Forging the future of hospitality

Blockchain can help brands build trust now and in a post-pandemic world.

In the wake of COVID-19, restaurants, hotels, and airlines have to focus on meeting today’s most pressing need: making customers and employees feel safe and cared for throughout an entire hospitality experience.

In a recent survey customers and employees viewed “businesses having clear plans for ensuring sanitary and COVID-safe environments” as the top priority in order for them to resume in-person visits or a return to the workplace. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines has added another variable to this trust equation. Beyond the question of testing, have workers and customers been vaccinated, and how can this be verified to reinforce trust in a particular travel or hospitality environment?

While earning that trust won’t be easy, it’s a necessary precursor to higher revenue. Recent survey results predict a slow return of customers to travel, with a majority not planning to travel in the near future. Many doubt they will fly or board a cruise ship even after the virus wanes.

It’s the time for the hospitality industry to rethink what’s possible.

In fact, acknowledging there will be no speedy return to the way things were reveals an essential opportunity confronting the hospitality industry. It’s the time to rethink what’s possible, reengage with customers based on what they really want, and reimagine how best to deliver an experience that engenders trust enough to generate demand.

Transparency and trust across the experience

Companies that rethink and retool now will emerge in a more competitive posture than those who focus solely on survival. They will be leaping ahead of the pack by pursuing what is, in fact, a new opportunity: better informed, more engaged customers and staff will help drive increased sales, loyalty, and overall satisfaction.

To accomplish this, a “go-it-alone” strategy won’t be viable. A customer may feel safe in a hotel. But if they don’t trust how they’ll get there—airport, flight, transfer to the hotel—they won’t be staying, nor will they be frequenting any of the restaurants, theaters, or sports venues nearby. Conversely, brands that collaborate to offer transparency and integration that support safety, security, and trust will capture greater market share.

Brands that collaborate to offer transparency and integration that support safety, security, and trust will capture greater market share.

Viewed another way, in order to guarantee an outstanding customer experience that’s dependent on so many actors, all the parts must act as a whole. As with a rowing crew where everyone rowing in sync wins—and just one person not pulling their weight can drag the entire boat down—transparency and consistency across an entire experience is the key to unlocking customer trust.

Hospitality businesses will need to consider how to establish and participate in “platforms of trust;” active ecosystems that provide simple, integrated, consistent, safe experiences for a customer. The hospitality industry should also actively seek to learn from other industries—healthcare, for example. In healthcare, blockchain has been used to infuse speed, accountability, and transparency across the vaccine distribution system and help maintain public trust in a vaccine’s efficacy.

Blockchain offers a secure way to share customer data

Perhaps most importantly, successful hospitality companies will redefine for themselves what it means to know their customers and how to build seamless experiences that cater to them. Prior to the pandemic, many were beginning to understand how best to use customer data and were focused, understandably, on personalization.

But the pandemic has accelerated the need to be more sophisticated. One way is by integrating customer data with self-service apps in real time. Another is by exploring opportunities to share data in ways that maintain privacy but improve and expand the scope of the customer experience across the entire hospitality ecosystem.

Blockchain will be a key ally in helping the hospitality industry coordinate more securely with partners across the value chain.

Daunting, to say the least. But there are technologies—blockchain, in particular—that can assist. In fact, blockchain, working in concert with other exponential technologies, such as AI and IoT, will be a key ally in helping the hospitality industry thrive by reassuring customers and staff to make them feel safe and well-cared for, as well as enabling ways for partners in the value chain to coordinate more securely with each other.

Touchless travel platforms create a safe and seamless customer journey

Touchless travel platforms create a safe and seamless customer journey

Read the full report to learn how blockchain can help your company create compelling experiences that will attract loyal customers in a post-pandemic world.

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Meet the authors

Kurt Wedgwood

Connect with author:

, North America Blockchain Leader for Retail, Consumer Products, Travel & Transport, IBM

Greg Land

Connect with author:

, IBM Global Industry Leader, Aviation, Hospitality and Travel Related Services

Rob Grimes

Connect with author:

, Founder & CEO, International Food and Beverage Technology Association

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Originally published 06 January 2021