As borders inch open and airports once again fill with travellers, much of the travel experience has become digitised due to the Covid-riddled environment — but the human touch cannot be underscored, and should remain a vital touchpoint, say hospitality experts.
In an online commentary, John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook noted that even before Covid-19 swept in, the world was already on its way towards a digital existence, moving towards cashless and contact-free purchases.
However, Smallwood pointed out that many customers in the hospitality industry still prefer that human touch, which is "critical to maintaining the level of service your customers are used to having" and helps "establish your business as a service-oriented brand".
Bart Buiring, Marriott's chief sales and marketing officer is on the same page.
Speaking at a hybrid event in Asia Pacific last month, Buiring pointed out the "critical" role pre-arrival planning has to do with the luxury travel journey.
"We need to make sure staff is focused on these customers. The age of the average luxury traveller in China is around 25-26 years old; it’s extraordinary how the younger generation is experiencing luxury now."
Panel speaker, Charlotte Harris, Managing Director of Charlotte Travel Hong Kong noted how the 'luxury triangle' has flipped in a post-pandemic world.
"Instead of marble bathrooms and top suites, now [what travellers want at the top] are humanisation and personalisation for luxury travel — being greeted by name, and checked in by a human at first class," said Harris.
She added that while corporate travel is driven by company policies and are budget based, leisure travel is very much more "emotional".
Said Smallwood, "While drink and food services on airlines have been halted, first-class services remain. While travel has changed exponentially in the last year, it’s clear that travellers haven’t."
Doing so doesn't have to breach Covid safety protocols either, and could be as simple as implementing a professional hotel call centre service to handle the reservation department.
"In a world of QR codes and contactless services, a human element goes a long way."