India’s booming economy and population have meant an unprecedented growth in technology. In October 2015, the country notched an incredible 1 billion mark in the number of mobile subscribers. Internet users are estimated to climb up to 500 million users by 2017, of this 314 million will be mobile internet users. Around the global figures on technology use are rising as well. By the end of last year 43% of the world’s population were all internet users says Facebook.

This rise in technology has meant that a revolution has swept across consumer-brand interactions. How people connect with products as well as services has undergone a sea-change influenced by ever improving technologies. In the hospitality industry as well, technology has altered how guests choose and access services.

A major component of India’s growth has been its emergent hospitality industry. Travel and Tourism industry alone contributed as much as 6.7% of India’s total GDP in 2014. Investment in the sector has been encouraging with a record number of Mergers & Acquisitions last year. The hotel and tourism sector brought in around US$ 8.48 billion of FDI into India between 2000-15.

However, despite the staggering growth in technology use and the promising developments in the hotel sector, technology is still underutilized in the sector. The hospitality industry is yet to exploit technology to its full potential. The Deloitte report 2010 stated that technology in the hotel sector was lagging far behind compared to other sectors. Since hotels are viewed as stationary properties the industry tends to spend less on updating technologies or using mobile technology to its advantage. Hoteliers can cultivate a high degree of loyalty by ensuring their services fit quick response needs of today’s on-the-move consumer as well vastly improve guest experiences.

While the Indian hotel sector is on the cusp of technological changes, the early steps seem to be in the right direction. According to NDTV, the Radisson Hotel in Pune in 2010 was one of the early hotels to be equipped with an iPod in rooms to act as a remote control for lights, air conditioning and a TV remote control. While Starwood along with Swedish lock experts Assa Abloy is working on a feature where guests can do away with a key or card and use an app to unlock their rooms. The use of IPad by hotel staff and guests has gained popularity in India.

Here are a few other good examples of technology is slowly permeating the Indian market -

Personalised Technology Means a Personal Guest Experience

It isn’t just booking hotels or reviewing them where technology is instrumental. Our comfort with handling technology today means hotels can leverage it to provide guests a more customised experience. In-room technologies can be greatly improved, artificial intelligence can help hotels forecast food and beverage preferences beforehand. Smart card technology can enable consumers to use services cashlessly as well be independent in their experience with not having to rely on the hotel staff at every point. From check-in to check-out, with a use of a phone or an iPad, guests can save time and tailor their experiences like never before.

Social Media Influences Decision Making

Like every other sector, the influence and power of social media has seeped into the hotel sector. In 2015, 134 million Indians were social media users. As in most other sectors, social media has changed the way travellers decide on their hotel experiences in the country. A key source of information that helps a guest make decisions are reviews. Websites that rate hotels such as tripadvisor.com, expedia.com are on the rise. In addition to this, conventional platforms such as Facebook and twitter are sources to gather feedback and form opinions. It is now this opinion that greatly influences the decision making process. From travel itineraries to customized menus, customers can have a peak at what’s on offer. This also allows the customer to compare services from other hotels and to demand the experiences they desire. Negative feedback by guests are now holding the hotel sector accountable as never before. So the sector is learning to connect with the consumer on this forum.

The Rising Popularity of Hotel Aggregators and Networks

The last few years have seen the rise of online hotel aggregation industry that has become important in driving sales in the current scenario. There has been a spurt of hotel aggregators particularly in the mid-range and budget section. Some of the players in this market include OYO rooms, Zo rooms, Treebo among others; brands that tie up with various properties to provide a range of options for travellers. For hotels riding the back of this development means that they can be sure of booking business through these collaborations.

Welcome to India With an E-Visa

A successful example of how India leveraged technology is its very successful e-visa scheme. This facility has smoothened the process of foreign tourists visiting India. The ‘E-Tourist’ Visa scheme that began in November 2014 as of now allows citizens from 113 countries to apply for Visa online. According to one report Russia, France and UK were countries that made the most of India’s E-Visa scheme.

The Indian hotel sector may have a long way to go in fulling utilising the benefits of technology, but the demand in the sector means the potential and opportunities are endless.

Elizabeth Raj |Blogger- Arsha Consulting

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