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Winning hearts of travellers with tech

Adrian Johnston | Published: November 09, 2019 12:28:23


Asia-Pacific is on track to become the biggest driver of demand for air travel, with nearly 4 billion passenger journeys expected over the next two decades, according to the International Air Transport Association. This means business-as-usual will not be enough for the hospitality industry to support the explosion of travellers.

One of the trends behind this increasing demand is the "Instagram effect" which is influencing people to prioritise meaningful experiences over the need for luxury. Take Jasmine, for example. She is one of the 4 billion travellers thinking about her next trip - and she is considering either a year-end journey to Australia or the Olympics in Tokyo. She also has specific travel preferences such as opting for low-cost carriers while splurging on four-star accommodations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are also playing a role in growth by making it easier for people to plan, check-in and manage their trip, which is putting pressure on industry players to embrace data and advanced analytics in order to attract and retain their customers.

By leveraging emerging technologies in the cloud, hospitality companies stand to improve customer service, optimise productivity, and control operational costs.

Expedia, a popular travel website, is building an emotional connection with customers through targeted deals that suit their preferences. Leveraging the cloud, Expedia has partnered with Oracle to harness all customer interactions across channels to build a holistic customer journey and present the right level of hotel and the right flights to customers like Jasmine.

Accommodation providers are turning to the cloud, as well, to go the extra mile for guests at the point of booking and are adapting to various guest requirements on-the-spot at check-out. Case in point - serviced apartments company Oakwood Asia Pacific integrated all its processes in the cloud, enabling its front desks to seamlessly configure rental billing based on travellers' requirements and quickly generate guest bills. As a result, loyal guests like Jasmine can receive personalized rates from Oakwood, gain the flexibility to extend her stay and even assign certain nights to her corporate account to easily combine work with pleasure.

In addition, hotels are turning to the cloud to fully utilise emerging technologies such as AI-enabled chat-bots, virtual assistants and concierge services that can decrease problem resolution time by an average of one-third and almost immediately respond to guest inquiries, freeing staff from routine tasks and significantly reducing guest wait times. Moreover, AI can automate "best next actions".

Despite rising passenger numbers, airlines are struggling to keep up amidst fierce competition, persistent cost pressures and further volatility in oil and currency markets. Both full-service and budget airlines in the region need to act strategically to survive - they face two-fold pressures of controlling costs and providing unparalleled travel perks like more leg room and free in-flight WiFi.

With emerging technologies, airlines can bridge business and customer demands by streamlining finance and procurement operations and reallocating resources to provide passengers with more experiential offerings. In the longer run, this optimisation cuts costs and obtains better operational insights for airlines to address potential issues and adopt ways to better serve their customers.

Japan's largest carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA), for example, implemented Oracle ERP Cloud to streamline how it approves invoices and manages its suppliers through automation and social collaboration. The new cloud solution helps reduce risks and costs of all procurement processes and time spent on administrative tasks, so the airline's employees can focus more on their customers. A leading regional low costairline AirAsia also deployed Oracle ERP Cloud to reduce operating costs and predict the profitability of competitive decisions, such as raising or lowering fares and opening new routes. Moving to the cloud has given AirAsia a better handle on inventory so that travelers like Jasmine can pick from the best selection of in-flight food and beverages as well as duty-free goods.

As air travel continues to surge across the region, airport operators are seizing the opportunity to expand operations. To support this growth, airports need well-trained staff in the right positions who can readily access training to optimally maintain airport operations during busy travel periods.

Kansai Airports is also keeping up with this influx. To cope with new, additional flight routes from Korea and China and expanding South-East Asian networks, Kansai Airports has embraced Oracle HCM Cloud to consolidate human resource information for quick decisions in training and staff deployment. With human capital management tools on the cloud, they can now conduct end-to-end recruiting, streamline on boarding for new employees and able to maintain optimal staffing for continuous business growth, providing visitors with reliable service and lasting positive impressions.

The sky's the limit for growth across the hospitality industry, as the Asia Pacific region will see a record high of almost 900 million international visitor arrivals by 2023 and contribute more than 42 per cent of all international air travelers by 2040.

All players in the hospitality industry -- from travel planning websites to accommodation services -- must capitalise on the cloud to gain easy access to emerging technology services to improve operational efficiencies, automate processes, lower operating costs and ultimately woo the hearts of discerning travellers.

The writer is Senior Vice President of Cloud Applications (SaaS),

Japan and Asia Pacific, Oracle

adrian.johnston@oracle.com

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