By Blake Ng — 22 Feb 2021
Social media had a powerful impact on the global tourism industry. Travel enthusiasts searched the web and networking platforms for ideas. They also relied on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to select tour operators. Besides, these websites were abuzz with customer ratings, travel blogs, safety tips, and pricing models. And the top brands in hospitality and tourism also benefited from them. With the increasing concerns around COVID, customers also preferred operators who had social distancing practices in place, for example contactless solutions and rigorous hygiene standards.
Unfortunately, all the businesses are now using social media platforms and you cannot create a signature effect by doing the same. Many buy Instagram followers to create a more stable ground for their brand. So, it is time to look beyond social media for a marketing campaign. Moreover, the COVID pandemic has led to serious health concerns as well as hygiene issues.
Also, lockouts and social distancing measures have seriously affected tourism decisions and preferences. In this dynamic scenario, businesses have no other option other than contactless solutions.
Contactless solutions facilitate reliable, secure, and hygienic communication. Two compatible devices can exchange information without touch. For example, a card or a custom QR code can be scanned from a distance. Or, a wearable device can display a real-world environment like a hotel room or lobby via AR technologies.
Marketers can explore diverse contactless tools and techniques. These smart devices are a stepping stone for the Internet of Things (IoT). They bring together the internet, computer systems, mobile phones, and most importantly data. The consumer can “connect” with other devices, without physical contact, for data exchange.
He or she can download apps, read information, review a product, or book an airline ticket. Smart devices with sensors and actuators are much more powerful. These technologies and tools evolved to facilitate contactless payments. But now, they can be helpful for research, shopping, marketing, location tracking, and for simple tasks like opening doors. And lastly, with more people working from home than ever before, contactless technologies will become prominent in the future.
The hospitality and tourism industry depends on the customer’s goodwill. The top brands build trust by delivering exceptional services. They facilitate everything from airport rides to hotel stays and food services. The customers aspire for more comfort, convenience, and ease of interactions too.
Thankfully, the optical and wireless technologies come to their rescue. They assist the tour operators to deliver tech-based services with speed and accuracy. Social media platforms can still be helpful to ensure brand likes, shares, and positive reviews. But contactless solutions take the customers’ experience to the next level. They facilitate a safe, sustainable, and seamless journey with the brand.
The contactless solutions can help to reduce the time taken for the customers to reach the data. For instance, do you want your customers to check how your rooms look? You can add a QR code on your business cards that will take the customers to the AR 3D room displays. You can choose a contactless menu for your restaurants to offer touchless services. And, the examples are endless.
Travel brands can use QR codes beyond traffic diversion or social media networking. Hotels and resorts can use them to display brand information. The businesses can put the codes on in-flight magazines, airport posters, websites, and print ads.
They can also be put anywhere in the city, museums, parks, sports arenas, and retail shops. For example, China visitors scan QR codes to review their experience on Qyer, Dianping, or Mafengwo platforms. The tourism brands maintain their online reputation using these advertising tactics.
Augmented reality (AR) superimposes virtual objects onto a real-world entity. A tourism app or browser overlaps the camera display with contextual information. Travelers can enjoy virtual hotel tours and research the amenities on a smartphone screen. The Hub Hotel in the UK offers the AR experience by placing wall maps on the hotel rooms.
AR-enabled games and hotel environments also promise an enjoyable resort stay. Since the customers are more likely to have a restricted outdoor experience during this pandemic, in-hotel entertainment would be a great hit, especially with those who are traveling with young children. Holiday Inn, Best Western, iButterfly, and Disney offer such solutions. At the same time, Lonely Planet, Etips, BuUuk, Sekai Camera, Waalkz, Metro AR Pro, etc. use the same technology to offer recommendations, tour walk guides, and others.
The contactless proximity technology solutions used by the advertisers are Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, Geo-fencing, and Geo-targeting. Proximity marketing focuses more on the context and exact location. It can be helpful for tourist businesses at retail stores, airport coffee shops, lobbies, and seating rooms.
The visitor’s mobile phone gets tracked to send relevant messages. The context-dependent notifications and recommendations are also forwarded to them. The accurate location, down to a few meters, is detected to make the advertising message relevant, timely, and personal.
Radiofrequency identification (RFID) solution uses transmitters, active and passive tags. It is an upcoming technology that is ideal for tourism and hospitality marketing. Hotels, theme parks, cruise ships, and resorts will benefit from it. RFID goes beyond social media to lower business costs. It can also enhance the customers’ experience and increase revenues.
Tourism brands can rely on RFID to deliver personalized experiences. They can use it to give directions and send automated messages. The guests’ preferences can get tracked to recommend a product. RFID is also useful in implementing gamification strategies for marketing.
A hotel, for example, can use this solution to track the personnel. It can enhance the guests’ safety by monitoring their movements. RFID labels can be helpful to raise anti-theft alerts and deliver an unforgettable experience.
