We also expect the rapid adoption of wearables, currently in use at theme parks and cruises in the form of multi-function wristbands that provide information while serving as digital wallets. In the not-too-distant future, a guest’s smart watch will help them board with the flick of a wrist, reducing (even eliminating) misplaced boarding passes or the dependence on scanning from smartphones.
Sense and act
T&H providers will also rely on smart watches to communicate the right information, at the right time, to the right employee—for example, fulfilling a request for more towels, a request to fix a broken toilet or updated flight information. Watches will notify staff via silent vibration alerts helping managers track tasks in real time to make sure requests and vital information are delivered in a timely manner.
But, while conversation is the easiest way to communicate, it can also be a barrier as travelers venture to other countries. That is changing as evidenced by Google's new wearable earbuds, which facilitate real-time translation in 20 languages (a welcome tool on Emirates, which reports 10+ languages represented on a typical flight). We see this invention as a major boon to travelers as well as workers in all T&H segments.
And don’t forget the biometric tracking features of wearables, which will help airlines monitor the heart rates of pilots, air traffic controllers, train conductors and bus drivers as a key measure of passenger safety to prevent potentially life-threatening incidents.
Let me try before I fly
We believe the potential of wearables is bright as they become lighter, more connected and richer in functionality to facilitate seamless experiences. For example, the industry is moving quickly to embrace virtual reality, using headsets (equipped with generators) that replicate real travel experiences, such as the smell and sound of ocean waves. Thomas Cook, one of the first travel agents to adopt virtual reality experiences, does this and more, letting prospects fly over Manhattan, experience lounging in the sun by the pool at a premier hotel in Spain or check out a restaurant in Cyprus, using Samsung-powered headsets.
Marco Ryan, chief digital officer for Thomas Cook, says the technology is not only boosting package holiday sales but is also integral to the brand’s future strategy, adding, “Before, travelers just had a brochure or information on the website to inform them of their choices. Virtual reality allows them to get a true sense of the hotel and the excursions they can go on—it’s been a real game-changer for us.”
Marriott uses the technology to deliver real-time guided tours of its 14 European properties. Like other virtual reality advocates, it is not looking to recreate the on-ground experience of visiting these remote destinations, rather tempting the buyer with an experience that is so engaging they will be compelled to buy it.