Adobe’s Simon Dale outlines how the smart tourism that delivers personalised and contactless experiences can help the APAC tourism industry accelerate its post-pandemic recovery.

The ongoing pandemic has severely impacted the tourism industry, disrupting airlines and international travels. In Singapore, visitor arrival has shrunk by 99.1% compared to last year, and the country is now looking towards re-opening borders and implementing travel bubbles, as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

At the recent TravelRevive trade show held at Sands Expo & Convention Centre in Singapore – the first physical trade show in APAC since the COVID-19 outbreak – Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing noted that while the pandemic has accelerated the two driving forces of digitalization and sustainability, it has also added the need for health security in the tourism industry. He emphasized the importance of the authorities and the industry coming together to set new standards and re-imagine new experiences for travellers and MICE participants.

While governments all over the world, including Singapore, continue to invest in technology as digital enablers to enhance visitor experiences, key players in the tourism industry can take a further step towards implementing “smart tourism” practices – the use of technology to modernize operations and improve tourism efficiency, with an emphasis on providing safety to travellers. This includes smart experiences across the customer journey, such as personalised real-time safety alerts and contactless interactions that promote sanitation and safety.

Contact tracing and real-time alerts

Real-time safety alerts via digital channels provide travellers with timely information to both enjoy their journey and to feel safe in the process. A study conducted by King’s business school revealed that safety-related messages in travel destinations’ promotional material are positively influencing travel intention, underscoring the importance that travellers placed on safety in the aftermath of COVID-19.

In Singapore, the government rolled out a community-driven contact tracing app, TraceTogether, to support nationwide efforts in combating COVID-19. The contact tracing process is facilitated through the exchange of Bluetooth signals among nearby mobile devices running the same app, which is mandatory for overseas visitors. The data collected helps to speed up the identification of people who were in close contact with an infected person, fulfilling health security needs without causing noticeable inconvenience to travellers.

Personalising the experience

With international borders remaining closed in most countries, tourism organisations are looking towards domestic travel to boost consumption. At a virtual dialogue with tourism industry players in July, Minister Chan Chun Sing noted that Singapore has a significant domestic market that is searching for new experiences. In the same month, the Singapore government launched a S$45 million SingapoRediscovers campaign to encourage domestic tourism through exploring the different sides of the island.

To capitalise on this, local tourism providers will require a deeper understanding of the new untapped customer segments that can be established through strategic data partnerships. Adobe has partnered with leading brands in the travel and tourism industry, including STB, to roll out data-driven initiatives aimed at delivering hyper-personalised experiences for visitors. 

One such initiative is the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN) that combines all data that the tourism industry uses, to help STB finetune policies as a regulator, and also for their tourism partners to better understand preferences to target consumers and identify new opportunities.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Virgin Airlines partnered with Tourism Australia to understand user journeys and assist in trip planning by sharing data such as destination. If a user based out of Sydney explores the Guide to Darwin on Tourism Australia’s website, for example, Virgin Australia can subsequently serve personalised flight offers for that destination. The same data from the booking can in turn be shared back with Tourism Australia to better assist the user in planning and preparing for the trip, providing a personalised airline deal and offers to travellers.

Contactless experience

To gain consumer confidence for travel safety, automated contactless interactions are a key component. It is however also one of the biggest challenges for tourism providers. Contactless experiences in hospitality may include check-in through mobile apps or self-serve kiosks and using robots for room-delivery and other services to enhance sanitation and distancing efforts. There is an opportunity for hotels to use data in these scenarios, to offer personalised services or smart suggestions, to create more efficient and delightful experiences.

Government and tourism organisations should also look into modernising processes across the customer journey by automating paperwork through the adoption of e-signatures, further reducing physical touchpoints while adding a layer of health security in times like now where social distancing measures are mandated. Such digital innovations not only improve efficiency and reduce operation costs, they also deliver greater convenience and a superior experience to the consumers.

According to GlobalData, the pandemic has accelerated investments in contactless technologies such as biometric check-in at airports and keyless hotel entry. The Beijing Capital International Airport, for example, has automated their entire passenger journey using biometric technologies, allowing passengers to simply walk through the designated lanes equipped with facial recognition systems. Singapore’s Changi Airport has also deployed contactless kiosks, which are integrated with infrared proximity sensors, to automate check-in process for passengers.

The digital customer experience has become even more necessary as a medium for brands to converse with the consumer in the new normal. While recovery for the tourism sector will take time, it is important for the industry to double down on customer experience now to ensure safety and comfort for travellers. This will contribute to the recovery of Asia Pacific’s tourism and drive new future-proof innovations for the industry.