The mobile phone will be even more irreplaceable: we can use it to reserve a shift in the pool, find out the capacity of the beach, check in at the hotel, download tickets for a museum or look at the menu of a restaurant.
It will be the strangest summer of our lives. City councils, museums, restaurants, airports and hotels are preparing to face a tourist season marked by social distancing and the mandatory hygiene measures that are imposed in the fight against the pandemic. Nothing will be the same for the tourist: neither take a plane, nor stay in a hotel, go down to the beach, visit a museum or eat at a beach bar.
Thermography will be the norm in airports, where the adoption of facial biometrics as an identification formula will accelerate, and our mobile phone will be – even more so – irreplaceable. We can use it to book a shift in the pool, know the capacity of the beach, download the online tickets of a museum, see the restaurant menu using a QR code or check in at the hotel. We are not talking about recent innovations: they are technologies that have been with us for years, but this summer they will be common in many tourist destinations due to the scenario that de-escalation opens during the pandemic.
Capacity control technology will have a path in tourism beyond the Covid-19 crisis
To what extent is technology an ally? Agustín Cárdenas, head of Digital Transformation at Telefónica Tech, recommends companies and administrations not to assume technological expenses with a short-term vision. “The basic measures are social distancing, hygiene and masks. From there, we can see what technology can help now and, in addition, it will continue to have value when we overcome Covid-19,” he says.
A point on which Enrique Martínez, president of Segittur, the body responsible for promoting innovation in the Spanish tourism sector, agrees. “The first thing is to define the problems generated by the current situation. The technology industry must avoid offering generic promises that are later not fulfilled,” he reflects. Martínez emphasizes the importance of having a series of certified quality standards for the sector, such as those established by the Institute for Spanish Tourist Quality (Icte). “Once the standards are defined, it is easier to identify the technology that can help meet them. In addition, with the successful use cases that will be seen this summer in Spain, it is easier then to export this technology,” he argues.
One of the areas where there is a path to adopt technology that will have a life beyond Covid is in the control of capacity through digital solutions based on cameras that allow the counting of people and the measurement of interpersonal distance, a formula that will be used on large beaches, museums or other tourist destinations where there may be a large influx of people.
“It is a technology that will also help the manager in the future because it allows him to give better information to tourists. If a city council warns you that a beach is very crowded, you can choose to go to another nearby. If they tell you that there are two hours of waiting to enter a monument, but thanks to technology and predictive analytics they tell you that it will take 20 minutes in another time slot, you can change your visit plans, “Cárdenas illustrates.
Camera-based solutions that allow for mass people counting or applications to reserve time on the beach are not great innovations. “Basically, we are talking about transferring existing solutions, such as capacity control at shows or parking management, to an area where they had not been exploited before. Spanish engineering has shown its ability to address it in a record time, “explains Martínez. This need may also be an opportunity because “the municipalities are going to have data on the beaches that they lacked that they will be able to exploit in the future,” says the president of Segittur.
Alberto Grande, Director of Innovation at the Paradigma consulting firm, points out that when assessing which technology can be used, one must not lose sight of the speed of implementation. “A town that already has cameras on the beach has a basic infrastructure to be able to deploy a capacity control solution quickly this summer. The key is image processing technology with machine learning, which can detect where the people, “he explains.
Companies and public administrations must flee from investments in technologies with a short-term vision
Grande stresses that we must look for “new use cases for existing technologies” and gives another example in beacons. These small, low-power bluetooth-based beacons are used, for example, in museums for users to receive information on their devices when approaching works of art. Now, they can also be used to alert the visitor if they miss the distance.
THE POST-COVID HOTEL
Technology will also be an ally to promote solutions that minimize contact in hotels, restaurants or shops. It seeks to eliminate this element of friction with solutions that range from contactless payment, to mobile tickets or QR codes to see the menu and order in a restaurant.
The hotel is a good example of this path towards contacless. “Right now, the customer is looking for the least physical contact. Where do you usually interact in a hotel? In the minibar, looking at the room service menu, when you check in or ask for a map of the city, for example. All these interaction points can be eliminated and solved with the mobile phone “, explains Cárdenas. However, Grande believes that, although it is the trend for the future, we will not see extended, in the short term, some of these solutions for hotels due to “the time and cost of implementation” that they entail.
The NH hotel chain has incorporated technological solutions to minimize interactions between people. The client can perform online registration, room selection service and ‘check out’. The mobile will allow you to order room service and reserve a table in the restaurant. At the reception, rooms and restaurants the customer will find QR codes to be able to request the different services. NH also has an instant chat service with the hotel team to answer any questions or requests. Finally, some hotels in the chain have Thyssenkrupp elevators that have a new contactless call system with push buttons. Using their own ‘smartphone’, users can read a QR code and reproduce a virtual image that will allow them to call the elevator and mark the destination floor.
THE NEW EXPERIENCE OF MUSEUMS
When visiting museums and other monuments, it will be necessary to purchase tickets online, download them to the mobile phone and use QR codes or self-guide applications in the terminal itself to access content that enriches the visit. In addition to capacity control solutions, technology can help indicate visiting routes. “Instead of using signage on the ground, with an expiration date, the ‘videomapping’ with projectors on the ceiling adapts to the changing needs of the allowed capacity or the influx of visitors”, illustrates Agustín Cárdenas. In some places they have gone a step further: the Duomo of Florence, one of the great tourist attractions of the Italian city, offers tourists a small sensorized device that warns if they do not comply with the recommended interpersonal distance of two meters.
BIOMETRY AT AIRPORTS
As is happening in other sectors, Covid will accelerate the adoption of certain digital solutions in passenger transport. This is the case of the implementation of biometric recognition, which can take off at a time where it seeks to minimize contact. At airports, facial recognition as an authentication method could be used from the traveler’s arrival at the terminal to boarding. Aena is already testing it at the Adolfo-Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport after a first pilot in Menorca. In the Madrid test project, which started at the end of last year, biometric identification is used at check-in, security control and the boarding gate, allowing travelers to catch their flight without having to show any ticket or identification document.
And when we are done with vacation, what would it be like to go back to the office?