Hospitality has been a booming industry with steady growth in arrivals and revenues. However, the success of the industry is due to many factors. But one thing worth highlighting is that tourism has been a pioneer in the use of the new digital technologies that have emerged and in the digitalisation of the industry, thus creating what we call “e-tourism”.
The digital transformation, partly due to the pandemic, is rapidly sweeping the sector, and hospitality businesses are scrambling to keep up with these changes in digitalization. What are some of the digital technologies affecting the hospitality industry in 2022, and what are their advantages to e-tourism?
The contribution of international tourism to the Greek Economy
The tourism industry has a special place both in the international economy and individual economies such as Greece’s, which relies heavily on it.
Specifically, in 2019, a year before the pandemic hit, the contribution of tourism to the Greek economy amounted to 12.5% of the country’s GDP and 17.1% of employment.
Let’s define tourism
In short, tourism is defined as any short-term movement of people from one place to another. There is, however, a basic condition. This movement must be to a place other than where they live.
Usually, tourism takes the form of a leisure trip where one goes to see and experience a new (or even familiar) place. Of course, tourism also takes other forms.
For example, a tourist could be someone visiting our country for medical reasons. That is, to see a clinic that specialises in the problem they are facing or to take advantage of the potentially lower cost of a particular treatment. Another example could be a business trip to the United Arab Emirates. In general, almost anything we want to do in a new country or city for less than a year falls under the scope of tourism.
But one thing is sure. The e-tourism has brought many advantages making travel, especially to international destinations, easier than ever before. So not only are we travelling more, but because of the internet, we are constantly discovering corners of the world that didn’t get the recognition they deserved. In short, whereas decades ago leisure travel was only for a few, mainly because of the increased costs, nowadays tourism is for everyone.
Tourism in numbers
Since this is the case, it is understood that we are talking about a tremendous number of tourists every year. This number has been steadily growing every year, reaching 1,464.3 million tourists in 2019 until the pandemic hit in 2020.
During the pandemic, international tourist arrivals went back thirty years, reaching the levels of the early 1990s with about 400 million travellers. In summary, travel and tourism contributed 9,17 trillion US dollars to GDP worldwide in 2019. Respectively, this number fell to 4,6 trillion US dollars in 2020.
The sectors benefiting from e-tourism
There are many businesses that are part of the tourism industry and benefit significantly from international travellers every year.
For example, when someone plans to travel, he or she can consult a travel agency to book travel tickets or find a hotel. Of course, this was done to a greater extent in the past when the digitalization of the industry had not yet reached the proportions it has today. The digital transformation of businesses has now created many digital travel agencies.
Of course, one of the sectors that work very closely with tourism and benefit from it is the travel sector, such as airlines, bus or train companies. Of course, the above mainly concerns the part of the preparation of a trip, which is a relatively small part. Tourists must pay for their accommodation, food, daily transport, entertainment and possible visits to local attractions during their journey. Thus, it is evident that we are talking about a diverse industry with a significant economic contribution to many sectors.
Of course, for all of the above to become a reality, the digitisation of the sector and the integration of new technologies is required. E-tourism acts as both a facilitator and an enabler of many of the above aspects of tourism, helping it to grow continuously. As in many other sectors, the importance of digitalisation became particularly evident during the pandemic.
What is e-tourism?
The broader integration of digital technologies in the tourism industry has created e-tourism. Specifically, according to researchers, e-tourism is the application of ICTs in the tourism industry. They digital transform all processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries.
Essentially, E-tourism is the digitalisation process of the whole tourist sector and infrastructure. The elimination of seasonality, more effective connection with clients, and increased bookings and revenues, in general, are some of the advantages of e-tourism.
The tourism industry’s structure and principles have been irreversibly altered by using the Internet. Consumers-tourists may now effortlessly choose their location, compare pricing, and manage their financial transactions.
In the hands of tourist entrepreneurs, information and communication technology and the Internet can prove to be very inventive strategic instruments that can assist them in enhancing the position of their facilities.
E-tourism technologies and their advantages
Various digital technologies have been shaping the hospitality industry for decades. However, the sector’s digitalisation has acquired a new meaning recently, especially during the pandemic.
In a survey, 93% of hospitality businesses answered that they plan to increase their digital investments in the coming years. Thus, highlighting the need for increased digital adoption to survive the digital era combined with an unprecedented health crisis.
Hospitality businesses seem to understand the advantages that further investments in e-tourism may bring.
Three types of digital technologies in hospitality
The proliferation of smartphone usage in the last decade is driving changes in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Tourists can now book tickets from the comfort of their homes, thus how in which travel agents operate. With the evolution of mobile technology and the use of smartphones, someone can now easily do the work of a travel agent on their own and essentially replace them.
For instance, many platforms tourists can find and book accommodation, like Booking and Airbnb. Lastly, with the advancements in mobile technology, smartphones have also become travel agents. With sites like Tripadvisor with so much information online about everything from local restaurants, hotels, attractions and things to do, travellers can rely on their smartphones to go on memorable vacations at more affordable prices.
With just the use of a smartphone, travellers can find the best local restaurants, hotels, attractions and activities worth doing. Thus, technology allows us to plan memorable vacations based on our interests and at more affordable prices than ever before.
Mobile technologies are shaping the way we travel and the way tourism businesses operate. So it is essential that industry operators are aware of where technology is going in their sector to make the changes needed to make the most of the advantages of digitisation.
AR and VR in travel and tourism
These are two new technologies becoming more and more accessible to consumers. Many businesses have begun incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into their daily operations since they provide numerous e-tourism advantages. In such a competitive and booming industry, cutting-edge technology is employed to attract more clients.
New digital innovation trends such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) offer travellers an unforgettable experience. Hotels have started to embrace virtual reality (VR) technology to show their rooms to potential customers, as it is a more attractive medium than a photo or video.
In addition, virtual reality allows people to “travel” the globe from their living room using special VR glasses that will enable them to visit any place they want. One can have all the above travel experiences from home without paying a fortune.
Contactless payment technology (Fintech)
Contactless technology merges simple, everyday financial services with technology. It is the current trend in the financial sector, which, in turn, brings significant advantages to e-tourism.
As an e-tourism technology, fintech facilitates payments when travelling abroad. Tourists can quickly exchange their money for local currencies in their digital wallets at market rates anywhere and anytime. Importantly, Fintech also allows money to be moved instantly from one account to another, often without fees.
Contactless payments are not something new, but they gained popularity in recent years. Especially during the pandemic, contactless payments helped travellers avoid cash transactions and pay safely.
The tourism sector is known for its innovative approach to digitising the industry to serve the growing number of international travellers better.
Advancements in technology and the new needs created by the pandemic are swiftly changing the way businesses in hospitality operate and how tourists travel.
Therefore, boosting investment in technologies that not only enable but also enhance e-tourism in the day-to-day business activities of businesses in the sector is their ticket to survive the digital transformation and better respond to the increasing demands of modern tourism.