As the hospitality industry embraces the digital age, industry experts claim it is essential to retain the human element.
According to a recent Oracle Hospitality survey, 54 per cent of hoteliers are prioritising technology that either eliminates or improves the human experience. This has sparked a debate on how hotels can preserve the human touch in an increasingly digital era.
Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market, Dimitris Mankikis, president EMEA at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, noted that while the pandemic has accelerated the integration of technologies, such as contactless check-in and QR menus, it is key the human touch is not forgotten.
Mankikis explained: “We need to be very careful not to eliminate that human element. Yes, embrace and use technology, but do not get rid of that human factor. Always remember the basic reason why we travel is for human interaction.”
Christopher Hartley, CEO of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), noted the importance of human contact increases with the scale of accommodation – with leisure travellers valuing it higher than business travellers.
“Entering a hotel and starting to interact with staff is very much what hospitality is all about. It’s not about having no interaction,” added Hartley.
However, he said technology has huge value in the pre-arrival experience, such as searching for and booking a hotel.
“Pre-arrival organisation is where people don’t want to talk to people. The pre-arrival experience can absolutely use technology but I don’t see, especially in the luxury segment, that technology will replace humans once you enter a property,” remarked Mankikis.
Hartley predicts there will be growing demand for instant communication. “Brands need their own apps with some form of instant communication embedded – this is absolutely critical.”
GHA recently signed a deal with ASmallWorld, a social network platform that connects an online community of travellers. This will be embedded into its loyalty programme, enabling GHA to communicate directly with customers while providing an invaluable service for travellers.
Hartley noted: “This socialisation of travel is something we’re going to see more of.”