Exclusive Interview with Arif Patel, Regional VP, Sales and Marketing, Hyatt India
ICT has been gradually making inroads into the travel and hospitality sector. Enterprises in this space have been deploying cutting-edge solutions based on new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and data analytics in an effort to enhance business efficiency and improve customer experience. In fact, technology has played a critical role in keeping the sector afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, with companies implementing various tech based, contactless solutions to continue operations. Arif Patel, Regional VP, sales and marketing, Hyatt India, shares his views on the evolving technology trends in the sector…
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How has Covid-19 impacted the travel and tourism industry? How ICT and technology have helped in addressing some of the challenges being faced?
The world of travel and hospitality as we knew it has changed fundamentally. One of the biggest challenges faced by the sector is ensuring the safety of both staff and guests, and this is where technology plays a critical role. The sector was already moving towards digital transformation, and the pandemic has accelerated the process.
Technological innovations have emerged as a way of ensuring that guests have a more seamless and safe experience while travelling. We at the Hyatt believe touch-free interactions and smart sanitisation will be integral to, and imperative in, the new hospitality landscape. Therefore, reimagining the hospitality sector would depend on not just transformative innovations, but also their smart deployment in services across different areas of function.
How has your business been impacted and what technology measures have you taken or planned to deal with the Covid-19 crisis?
We swiftly responded to the pandemic at the very beginning and adopted innovative measures to ensure that our guests could still enjoy their favourite hotel experiences from the comfort of their homes. For instance, to amplify the luxury dining experience at home and to take a step closer to offering contactless dining with online payments, our Hyatt Regency Delhi hotel introduced a food ordering website, which allowed guests to order their favourite delicacies from the hotel’s restaurants.
We re-imagined places and spaces to strike the right balance of connection and space. Our hotels are exploring audio-visual technology to offer customers hybrid meeting options – on-property and remote – for large-scale events with social distancing in mind. We are also focusing on contactless menus and transactions. Our hotels have introduced enhanced digital amenities through the World of Hyatt app, which allows guests to choose how they connect with us.
Through a new, exclusive collaboration with Headspace, guests, members and colleagues can now use exercise packages, which include guided meditation and sleep content, on the World of Hyatt app. Our hotels, Alila Fort Bishangarh and Grand Hyatt Mumbai, offer virtual site inspections to guests when they are selecting event venues. Our thrust will be on bringing more such innovations, going forward.
In a post-Covid world, what key digital trends will shape the travel and tourism industry?
- Less contact, more care: The industry has adopted tools such as in-house hotel apps to allow guests to take advantage of virtual concierge services. Features that allow guests to manage their requirements such as scheduling housekeeping, choosing between pick-up or knock-and-go food orders, mobile key entry, contactless check-in and checkout, and more can be introduced through hotel-specific apps.
- Feeding the senses: In the post-Covid-19 era, hotels will need to implement new dining offerings such as QR codes on digital menus so that guests can browse options at the restaurants and order from their own mobile devices while dining in an open space or in their rooms.
- Curated with care: Hotels could optimise guest room décor and amenities to remove some unnecessary items in order to avoid physical contact. Sensor-enabled lighting in common areas and sensor-controlled sanitation systems in common washrooms should become industry standards. Deploying smart practices to sanitise and clean exteriors is also expected to become a norm.
- Well-being where you are: In addition to re-evaluating indoor and outdoor spaces, hotels could also think of innovating in these areas to enhance the well-being of guests. This can be done by providing exclusive, immersive experiences, fitness modules, meditation programmes and mindfulness exercises via digital apps.