Technology Will Be A Key Enabler For Enhancing Tourism

Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Booking.comA leader & entrepreneur having incubated companies and functions globally, Ritu has extensively worked in NA, Asia & Europe across multiple industries including Food technology, IT & e-Commerce

India's travel industry has grown extensively in the last few years, motivated by higher disposable incomes, the emergence of homestays and other unique accommodation options, affordable airline fares, and increasing digital penetration across the non-metro cities. Presently, India is positioned as the world's sixth-largest travel and tourism economy, with the sector contributing USD 234 billion (Source: BCG Travel Report) to the economy. Apart from the rapid infiltration of smartphones, the industry is witnessing the rising influence of social media communities and bloggers leading to increased awareness about travel choices and preferences among the many travellers. There is a lot of focus from the government to advance domestic tourism within India.

With the Prime Minister's recent appeal to all Indians to travel more domestically, this looks set to help boost the industry and also attract more inbound tourists from various nationalities. Furthermore, India moved up six places to the 34th position in the global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) last month. With the growing awareness in the sector by Indian travellers who are hurriedly becoming digital-savvy, brands need to deliver a frictionless and seamless experience that meets customer expectations. While the start-up revolution is indeed helping the sector grow and promote sustainable tourism within the country, it might not be sufficient to bring a large-scale transformation.

Tech-Innovation ­ AI & ML will Further Simplify Travel for Customers
Technology can play a central role in reducing friction throughout the entire travel process. Technology is developing at the speed of light, fueling a sense of wonder, and is being used in new and exciting ways to inspire travellers in 2020. This doesn't only lie in the introduction of
new tech, but also in how people use existing tech, and how it can play a key role in providing travellers with fresh inspiration. It all comes down to creating an experience for your customers. Today brands are actively exploring various applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enhance the customer experience on their website and mobile apps, counting everything from how they comprehend search queries to automatically tagging photos uploaded by travellers. At we leverage machine learning which can personalize suggestions beyond the level most people experience today. AI can select different hotel photos to show as preview snaps to different travellers viewing the same accommodation. The goal should always be about providing seamless support for travellers, achieving a perfect balance between technology (bot) and human communication for every customer, every time, everywhere.

This year will see travellers put key aspects of their decision-making process even more firmly in the hands of technology

Digital Infrastructure will Drive Growth for the Sector
Though the impact of technology is inclusive, only a small portion of India's total population is well-informed about the idea of digital banking or digital payments. Specifically for those located in non-metro / Tier-II cities or rural areas, where issues like low disposable income, inadequate network coverage and understanding come into play, having even a smartphone is considered a luxury. Luckily, the situation is evolving rapidly.

Technology Leading the Way Ahead
A travel-tech platform that can effectively use its data and insights combined with global research is best placed to make informed and data-driven predictions into the next big trends for travel in the coming year and to deliver on those for its customers. The ultimate aim for us at is to make it easier for people to experience the world, wherever they want to go and whatever they want to do, and be the platform of choice for them to explore, book and enjoy incredible experiences. To achieve this goal, it takes constant experimentation with new technologies to take even more of the friction out of the overall travel experience. Whether that's finding the perfect villa for a weekend getaway in Goa, or hailing a cab in Singapore or being able to skip the line at the Louvre in Paris. Though the core of our business is to deliver a convenient and easy-to-use tech-enabled booking platform for customers, we also need to look at ways to support and inspire them throughout their entire trip, providing them with even more unique experiences that are just right for them.

Tech-spect the Unexpected
This year will see travellers put key aspects of their decision-making process even more firmly in the hands of technology. It can be overwhelming to decide which corners of our incredible planet to visit or what excursions to choose, but the coming year will see inventive tech inspiring and enabling us to overcome this hurdle with ease. Smart, trusted tech-led recommendations will connect us to a myriad of new experiences that might not otherwise have crossed our path, while also saving time (as well as screen-time) and enabling us to max out every minute of `now' while on vacation. In 2020 expect to see more applications of AI offering new suggestions of destinations to visit, places to stay and things to do based on your current preferences, previous trips and key contextual factors such as weather and popularity.