Tue | Nov 12, 2019

Growth & Jobs | Digital transformation will enhance tourism

Published:Tuesday | November 5, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Dwayne Russell, general manager of MC Systems.

Tourism is one of the leading industries in Jamaica, with the country welcoming more than three million visitors annually, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).

“We are playing on the same stage with our global counterparts, but for us to remain competitive, we ought to be using technology to enhance our services,” said Dwayne Russell, general manager of MC Systems.

“Using the latest technology will not ‘water down’ the Jamaican experience. The technology will handle the operational processes so that industry staff can focus on the true quality of Jamaican hospitality to woo guests.”

He noted that the tourism landscape is extremely competitive, therefore, hoteliers and tour operators need to find ways to overcome the challenges they face, to maintain customer engagement, facilitate electronic payments and optimise their internal system.

Turning to some of the technologies that can transform the sector, he noted that they include: biometrics; virtual and augmented reality; Internet of Things (IoT); data analysis and machine learning; as well as, artificial intelligence and digital payments.

Expounding on some of these technologies, Russell said: “Suppose you could make a complete walk-through of a hotel room and its facilities; or get an appreciation of parasailing before booking your next family vacation? Virtual and augmented reality technologies can give your potential guests a 360-degree view of your properties and attractions to help them to secure their bookings with confidence.”

He explained that IoT speaks to the interconnectivity of everyday devices and objects, from mobile phones and watches, to light bulbs and TVs.

“We can leverage this interconnectedness of IoT, to engage with our guests and transform their experience with us, by creating greater access to guest services and information. The data generated by these devices can be fed into analytic systems for further insight,” he related.

Citing an example of where the technology is being used, he said that in California, all members of hotel staff at the Viceroy Beverly Hills Hotel can be found sporting a smartwatch, equipped with “ALICE,” a hotel operations platform, which helps members of staff to manage guest requests and resolve incidents with greater urgency and efficiency.

Princess Cruises, in February, launched the Princess Ocean-Medallion, which is a complimentary wearable device, to enhance guest experience. Ocean-Medallion supports fast ship boarding, on-demand beverage delivery, keyless room entry, on-board navigation and payment options.

The tourism industry is one of the major foreign exchange earners in Jamaica. Recently, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica was on track to exceed its projected US$3.6 billion in tourism earnings for the 2019-20 fiscal year by some US$100 million.

Latest data

The latest data from the JTB revealed that stopover arrivals in August was 214,780, an increase of 4.2 per cent or 8,746 additional arrivals, more than the 206,034 that was recorded in August 2018.

For the four months of summer, May to August, arrivals increased by 5.3 per cent, with 934,794 stopovers, compared to 887,836 in 2018. For the January to August period, arrivals increased by 9.2 per cent, with 1,875,925 stopovers, which is 158,353 more arrivals than the 1,717,572 visitors who came in 2018.

Jamaica, in 2019, was ranked by TripAdvisor as the ‘Number One Caribbean Destination’; and the ‘Number 14 Best Destination’ in the World.

In addition, the International Council of the Pacific Area Travel Writers’ Association named Jamaica as the ‘Destination of the Year’, while TravAlliance Media lauded the country, as ‘Best Culinary Destination’, ‘Best Wedding Destination’, and ‘Best Honeymoon Destination’.