Digital transformation has profoundly affected the travel and tourism industry and is entirely changing the way people travel and interact, according to Greek tourism experts that took part in a recent roundtable discussion organized by the Greek chapter of the International Federation for IT and Travel & Tourism (IFITT).
As noted during the discussion, the rise of online booking and the sharing economy, as well as the development of a number of digital travel tools – from mobile apps to after-sale communication and AI services – are offering countless options to travelers that seek for destinations, accommodation and experiences.
In addition, digital transformation is offering tourism professionals and enterprises the opportunity to evolve their products and services.
Covid-19 expected to speed up tourism’s digital transformation
During the roundtable discussion, the tourism experts agreed that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is accelerating the process and making digital transformation a necessary tool for development.
“The Covid-19 period and the post-Covid-19 era will accelerate developments and lead to digital transformation much faster than many of us expected,” Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos said.
He also pointed out that the funding tools available for economic recovery on a European level are based on digital transformation.
Technology and tourism
Meanwhile, technology is expected to affect all aspects of the tourism industry in the coming years, as noted by Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the eTourism Lab at Bournemouth University in the UK.
Speaking during IFITT’s discussion, Buhalis said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the following three issues forward:
a) the evolution of the traditional distribution channels,
b) the future capabilities of OTAs, and
c) the distribution strategy of hospitality enterprises.
He underlined that technology and innovation will spearhead tourism in the years to come.
Digital transformation is a necessity
On his part, Andreas Koukas, senior marketing manager for Continental Europe, Hilton, highlighted that digital transformation is now considered a necessity.
“What was considered a disruption a few years ago, is now modus operandi for all businesses. Greek tourism should embrace and wholeheartedly adopt the concept, with young people spearheading progress into the future,” he added.
Apart from the operation of businesses, digital transformation is expected to affect all aspects and stages of the travel experience.
“The impact of the digital ecosystem on the travel industry is getting more and more significant and noticeable in a variety of different aspects. From the dreaming stage and the decision making funnel, to the daily procedures of travel companies, with an eventual direct influence to the travelers’ experience,” said Nelios CEO Dimitris Serifis.
According to Serifis, travel companies should take advantage of this new era in order to evolve by adopting more sustainable business models.
“At the same time the human factor definitely remains at the center of this transition,” Serifis added.
Referring to the hospitality sector, EyeWide Co-founder Minas Liapakis stressed that change was necessary.
“Hotels need to strongly believe in their products and plan a new strategy by changing their philosophy and investing in online sales and marketing,” he noted.
Meanwhile, education is considered key for the digital transformation of the Greek tourism sector.
IFITT’s roundtable discussion was also attended by Apostolos Tsakpinis, chief technology officer, WebHotelier; Sotiris Varelas, lecturer, University of Neapolis Paphos / co-founder, NeTourWork; and coordinated by Stavros Kefalas, co-founder of Tourix.