Beacons are a contactless solution for connecting ubiquitous data with a smartphone. Just switch on the Bluetooth on your mobile for information. You can also download and install an application for interactivity. So, marketers can focus here on in-app strategies that go beyond social media.
Beacon hardware can be ideally set up at hotels, restaurants, and resorts. The tourists can find the closest shops and restrooms with ease. They can quickly navigate to the airport’s departure terminal. And the passengers receive alerts on the shortest security lines and boarding time.
Starwood Hotels used this solution for efficient hospitality. They provided virtual keys to the guests for automatic door unlocking. Marketers can identify loyal guests and offer greetings, gifts, and coupons. The customers are also satisfied as they have a memorable, personalized experience.
The NFC is an automated and fast contactless solution. It can be easily set-up for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It uses passive tags for data exchange, and also active communication between two compatible devices. The travel industry can speed up credit/debit card and digital wallet payments.
Physical objects and posters can have NFC tags for providing information.
The smartphone can double up as a key to open the hotel room lock. And with a simple scan, you will have access to free Wi-Fi too. Google Places service uses this contactless solution to provide a pocket tourist guide.
The visitors just had to hold the smartphone against the NFC sticker. They received discounts, location-based services, maps, and bonuses. Stockholm’s Clarion Hotel used NFC technology to replace room keys. Guests could access a room using a mobile phone and also check-out by scanning the NFC sticker in the lobby. The Scandinavian Airlines System uses this solution for luggage control. It also speeds up check-in and check-out. Also, loyal travelers get smart stickers for bars and shops.
Smartphone users who enter a predefined area can receive location-personalized messages by using this technology. Geo-fencing facilitates this location-based service using GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or mobile data. The tourism industry can make use of this contactless technology to deliver superior travel experiences for visitors similar to a location-customized bulk email service.
A hotel app can use geofencing to offer mobile coupons, poolside or room service. It can promote restaurants and push in-app hotel check-in alerts. The Cajun Coast Travel Guide App utilizes geofencing to promote tourism. The visitors to this coast receive relevant information based on location. They learn about travel routes, nearest hotel rooms, and the historical background of the place. And the app’s popularity increased by 26% due to the notifications feature.
Google Glass is a wearable device that looks very much like spectacles. It has a tiny screen above the eye level to display information. It uses relevant data like location coordinates, audio, and video.
The tourism industry can benefit from this solution’s multiple applications. It requires the smartphone’s GPS sensor to display a 3D map. The right arm of the glasses has a speaker that gives voice directions. It has a live translation app called Word Lens to translate signs on foreign locales.
Virgin Atlantic and Copenhagen Airport use this device for weather updates and translation. While the UK-based Holidays Please travel company relies on Google Glass to impress their loyal customers.
Snaptags is a contactless technology for brand marketing on mobile phones. It uses a 2D barcode. These customized code rings encircle a brand logo for familiarity. The secure and user-friendly tool can be very effective in modern marketing campaigns.
Like QR codes, these tags can improve scan outcomes effectively. They can have an additional opt-in campaign to satisfy the customer. The additional data generated by a scan helps in tracking likes, shares, and promotional conversions.
Snaptags can be helpful to facilitate software downloads and in-app purchases. Tourism marketers can rely on this solution to promote discounts and coupons. Besides, they can offer free rides to loyal customers. The mobile-friendly codes can take direct marketing to a new level of interactivity. And they can be effectively helpful to advertise hotel portfolios, videos, and other information.
Biometric devices also rely on contactless tools to impact the tourism business. They use facial and iris recognition systems to identify a person. Besides, they reduce travelers’ check-in and check-out times. The Royal Caribbean used this technology for passenger disembarking.
Airlines also accept pre-orders for meals and drinks using the biometric system. And the scanning solution confirms room booking within a minute at the Chinese Marriott Hotels. It can also monitor the staff to make the hotel guests feel safe and secure. The next level of personalization can be plausible by marketers using customer profiles.
Smartphones and specialized biometric tools can improve the travel experience. Accor Hotels use a Seeker program to deliver a data-driven service. The experiential technology relies on audio-visual stimuli to understand customer preferences. And the hotel also builds a brand loyalty program. Besides, biometric is excellent for setting a room temperature as per the customer’s preference.
Each contactless solution has both pros and cons. Not all solutions will be suitable for a given business. Some solutions like AR and Google Glasses are quite expensive and have a limited niche audience. On the other hand, a static or dynamic QR code is cost-effective, and anyone with a smartphone can scan the QR code. Thus, it is important to choose a reliable solution suitable for your niche audience and budget.
Akshay Deogiri is an SEO Outreach Specialist at Beaconstac, enabling businesses to bridge their gap between the digital and offline worlds through custom QR codes