How should the Bangladesh hotel and tourism industry develop by taking advantage of advanced technologies such as 4IR?
“Visit Mars! Was the first topic of discussion of the 4IR workshop at the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, with heads of agencies and senior officials of the ministry in the presence of the Minister and Secretary of State and the Principal Secretary of TIC.
Since March 2021, on the instruction of the cabinet secretary, each ministry is preparing to adopt the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, nanotechnologies, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and others. . Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched an ambitious bugle call on December 12, 2021, Digital Bangladesh Day, to build an “innovative Bangladesh” by 2041, a proclamation she repeated in front of the Maldives parliament last week.
Futurists say humanity will change in the next 20 years more than it has in all of human history. To imagine the innovative Bangladesh of 2041, it is natural that the tourism industry starts talking about interplanetary tourism!
However, let’s take one step at a time and come back to earth and Bangladesh for now. How should our hospitality and tourism industry develop by taking advantage of advanced technologies such as 4IR?
Data shows that the industry accounts for just over 4% of the country’s GDP while employing 8% of the population. Over 1,600 natural tourist spots including the world’s longest natural sea beach and largest continuous mangrove forest, eye-catching tea stations, wetlands and rolling hills, rich culture, heritage and a myriad of festivals are the fundamental ingredients of unprecedented tourism and ecotourism opportunities.
This untapped potential must be nurtured as the country plans to double its tourism industry over the next decade. Infrastructure development is essential, but the role of 4IR technologies in informing, guiding and attracting specific groups and individuals is undeniable. Gone are the days of generic mass marketing and the large-scale tourism experience. Industry must respond to the needs and wants of people in terms of providing information, creating personalized experiences and facilitating transparent payments between many types of service providers.
Tourism is all about creating memories, and therefore new and memorable experiences with the least amount of hassle are the name of the game. Below are a few game-changing possibilities:
- Voice search and voice control
Voice search is a growing technological trend in the hospitality industry as an increasing number of guests or customers turn to voice search to find hotels, restaurants and cafes. It is therefore worth taking the time to make the most of it. For Bangladesh, and as more industry service providers develop applications, they would do well to remember to keep this functionality.
Chatbots are able to understand simple questions and provide answers almost instantly, reducing the burden on customer service staff and improving the customer experience, while reducing the costs of providing the service. For Bangladesh, a country known to be unable to provide reliable information and services, this will create an enjoyable experience from the start. Meanwhile, the use of AI is also expanding into other areas important to hotels, including data analytics. Hotels in Bangladesh are not adept at having reliable data to be able to deliver better experiences to their guests, and AI has the potential to make a significant change.
- Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR)
AR, VR and MR can make all the difference when customers are ready to make a reservation, as it will give potential customers a much clearer idea of what to expect when they visit the place for real. . Some of them offer a type of “immersive” experience that emphasizes the desire to live the real experience.
IoT technology can be used in hotel rooms to provide guests with a device that connects to everything from lights to heaters and air conditioning, allowing everything to be controlled from one place. In airports, suitcases can be fitted with sensors that alert passengers as they pass.
- Integrated and contactless payment
Payments that flow seamlessly through multiple service providers dramatically reduce hassle and improve customer satisfaction. Contactless payment options have the potential to increase customer loyalty and security.
Safety is an important factor when it comes to tourism, and for Bangladesh, has been an obstacle. With the use of biometric technology, traveling to the airport will become much easier and safer, while implementing an end-to-end self-service system, significantly reducing waiting times.
Hotel owners can use big data for revenue management purposes, using historical occupancy rates and other past trends to better anticipate demand levels. When demand is predictable, pricing and promotional strategies can also be optimized. Government and industry as a whole can use big data from many different sources for planning future scenarios to mitigate and recover from shocks such as the pandemic.
Robots can act as a concierge in hotels, greeting customers and providing them with important guest information and other types of assistance. While this is becoming commonplace in China, it will take some time in Bangladesh for it to go beyond just a gimmick. So, we shouldn’t worry.
Or should we? Robots with arms and legs may not arrive soon enough, but automation has already caught on and is replacing humans, eliminating some positions in industry.
A future of possibilities
The 2019 Future Skills report published by a2i shows that 20% of current positions in the tourism industry in Bangladesh are at risk of being eliminated in the next few years. They include both blue collar and white collar jobs such as traditional baking and food blending, marketing, travel planning, among others.
However, a large number of new jobs are emerging, such as automated bakery and pastry production, digital marketing, app-based travel agency, AR / VR-based tour organization, intelligent housekeeping and laundry operation, and many more that have yet to be designed. .
This is precisely why the National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (NHTTI) of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, with the support of a2i and guidance from the Cabinet Division, began to pilot these skills to develop a new army for industry. But this is only the beginning.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but as a nation with an enviable track record of building a digital middle-income Bangladesh in 13 years and a bold aspiration to build an innovative, equitable, high-income Bangladesh over the past 20 years. next, we must always be on the lookout for the changing world and the needs of our customers, and be humble and nimble enough to change ourselves accordingly. And very quickly. And preferably before our competitor countries.
The tourism industry can be a powerful catalyst in overcoming the middle income trap, as it is in its infancy and has a long trail with the tourist wealth that the country has to offer.
We will resume the discussion of Martian tourism after achieving the SDGs by 2030. For now, let’s bring Martians to Bangladesh. And build the technologies they need and the skills they expect.
Anir Chowdhury is an American techpreneur turned Bangladeshi govpreneur serving as a2i’s policy advisor in the ICT division and the cabinet division supported by UNDP.