Photo: The health crisis has boosted the tourism sector’s digitalization which looks towards an immediate future. Credit: Pexels.

By Patricia Ruiz Guevara

This summer, society debates whether to stay inside and say good-bye to coveted vacations, or to attempt to find a rest haven and adventures away from home (always following health recommendations). The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made travel more complicated than ever.

In the months that have passed since it spread around the world, the tourism sector has tried to adapt to the new reality to continue attracting travelers. A vital challenge for a sector that in Spain contributes 11% of GDP and almost 13% of employment, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics. But tourism as we know it is destined to disappear, and there are many changes that will affect it: from travel, to hotels and the experience at the destination. All that transformation will be done digitally through technology.

Moving around in the post-coronavirus era
Travel implies moving from where you are. Therefore, the first transformation of tourism will begin in transportation companies. “Companies must redesign the customer journey of their clients. Renfe, Iberia, Alsa… They all have to think that right now the most important thing for a traveler is confidence and security. They must be able to appease the client’s new fears when traveling and communicate better than ever before,” explains the Customer Experience Advisor and Chief Exponential Officer at Opinno, Antonio Fontanini.

The post-COVID tourist will have an even more digital profile, looking for alternatives for their vacations via various online platforms.

New safety protocols will slow down a trip: bureaucracy and health certificates, luggage check-in, slower shipments, and so on. According to the report The rise of sanitized travel by SimpliFlying, it will be necessary to go to the airport four hours in advance to pass through temperature scans, disinfection tunnels, sanitize luggage, and even undergo blood tests. “This is going to affect all transportation companies, they will have to reconsider their next steps and make the traveler’s experience and safe and comfortable as possible,” states Fontanini.

Furthermore, if a 21st century tourist aimed for personalization and demanded online services, the post-COVID-19 tourist will be even more digital, looking for many different alternatives for their vacations through online platforms, as is revealed in an article by HomeExchange. Competency will be great, in moving around and in hotels.

Safer and More Personalized Hotels
 “The hotel of the future will be a hybrid experience between the physical and the digital, which will reduce contact as much as possible,” explains the Digital Experience Manager in Technology Solutions at Opinno, Laura García. Check-in with an app on your phone, inform that your room may be sanitized with a button, additional services on apps, and instantaneous personalization will be “premium experiences that technology will make possible, while simultaneously reducing the physical presence of hotel personnel,” she adds.

Apps will provide personalization, immediateness, and control. Hotels will have to incorporate a more home automation and better-quality internet connection.

The expert indicates three initiatives for hotels of the future. First, hygiene protocols, which will go through additions such as minimum distance, redesign of common areas, and more frequent disinfection. Also, changes in communication: “When we speak about leisure tourism, the traveler seeks to be tranquil and relaxed, forget about worries. It will be very important to transmit and to maintain that confidence,” expands García.

Photo: Hotels will have to implement new digital methods to facilitate the life of the traveler and at the same time maintain security and tranquility. Credit: Pexels.

Thirdly, technology will be a flag of change. “Apps will provide personalization, immediateness, and control, for example, to reserve a hammock by the pool or a table at the restaurant. Hotels will have to incorporate a more home automation, delivery of room service will be more frequent, and the client will demand better-quality internet connection,” enumerates García. An open opportunity to technological developments that are knocking on our door, such as 5G networks.

Travel with Comprehensive Coverage
In addition to the security that a tourist seeks, their trip requires them to guarantee their own safety. From here on out, they must provide evidence of not being infected with COVID-19. This can be directly related with travel insurance.

“Monitorization will be key. You want to travel? You will have to share more information.”

 “The insurance sector was already undergoing a deep remodeling toward becoming more digital. Now, everything has taken on greater value and the monitorization will be key,” states Fontanini. He explains that, if the tourist is monitored, all the necessary certificates and documents to travel will be produced automatically: “It will be possible to verify that their temperature has not changed, and their identity will be checked. The traveler will carry digital proof on their mobile phone which will be checked by travel and transport companies.”

Digitalization will make it so that travel insurance and health certificates join together. For example, digital firms will make it possible for procedures to be much more agile and relations between public administrations, airlines, travel agencies, and the traveler themselves, automatic. Fontanini predicts: “You want to travel? You will have to share more information.”

The Future of Tourism Is Here
Experts agree that all of these advances are ones that have been accelerated by the coronavirus, requiring us to look towards the future with much more speed. The return of local tourism and the search for sustainability are resonating now. In innovation, the transformations will be many, and they will apply to everything.

Photo: Tourism will veer towards innovation and the technological development, from travel experience to new alternatives. Credit: Pexels.

García predicts that: “From virtual reality to imagine that we are in India, to changes in costs such as cheaper private airplanes. COVID-19 could transform it all and our opportunity is to take full advantage of the elements that we already have: personalization, control, the monitoring autonomy that technology provide us. If this all combines, it could play a very big role.”

 “The world of tourism must mentally prepare for this revolution and, to this end, it must undergo a cultural transformation.”

In addition to the physical changes, mental changes will be necessary too. Fontanini details: The world of tourism must mentally prepare for this revolution and, to this end, it must undergo a cultural transformation. For example, if you have an app in a hotel that allows digital onboarding, but the people have not changed their culture, the technology is useless.” To be conscious of the risks and the security measures will be essential, not only for the future of the traveling tourist experience, but also for the survival of the sector. García concludes: “The one with the greatest ability to adapt will survive and win.”