Global digitalization radically affects tourism activities and changes its organization’s principles, information support for tourism, and the travelers themselves. Currently, the digital identity of travelers is actively developing (Bassano et al., 2019). Online identification will allow businesses to focus on each specific client, and blockchain technology will simplify many processes. The need to develop the ability to deliver the most relevant and personalized content that meets the needs of today’s travelers is the most relevant issue that led to the development of the concept proposed in this paper.
The concept, let it be called call it TourAI, will provide the next generation of technology with capabilities to enrich business products for retail, distribution, and service delivery. TourAI is powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that recognize, analyze, and predict consumer behavior, using real-time shopping information and complex industry data. This innovation aims to help airlines, agencies, corporations, hotels, and other travel companies take their retail and digital customer engagement strategies to the next level. They will be able to personalize the service by providing travelers with the right offer at the right time and in the right channels. This will help increase sales conversions and consumer loyalty. Along with retail, this unified approach will enhance distribution as well as implement TourAI solutions at airports or mobile apps to better serve travelers.
Trends and Development
There are three main factors determining the development of the tourism industry in the next ten years. They are strengthening the role of consumer demands and government regulation, a significant focus on modern mobile technologies and artificial intelligence, and work in conditions of constant and unpredictable risks. In this paper, we focus particularly on the impact of digital technologies and AI on future tourism. This sector was one of the first to feel the impact of global digitalization (Edgell, 2019). It is an information-rich industry that responds quickly to all changes.
The latest digital technologies that serve as the basis for the digitalization of tourism activities include Big Data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), mobile devices, and much more (Tan et al., 2017). Artificial intelligence implementation, in particular, refers to recognition technologies (Samala et al., 2020). Providing access to the room using a retinal scan or fingerprint scanning proves additional convenience for the guest and increases the hotel’s security. This technology is used in the Marriott China hotel (Ghajiga and Warlimont, 2020). Moreover, face recognition technology can improve customer service quality through the personalization of services, for example, NEC NeoFace Express technology (Kobayashi et al., 2020). Personalization of service is now one of the most important competitive advantages that cannot be obtained without digital technologies.
The advantages of service using artificial intelligence systems include the speed and accuracy of providing information to the client. Artificial intelligence helps quickly process information and offers various options for resolving the issue, such as providing several placement options with comments personally for the client. An example is the use of such systems in Hilton hotels to provide guests with various tourist information. Thus, the AI implementation in the tourism sector has been rapidly developing.
Another promising trend related to the previously discussed is the implementation of Big Data processing and blockchain. Blockchain technologies are already widely used in the travel industry. First, they are implemented to collect and control information on the movement of baggage between different airports and airlines. Second, these technologies make possible the identification of passengers using fingerprints or retinal scans. Third, they allow businesses and clients to organize payment for various services.
There are already outstandingly successful projects using blockchain technology in tourism. The LockChain platform is built on digital blockchain technology, a trading platform for a variety of placement facilities, in which there are no intermediaries and no commission fees (Bobber and Ozkanli, 2020). Blockchain technology is used in the BeeToken and Beenest platforms designed to pay for accommodation without charging a commission (Rashideh, 2020). The Winding Tree platform also uses blockchain technology and allows clients to book travel services without intermediaries (Rashideh, 2020). The ShoCard and SITA digital blockchain platforms enable customer identity management (Nam et al., 2019). TUI’s proprietary blockchain platform TUI Bed-Swap provides the ability to track information about available rooms in various hotels in real-time without intermediaries’ services (Nam et al., 2019). Thus, the most promising technological trends have already started their rapid development in the tourism sector.
The hotel industry’s robotization and digitalization should be viewed not as a threat but as new opportunities. Robots will not replace humans, and the industry will use a partial automation model where machines can perform simple tasks while working hours and workload will be reduced (Page and Connell, 2020). Technology will allow also managers to find more time for the things that matter: experience, involvement, communication, interaction, creativity, and creativity in solving any issues that arise (Kim and Jeong, 2018). Working just 2-3 hours a day may well become the norm. Moreover, it will no longer require a constant physical presence, but the creative component will be appreciated as never before.
The more room for digitalization in our life, the more important real human communication becomes. Building new relationships, fostering communication, providing personalized guidance, and using creative skills to tackle any challenge will be prioritized (Fayos-Solà and Cooper, 2019). It is here that one should look for new growth points, develop soft skills, train employees, directly affect their emotional intelligence, and develop service (Fayos-Solà and Cooper, 2019). Guests will strive to communicate with others, and as a result, hotels can and should become those hospitality spaces where guests will find like-minded people, useful positive experiences, and new forms of communication.
