Fears among the travelling public of contracting coronavirus are spurring development of the sorts of touchless technology that will reduce the likelihood of people catching the contagious disease on their journeys, a Jan. 28 World Travel & Tourism Council webinar was told.
But viewers were also told that those in the travel trade are being forced to seek a balance between reassuring people that they’ll be able to travel safely and the wish by many tourists to maintain some degree of human contact when, for instance, checking into a hotel.
“Now more than ever the consumers are expecting these contactless technologies,” WTTC president Gloria Guevara said.
Guevara added that countries that have invested heavily in such advancements will be ahead of others when it comes to seeing their tourism industries recover.
The WTTC launched its Seamless Traveller Journey Program in 2017, a time when tourism was strong.
The “safe and seamless” types of experiences being touted by the WTTC can include viewing menus and checking into hotels with mobile devices; contactless payments; and biometric verifications and e-gates at airports.
However, Luca Pronzati, chief business innovation officer at MSC Cruises said “technology has always played a role” at that company but it is also determined “to still keep some level of personal interaction…The human touch always plays a key role in what we offer guests.”
Brandon Lowther, vice president of cyber security for Hilton, in turn noted over 5,000 Hilton properties now feature digital keys and over 4,600 can provide a fully digital experience when it comes to booking, checking in and receiving a digital key through a phone app.
But Lowther also stated there is a need to “balance the demand” between those who want to get right to their room without having to physically check in and those who want an “element of human interaction” when arriving at their hotel.
Diane Sabatino, deputy executive assistant commissioner of the United States Customs and Border Protection, said her department has been a pioneer when it comes to using the likes of biometrics identification and touchless technology. “We certainly recognize the touchless travel experience can enhance travellers’ confidence,” she said.
The webinar was also told by Olivier Odoni, deputy director general of the European Commission, that “it’s never been as urgent” to take steps that will help get international back on track.
“We really all have our responsibility to support the travel industry, given the circumstances,” he said.