personalised, solution-oriented approach. Technology can never replace humans in this context,” says Hasnain.

“So, the challenge before us as an industry is in identifying how we can excel in both areas simultaneously; in short, ensuring that we draw on the capabilities of technology whilst keeping the warm personalised touch of human service,” he adds.

Online marketing and the use of digital influencers is another way hotels and tourism players are using to engage their clients.

“Having influencers assist us spread awareness on our products through their huge following online encourages people to come and experience our services,” explains Planhotel Malindi general manager, Alexander Zissimatos.

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