Digitalizing the future of airport hospitality

Guest Author by Guest Author | Aug 25, 2020

By Bora Isbulan, Chief Commercial Officer, Plaza Premium Group

There’s so much talk about the ‘new norm’, but when it comes to airport hospitality, what does it really mean? COVID-19 has impacted travel in every way possible from travel demand, customer expectation and behaviour, to travel service providers.

Travel will never be the same again post COVID and it is crucial for industry players to observe, anticipate, innovate, and reshape the future of travel. Going beyond customer wellbeing, safety and hygiene measures, we discuss the importance of digitalization, cultivating long term customer loyalty and working together with our partners to build a stronger community.     

The next wave of digitalization

Technology always means convenience and facilitates virtual and seamless experiences, however, contactless interactions and transactions were never considered a paramount aspect. COVID-19 has changed the travel landscape and traveller’s behaviours has transitioned, prioritizing hygiene and safety more than ever. Providing a digital experience where travellers browse and enjoy services, perks and entertainment on mobile devices offers peace of mind on top of giving brands seamless, accessible, and easy-to-navigate interfaces to engage with travellers.

Virtual communication is not something new, but communicating via mobile messaging, email, and live chat must be enhanced to capture the speed-to-market interactive technology as well as adopting proficient AI applications and systems as a fundamental to uplift the digital journey.

We have conducted a survey with over 200 industry partners in May on What’s Next In Airport Hospitality, the findings suggest that minimizing human contact and adopting contactless transactions are highly important. Regardless of the industry, shifting face to face customer experiences to digital is crucial and in-lounge experience is no exception. As part of our responses to the market needs, we introduced Smart Order where travellers scan a QR code to access the food order system for made-to-order dishes without having to physically queue.

In addition, development and usage of an app-based programme has become a key component in the sales and marketing matrix to maintain and nurture the base of our loyal guests. The ultimate goal is for travellers to access information of a brand, promotions and benefits, its membership status if applicable, and a marketplace where they can view and redeem merchandise, all at their fingertips. 

This year, we have launched Smart Traveller, a global airport rewards programme by Plaza Premium Group. It is set to be a 360 virtual airport experience for travellers to earn and burn points for lounge experiences and travel-related services and products.

Building brand loyalty to last beyond the pandemic

Although travel is still restricted and will not fully resumed to pre-COVID numbers until 2024 as per IATA’s latest forecast, brands must not stop to foster brand recognition. This is a pivotal time for brands to build loyalty and to creatively think about how to engage with consumers who are unable to travel now but have a strong desire to. Building brand loyalty is fundamental, and in today’s digital transformation, having a loyal online community will be a key ingredient to fuel continued brand success when we rebound from the pandemic.

As the latest Travel Trend Report released by Sojern in July 2020 stated it is time to invest in customer relationships by “proactively share important and helpful information using email, website, or social media about the measures you are taking to make your premises or services safe, how you will handle customer inquiries, delays, or cancellations, and share real stories from your customers and partners.”

We understand people are anxious to travel now but are limited in doing so whether it be for pleasure or to visit family abroad. As a brand we stay connected to our social media followers with the “Let Love Travel” campaign to bring support and comfort virtually, and that soon, we will reunite with loved ones close and far away.

It is vital to constantly monitor current news and the travel landscape as travellers are eager to know that service providers are taking all efforts necessary to ensure a virus-free journey. This mindset  led to the introduction of the We Care For Your Wellbeing programme reinforcing hygiene and safety measures, from body temperature checks, frequent sanitization of all areas to reconfigured spaces that encourage social distancing and individually packed meals ensuring that the wellbeing of our travellers and staff are of utmost importance.

Airport providers must always remain customer centric, being sensitive to consumer concerns is integral in building and keeping trust and loyalty. Fostering brand loyalty is about staying relevant and authentic, offering assurance and consideration of the greater good, that even though travel has changed, the airport journey is as safe as it used to be.

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One community

Brands must establish stability and tech-readiness for strategic partnerships and collaborations locally, regionally, and globally –to rebuild consumer confidence in travel. Having a flexible and dynamic system integration helps create a seamless process for partners and consumers. As we are turning to technology in all possible ways, it also presents a good opportunity to foster a digital community.

One of the key objectives of our Smart Traveller programme is to unite the airport community including airports, airlines and alliances with a suite of creative solutions for all to work towards one common goal – for travel to thrive again.

This is sponsored content. Sponsored content is provided by third parties including airports, members of ACI, World Business Partners, and others. The views expressed and/or presented by these third parties through sponsored content are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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