Today, consumers are increasingly driven by the convenience and experience available at the tap of a button. These can be credited to the disruptive technologies that have transformed our daily lives and experiences. A walk down memory lane will bring us visions of desktops and feature phones which is in stark contrast to the technologically advanced laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Even daily use gadgets are undergoing updates making them more relevant with recent times and ensuring the best customer experience. With customer behaviour and touchpoints undergoing changes, what’s next for the hospitality industry?

A whole new world, discoverable at the tap of a button and beyond geographical limitations

Gone are the days when we booked hotels through phone directories or in person; preferably in a heritage or reliable local hotel. Technology enabling millions to discover the hotel that best suits their requirements from a million miles away has revolutionised the way people opt for their stays. In this digital era, the service industry is at the forefront, bringing about disruption to create (brand) preference by personalising unique experiences for every customer through the power of new-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation among others.

With its 24x7 consumer-facing nature, hospitality is delivering tech-driven guest experiences to meet the needs of the digital age. From barcodes, mobile payments to cloud-based technology, digitised solutions are the biggest game-changer accelerating the growth and efficiency of hospitality-based companies. This digital enablement has led to consumers in one country booking their stay/room in another country, without the hassle of uncertain booking on arrival. Investments in building technologies that assure efficient and reliable security systems, complete transparency, innovations in customer relationship management (CRM), point-of-sale (POS) tools, hotel inventory management software, and more have enabled a seamless and delightful consumer experience. In the long-term, businesses are bound to reap the benefits of tech-backed investments, resulting in voluminous growth and most importantly, brand loyalty.

Hospitality’s big bet on technology

With so many touchpoints, brands are innovating to design a delightful customer experience strategy. This translates into observing, collecting, and analysing data. Thereby, smart investments in monetising collected data, generating intelligible insights, and ultimately putting them into action is a part of strategic business decision making, embraced by brands globally. Such solutions are drawn mainly from customer feedback and tons of data. These new-age technologies are further enhancing efficiencies for hospitality brands, who are now creating personalised experiences via careful identification of issues, following regular customer insights like their orders, likes, dislikes, and gauging preferences to create targeted marketing plans for varied segments.

Another great innovation that has helped sophisticate the entire system is artificial intelligence (AI). It has enabled increased operational efficiency, faster, more informed decisions and innovating new products and services. According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, 45% of total economic gains by 2030 will come from product enhancements and stimulating consumer demand as AI will drive greater product variety, with increased personalisation, attractiveness and affordability over time.

India is a diverse country, with hundreds of languages and cultural nuances. In the hospitality industry, it is crucial to bridge the gap between consumers and the product or service throughout the customer journey. A smart way to enhance communication is through a subset of AI that enables computers and systems to communicate with people in their preferred language, known as Natural Language Processing (NLP). A series of complex technologies including machine learning has made it possible for systems to actually interpret words, voices, and respond smartly. These technologies have enabled humans especially travelers to engage creatively with technology and helped brands add a personal touch. For instance, guests can check the weather, schedule tasks, play their favourite music and so on. Moreover, the capability improves with every interaction ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and adding to their experience.

These innovations are just the beginning, with immense potential to create positive disruptions in the hospitality industry. Another such upcoming trend in the technology space is augmented reality (AR). With the capability of enabling businesses to enhance their physical environment, offer a view into available services at a customer’s fingertips, visualise information using 3D offering a more realistic feel, geo-tag and customise locations to help guests identify nearby attractions, AR is on its way to transforming the tourism industry, encouraging more and more travelers to accept technologies and become independent.

The winning mantra: Strike a balance between technology and human connect

In conclusion, while technology is revolutionising the hospitality industry, human support is imperative to ensure that these innovations are leveraged to its maximum potential. Given that experiences in the hospitality industry comprise memories, human touch, and connection; it is essential to build a delightful experience, create meaningful customer service interactions and tackle more complex issues with guests that cannot be easily automated with technology. Therefore, businesses need to build a consumer-friendly model incorporating technology as well as human connection to provide immense value to both; the customer and the business.

India as a market is growing exponentially. The future of tech-enabled businesses in the country are bright, owing to the openness to innovate and adapt to technological advantages. While there might be certain barriers, there is no doubt that these innovations are all potentially disruptive and there is no limit for the value they will generate for our ecosystem. Technologies are set to redefine customer experiences and it will be exciting to see how upcoming advancements will enable more personalized and delightful experience for the consumer.

Views are personal.

The author is group chief technology and product officer, OYO Hotels & Homes.

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