Frank Belzer serves on the Visit Florida board of directors and chairs the marketing committee. He is a former manager of Universal Parks and Resorts. Sandra Thomas-Comenole is an award-winning travel marketing expert and behavioral economist.
Whether out of novelty or necessity, travel providers have adopted robots, drones, and other technologies to make travel safer, more interesting, and arguably better for consumers. Safety is the number one concern for travelers today and the travel industry seems poised to meet this need with new technologies.
Travel is on the rise. Destinations are reopening and air traffic is increasing rapidly; Soon, 2 million passengers will be traveling through US airports every day. The travel and tourism industry is about to make a big comeback, and consumers are perhaps most excited about the news: Around 89% of travelers have plans for the next six months, according to Longwoods International’s ongoing Travel Sentiment Study.
Yet customers are right to worry about their safety. They expect a very high level of sanitary facilities. They are concerned about what is being asked of other guests and whether other travelers are abiding by the rules and regulations. At the same time, customers are required to adjust their plans or cancel if the news about Covid-19 worsens. Yes, travelers are dying to return – they are tired of the isolation and restrictions. Nevertheless, they value their safety and that of their family or fellow travelers.
This strange combination of suppressed desires and lingering anxiety could explain why so many longstanding standards and practices in the travel and tourism industries have undergone major changes. The technologies required to keep guests happy have stimulated the growth of creative new businesses. Travel operators across the board provide full details on their hygiene policies while also trying to attract attention as they implement new technology that they believe will reassure guests. Let’s look at some of those that are already having an impact on travel customers.
• Disinfection of drones: Drones are deployed outdoors and indoors to disinfect a wide variety of public areas. Airplanes, trains and playgrounds are just a few of the areas in which this flight technology has been used.
• Contactless check-in: Contactless check-in minimizes contact with hotel staff and other travelers. Hilton implemented its touchless check-in via its branded app a few years before Covid-19. Other hotels are following suit, with most hospitality companies offering this option.
• Ionization of the air: Poor air quality, ventilation and cleaning can have many negative effects on individual wellbeing, including decreased work performance and an increased risk of contracting airborne diseases and viruses. Hotels, indoor attractions, airlines, cruise ships and even restaurants are installing new and improved indoor environmental cleaning systems that enrich the air with ions, bind and neutralize harmful elements, resulting in air quality similar to that at alpine heights. Essentially, these cleaning systems build up the cell structure of known viruses such as the coronavirus and neutralize coronaviruses by up to 99.92% in laboratory tests. Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgo journeys and MSC cruises have all installed such systems from AtmosAir.
• Microbial agent: New technologies have been developed that enable everyday substances to kill harmful bacteria, mold and mildew. Correct: the antimicrobial substance has been proven to reduce pathogens and germs. Applied Silver is a company that uses this technology system in hotels.
• Use the sun: Ultraviolet (UV) technology has been around for billions of years but was only recently used to disinfect pathogens in the travel industry. UV pathogen-killing light treatments were introduced to protect the food supply chain for restaurants and are one of the steps in the comprehensive cleaning process for some hotel rooms and public spaces.
• Provision of robots: It will be very cool here. Robots have long been a novelty in gastronomy. Now they have become a necessity as robotics allow hotel staff to social distant from each other and guests while delivering high levels of customer service. Hotel robots help hotels create a safe, efficient and memorable experience for guests by automating the delivery of food and room furnishings while providing vital logistical support for operations.
Travel is coming back. And thanks to these futuristic technologies, it will come back more safely. The next time your customers get on a plane, let their children play in the playground or snuggle between the sheets in their hotel room, they have robots, drones, fabrics, touchless apps and UV technology to thank.