This paper proposes a digital identity management solution to move information across the entire travel chain securely. Using facial recognition technology and blockchain, a system will be developed which will create the ability to communicate consistent traveler information to all suppliers participating in the travel chain. The capabilities of the technology also include registering once for all trips, confirming the identity concerning passport information, transmitting information proportionally: at each touchpoint – only the most necessary, as well as controlling this process with a solution that will help travelers understand which data are transferred to one or another travel service provider.
Cognitive platforms of the future will make it possible to analyze human behavior directly in the process of communicating with him and draw operational conclusions, giving, for example, a hint to a travel agent. In particular, the chatbot can listen to the client and take into account all the nuances of his request (direction, type of trip, duration, and other factors), and display suitable travel options directly to the travel agent or client (Webster and Ivanov, 2019). The program will also differentiate intonation and even be able to determine the mood. If the client contacts again, the “smart assistants” will refer to the booking history and analyze the client’s preferences.
To understand the client’s needs and desires, it is necessary to collect and process a vast database related to his previous travel experience, hotel stay, and other items. This will make it possible to form a certain virtual image of a traveler, simulate his needs using artificial intelligence systems, and provide remote consulting services using chatbots (Haywood, 2020). Automation in the hospitality industry is a technology and system that makes it easier to manage a hotel business, making it possible to save resources, increase sales, maximize revenue, and deepen customer interaction (Samala et al., 2020). Thus, the proposed solution is at the junction of all sections of the hotel business structure: front-line technologies, technologies for automating business processes in hotel enterprises, and business intelligence technologies.
At the same time, technological innovations are easily copied and, therefore, if they are available, they cannot be a competitive advantage. The question arises of what should become a competitive advantage in the service sector, including the hotel business. For enterprises in the service sector, it is advisable to introduce non-technological innovations. Currently, technologies are becoming end-to-end and penetrate a wide variety of areas of hotel activity: customer service, marketing, and advertising, personnel training.
An interesting approach to innovation in the service sector, or service innovation, was proposed by P. den Hertog. In his work, he advises avoiding rigid boundaries between technological and organizational, product and process innovation (as cited in Kuo et al., 2017). Investigating the managerial prerequisites necessary to improve service innovation’s efficiency, P. den Hertog identified six dynamic factors of success. They track customer needs and technological capabilities to meet them, concept development, ability to combine and separate service components, co-production and coordination, flexible production scale and training, and adaptation (as cited in Kou et al., 2017). P. den Hertog argues that service innovations become successful only for those companies that have a competitive advantage on at least several of the listed factors (as cited in Kou et al., 2017). Thus, innovation in the service sector should be primarily customer-oriented, aiming at maximum satisfaction of their needs.
The concept proposed in this paper is technically feasible shortly. The high level of development of computing power and huge amounts of data available to players in the tourism market allows them to analyze travelers’ behavior and expectations and integrate virtual assistant bots into their mobile applications and messengers. However, government regulation can become an obstacle to implementing such programs and the robotization of the tourism business as a whole. At the same time, the most important issue, the elaboration of which may take a long time, including due to legislative procedures and restrictions, is the problem of data privacy. Moreover, there can be inevitable risks: consumer behavior can change due to unforeseen force majeure circumstances, such as natural disasters and terrorism, and safety becomes a critical factor in choosing a destination, hotel, and airline.
At the general level, the proposed concept’s introduction and adoption will fit into the existing macro-trends and strengthen them. The development of the digital economy is fundamentally changing the infrastructural support of many types of economic activity, including tourism. The importance of the information component increases many times over. Because the digital economy is based on the ideology of processing extensive arrays of information, a high-tech system for safe, reliable, long-term storage of large amounts of information, as well as a subsystem for ensuring their security, is of particular importance. Mobile technologies and applications will be actively developed, intended for travelers, which provide a wide range of functions. The latter include purchasing air tickets, hotel reservations, navigation on the ground, providing background information about tourist attractions, ratings of accommodation facilities, restaurants, and others. The institutional infrastructure related to the provision of tourism activities will be changed. The digital economy will make it possible to create new forms of tourism industry enterprises, and spatially distributed network companies.
The personnel infrastructure will undergo significant changes associated with the formation and development of new information and communication competencies among workers in the tourism industry, which will become necessary to implement all business processes. In the conditions of the digital economy, tourism activities are becoming more and more technologized. A single information space is being created in the world of tourism, and new principles of information support and tourism management are being formed. Information support for the tourism business and its digitalization are strategic resources that enhance tourism competitiveness. All these factors create a good foundation for the recovery and dynamic growth of the hotel market after the stabilization of the epidemiological situation.
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