TIBCO Senior Vice President APJ Erich Gerber says at its heart, travel is a people-to-people exchange and argues that experiences must be a seamless blend of talent and technology, whereby machines are tasked to ‘machine work’, leaving humans free to create meaningful connections, and lasting impressions.
By Erich Gerber
The global tourism industry has exploded over the last few years, despite geo-political and economic uncertainties. A combination of rapid economic growth (particularly in Asia) and technological advances disrupting the travel industry, have contributed to this surge in tourism. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), worldwide international tourist arrivals in 2018 increased 6 percent to 1.4 billion, way above the 3.7 percent growth registered in the global economy.
This landmark has been reached two years ahead of the UNWTO’s forecast, and their prediction for 2019 was another 3 to 4 percent increase. Singapore has also seen record tourism, with a 6 percent increase in visitors between 2017 and 2018 who spent over SGD 27 billion.
As the number of visitors to all the countries in Southeast Asia continues to climb, competition for tourism revenue has intensified. Singapore’s neighbours offer similar types of accommodation, often at a lower cost and with the added attractions of beaches, forests, and local cultures. Budget air travel also means that the region is attracting more Western visitors.
Data analytics will be a significant factor in helping Singapore’s tourism sector to meet consumer demand, and expectations.
As in all industries, technology is driving innovation in travel and tourism starting from the point of purchase through check-in. However, more than any other industry, data can go a long way in helping tourism-focused companies develop close relationships with customers. Knowing where the customer is in their travel journey can allow businesses to provide offers based on that information. This ability to surprise and delight visitors by focusing on delivering high quality, personalised experiences is a huge opportunity for Singapore’s government and local hospitality organisations.
In many ways, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry is leading the way for the tourism sector. In 2018, the Minister of Trade and Industry stated during a tourism industry conference that the industry in Singapore, “can better leverage technology to drive quality growth,” highlighting that technology can “sharpen marketing and outreach efforts, refresh tourism offerings and drive greater productivity.”
The Ministry has demonstrated its commitment to leveraging technology in the hospitality industry through two initiatives. The Singapore Tourism Board launched the Tourism Information and Service Hub, the first online platform of its kind to addresses an industry need for more up-to-date, centralised information about tourism offerings.
It has also introduced an analytics network for tourism data, called the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN), that enables officials to make better decisions based on the data coming in. For example, after learning from the STAN network that Chinese and Indonesian tourists spent the most during visits to Singapore, government officials were able to pass that information along to business owners to help them better target marketing efforts to these groups.
Private sector business in the tourism sector can also benefit from this level of data analytics insight. We have seen companies such as TUI Group in Europe use data analytics to adjust pricing in real-time and personalise messages after trips are booked such as whether customers want to pre-order duty free goods, check-in early to reserve a seat, or book an excursion upon arrival at their resort.
In Singapore, integrated resorts that feature attractions such as casinos, convention facilities, luxury retail, and fine dining, are under pressure to attract and retain high profile visitors and high rollers after declines in gaming revenue in 2018. In addition to the significant expansion plans announced this year, Singapore’s two integrated resorts have a chance to enhance basic analytic functions for revenue management including managing casino sales, hotel rooms, and popular dates and times by implementing advanced analytics.
These capabilities will help integrated resorts determine competitive rates for hotel rooms and also segment and profile patrons to target the right customers. Once customers are in the door, customised offers can then be put in place to keep patrons engaged and encourage spending in areas such as dining, events, and tourism to build return patronage. Artificial intelligence will also allow these organisations to see where their patrons are spending time around the facility.
Overall, travellers are expecting a deeper connection with brands and value immersive experiences, which can only be delivered today with the power of data. These customised moments can be little things – a frequent business flyer who is greeted by name when boarding a flight, or a hotel guest who finds the temperature in their room already set to their liking before they enter. They are demonstrations of the willingness of a business to provide their customers with experiences tailored to their individual needs and preferences.
This is only possible if companies can communicate thoughtfully with customers at the right time to optimise their experience. The good news is that this level of data insight is not confined to data scientists. Solutions in the market can empower businesses in its efforts to understand the data so that it can react quickly to customer needs.
At its heart, travel is still very much a people to people experience. Travel experiences must be a seamless blend of talent and technology, where machines are tasked to do more of the ‘machine’ work – freeing humans to provide better service and more meaningful connections.