Date: 27 May 2020

Phumza Dyani Pan African chamber of Commerce Chief Innovation Officer

Thank you for the invitation to be part of this platform and sharing of ideas, insights and knowledge around digital transformation, and the impact it will have on our tourism and hospitality industry long after Coronavirus pandemic (COVID – 19).

It’s no secret that the tourism industry, on a global scale, has been impacted by numerous digitally-driven innovative solutions. Solutions such as the rising number of connected devices have caused a complete shift in the way the world approaches tourism.

In fact, before the Coronavirus pandemic, the industry had started harnessing big data to improve the customer experience. An example of this would be a hotel’s ability to save guests the time and effort of having to undergo an entire booking process by harnessing Internet of Things (IoT) data to pinpoint guests who frequently vacation there. Hotels can then automatically send a message to the guests, asking if they would like to make a booking when their usual vacation time approaches.

Following Lockdown, tourists will be in greater control of their holiday and travel experience. Travellers will be able to place greater importance on the travel experience than ever before. Apps and websites, such as and Trivago, will allow the average traveller to pick and customise a booking at a hotel that is tailored to their taste and requirements. Accommodation is accessible at the tap of a finger thanks to apps such as Airbnb – all working towards meeting the needs of the modern-era traveller.

This technological evolution has introduced an easier way to check-in, order room service, unlock a key door and essentially plan an entire trip – all from the comfort of a smart device. Another factor that will continue to drive a customised tourism experience is the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chat bots.

This is all happening right before our very eyes. Take the Cosmopolitan Hotel as an example. The Las Vegas-based hotel allows guests to text a robot named Rose, at their convenience, and she’ll tend to the request as fast as possible.

Environments such as these encourage tourists to visit a country. The safety of “always-on” systems has proven to be the preferred method of operation by guests. The enhanced security levels that are less intrusive should become the silver lining in context with boosting the local economy.

In this day and age, hotels can provide information to guests via AI-powered apps and technology. This information can more often than not ensure that guests have access to information at any time, night or day. They can access voice-activated chat bots to open curtains, set an alarm and even order breakfast, all without the need for human intervention.

South Africa has a vast mobile network to support new platforms in the cloud. All of which have the potential to support safer travel experiences in the country. Artificial intelligence can provide analytical trends to support industry growth through big data from wearables. The adoption of new technologies, such as IoT, drones, wearable tags and apps, can serve as added value features to enhance security for tourists.

Technology has an undeniable ability to simplify our lives, and bring the world to our finger tips. The likes of Virtual Reality (VR) technology can enable guests to not only view, but experience hotels, museums and tourist destinations without having to leave their room. This digital innovation has opened a door for tourists and vacationers to preview what their destination of choice may have in store for them, to better inform their decision making process.

With the rise in technological advancement also comes the need to re-skill workers occupying certain roles in the tourism and hospitality industries. To ensure the industry has the requisite skills to surprise and delight the tourist of the future.

So folks, gone are the days of arriving at a hotel only to find that the experience is nothing like the pictures in those brochures you read. Better yet, finding out that a “major tourist attraction” doesn’t quite meet your expectations. It’s safe to say that the digital appearance will continue to transform the digital tourism industry.

What won’t change are the human interaction, the warm friendly smiles that make people want to return to places that made them to feel special and welcomed before the Coronavirus pandemic.


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