Technology in tourism: friend or foe?

We all know technology is everywhere and how it has affected tourism in the past few years.

We use CRMs and reservation systems; we all know the likes of, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and social media.

Some use virtual concierge and all the automation tools they can find on the market to adapt to labor shortage situations. Aside from the fact that these tools will continue to evolve, a lot more is already out on the market, creating new paradigms in the tourism industry, like AI. Frightening? 

Maybe! Opportunities? Certainly. While technology allows us to browse endless content, play millions of games and visit new worlds, real or unreal, thus spurring sedentary habits, it also provides new ways to generate light and life to your venues. Here are a few examples.

Creating new experiences:

More and more, venues and events combine technology and artistic design to enhance the attractivity of their site in a way that is much more sophisticated than simply installing some LED lights on their buildings. Now is the time to appeal to the senses: sophisticated lightings for hotels, "ambisonic" audio for spas, tailor-made odor spreader for restaurants and boutiques, interactive experiences to surprise visitors, VR, video-mapping, augmented reality, and mixed reality, etc. These create on-site experiences that will bring back visitors to tourist attractions with access to more diversified experiences and richer content. In addition, the visitor experience is becoming even more personalized thanks to the latest geospatial capabilities and innovations. Various technologies now allow for fine-tuning a person's position in a crowd or at a tourist attraction. This offers several advantages, such as providing visitors with immediate access to relevant information on their mobile device or, better yet, allowing them to influence what is happening and thus "co-create" and precisely personalize their experience. Therefore, instead of fighting against the tendency of visitors to use their mobile phones, you can take advantage of it to create an experience that will engage them towards your product. From visitors or spectators, they will become users, interactors, and even fans.  

An example: Immersion Quebec, an interpretation center combining VR, interactions, gaming to present historical and tourism content.

Hybrid events? Do we have to? 

There are efforts to be made to create hybrid (or co-modal) events that are worth it. One may ask: Stop! Why work in that field when I prefer to have all my clients in my venue? Two reasons: firstly, the pandemic forced us to meet virtually. Although the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue does exist, the technology is here to stay. Event organizers and their clients now have the option to offer virtual meetings with innovative functions. However, people still want and need to meet in person, especially in the Skål movement. The second reason: the market evolution. Suppose you can offer an experience combining access to live events with exciting options for virtual participants. In that case, you will have access to a market that will grow by 25% per year for the next five years, according to a worldwide survey led by Reports Intellect. Your typical event of 500 attendees may go down to 350 for a while, but you may have an extra 1000 virtual participants from all over the world. Both live and remote attendees have a higher engagement rate because technology offers options like Q&A, virtual booths, one-on-one meetings, access to multimedia content, interest matching, and so on. And when it is nicely done, the virtual attendees may wish to be present in person for the next event. Wait, there is more: hybrid also applies to sports events, concerts, theatres: you can offer an adapted experience to those who are watching the show comfortably in pajama on their sofa, but the Sports Innovation Lab states that in the sports field, innovation is to be born where 'go', 'watch' and 'play' implication greet each other.  Hundreds of tech companies are developing experiential hubs that will offer new interaction possibilities with sports, concerts, or shows you like, with fans from all over the world eager to travel.

Example of the virtual platform:

Example of experiential hub: SkyShow

The elephant in the room: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We tend to imagine horror scenarios when facing the unknown. This is one of the reasons why we are so cautious about AI. What is the bottom line of this? AI is not actual intelligence, but computer systems that execute tasks that might otherwise be done by human intelligence, like speech and visual recognition, data analysis for decision-making, weather forecasts. Still, the task we attribute to AI software is the sole purpose of computers' actions. You may already be using chatbots on your websites or as a virtual concierge. They may not be convincing enough, but soon they will be. You will be able to anticipate visitors' net habits, length of stay, spending, likes, and dislikes. We will use AI to create entertainment in ways we don't even imagine right now. A wide array of companies joined the new worldwide network Entertain AI, dedicated to creating these new possibilities.


In conclusion:

There is much more to say about how technology will shape the future of tourism. Eco-friendly development, for instance, is a vital aspect that needs to be addressed through technological tools. One certainty: If the technology exists, it will be used. 

It is up to our industry to tame it and apply it in a responsible way that will make sense for our respective organizations to adapt our products to an ever-evolving world. It is challenging and stressful, but it is also thrilling and thriving!


Stéphan Parent

President 2021 of Skål International Quebec

Director of special projects at Novom Interactive, a Canadian-based company dedicated to bringing light and life to your events and venues