It’s no secret: travel is back. Global travel and tourism is projected to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022, contributing $2 trillion to the US economy. But the rush to visit friends and family or go on that much needed vacation has resulted in travel nightmares for many. While demand is high, travel-related businesses are still reeling from the pandemic’s layoffs, staff health issues and closures. In fact, 7 out of 10 hospitality operators report that they still can’t find enough employees.
As the industry that makes up 10% of the global GDP struggles to adapt to a post-pandemic landscape, many hospitality businesses, airports and airlines have turned to technology to help boost productivity and optimize their efforts.
These technologies can be applied across types of businesses. Here are three tools to incorporate into your business website that can help sustain your business growth amid increased demand and less-than-ideal resources:
According to a Drift survey, chatbots were the fastest growing communication channel among businesses between 2019 and 2020—and these 24/7 helpers really came in handy as short-staffed hospitality businesses looked to support guests through their booking journeys (check out AI customer service to see just how this works). An NYU School of Professional Studies and StaynTouch report found that 10.1% of hoteliers said they planned to use chatbots in their operation in 2022—the biggest industry-wide technology implementation.
While your business may not have a chatbot for the same reasons as a hotel, you can use this technology to supplement your exceptional customer experience just the same. Chatbots provide always-on customer support, whether that’s helpful links, account statuses, and supply product or service-related information.
“Thinking about the bot as a frontend representative of your product or service can make a lot of sense, and having a delightful bot that provides a useful service can generate strong attachment to your brand,” writes Amir Shevat, Head of Product at Twitter, in his book Designing Bots: Creating Conversational Experiences.
Tip: Connect a chatbot to your site to take advantage of these capabilities.
Voice assistants and voice search
Voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are one of the most widely adopted tech trends in recent years, particularly in hospitality. And this investment has paid off during summer 2022, as voice assistants stepped in to assist with verbal requests that normally would be funneled to the front desk or concierge.
For example, Amazon’s Alexa For Hospitality has been adopted by major hotel chains, including Marriott. The device connects to smart speakers in hotel rooms and enhances the guest experience by allowing guests to adjust their room temperature, book spa and restaurant reservations, order room service and even check out.
“I think it’s safe to say it’s already been a game-changer within the industry,” says Melanie Smith, digital marketing manager at Run2, in an interview with Click. Magazine. “Aside from drastically changing the way people search for and consume information while planning their trip, hotels are now starting to utilize voice search to enhance a customer’s experience during their stay.”
Thirty-one percent of smartphone users across the globe now use voice search to conduct online searches at least once a week, a demand that hotels have met by incorporating voice search SEO best practices. In that same Click. interview, Justine McNamara, senior SEO specialist at New York-based hospitality technology company Next Guest, says that it’s important to look at what consumers are asking around hotel bookings and having content on the site set specifically to answer popular questions. That way, travelers get their questions answered without having to speak to a live person.
Tip: Learn more about how to incorporate these practices into your own website by checking out this article on voice search SEO.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
VR and AR have become popular technological advances in the tourism industry, and the market is expected to reach close to $300 billion by 2024. Particularly during the height of the pandemic, virtual reality allowed consumers to see new places without leaving their living rooms. Although travel is back, people are still using these technologies to decide where to jet off to by checking them out virtually first, helping to ease the load of concierge and customer support teams.
For example, a British resort called The Hub Hotel from Premier Inn, places AR compatible wall maps in each hotel room. When viewed through a smartphone or tablet, the wall maps include additional information about local places of interest, educating tourists on places to check out.
Learn more: How to start a hotel business
As a small business owner, incorporating this technology onto your website can help you free up sales or customer support staff by allowing customers to try a product or experience on their own before they make a purchase. For example, if you're starting a business that sells kitchen cabinets, you can implement an AR feature that allows customers to superimpose what new cabinets would look like in their own homes through their smartphone screens.
Tip: Connect a 3D/AR viewer to your website to implement this technology.