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Webinar Key Insights: From Digitalization to Sustainability

It’s undeniable that recent years have seen drastic changes in the hospitality industry. TrustYou’s Sirma Ivanova sat down with experts Max Starkov (NYU) and Lyublena Dimova (ETC) a few weeks ago to discuss these developments and which of them are here to stay. Here are some key takeaways from the session:

Digitalization Is the Future

The pandemic has certainly sped up the progress of digitalization, but can data-driven decisions and virtual processes really replace the human touch? According to Max Starkov, people often think that hospitality means providing human touch, and human services – but this is not necessarily the case. From choosing seats online for a flight or cinema performance to checking in to an AirBnB, many aspects of the hospitality industry are already highly digitalized, to no detriment to guests’ satisfaction with service.

Max Starkov,
Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant & Strategist

“Good service does not mean human provided services.”

Max Starkov

In fact, he makes a convincing case that people desire the same level of digitalization when it comes to choosing their accommodation, for instance. Being able to select your room location within the hotel online during the booking process is not so far removed from choosing your seat on a flight, after all; yet, destinations are lagging far behind in this regard. To satisfy the needs of the digitally savvy traveler, they must change.

Domestic Travel Spikes During Crises

There is generally a noticeable pattern to people’s travel preferences during times of crisis, Lyublena Dimova points out. Throughout the pandemic, travelers have resorted to choosing short-haul and domestic travel over long-haul travel, because they perceive traveling within the boundaries of their own country as safer. This is not merely limited to the Covid pandemic with its lockdowns and travel restrictions, but was also the case during the financial crisis of 2008 and the string of terrorist attacks in Europe in 2016, neither of which resulted directly in any type of travel restrictions.

Domestic Travel Spikes During Crisis

The Sustainability Onus Is on Destinations and Hospitality Providers

Anyone would agree that sustainability is currently a hot topic – and a very important one, at that. However, TrustYou review data doesn’t seem to back this up, so we asked the experts why they think not even 0.01% of all mentions fall within the sustainability category. (TrustYou’s semantic analysis picks up on a host of terms within sub-categories such as carbon emissions, use of plastic, recycled materials, waste management, or farm to table products, to identify sustainability mentions.)

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There is a noticeable upward trend, yet not even 0.01% of all mentions are related to sustainability.

There are quite a few reasons for this. For instance, travelers are not encouraged by platforms to talk about sustainability in reviews, so they simply don’t. In addition to that, as important as sustainability is, it is still in its infancy and nowhere near mainstream enough. After all, it is currently the travelers’ responsibility to choose between more and less sustainable options, often with their bank accounts, when this should not be the case – this is simply expecting too much from them. The onus must be on destinations and hospitality providers to move the industry towards being sustainable and making this the norm.

Lyublena Dimova,
Senior Research & Development Manager, European Travel Commission

There shouldn’t be sustainable and unsustainable travel – all travel needs to become sustainable.

Lyublena Dimova

Once that has happened, we can expect to see a change in travelers’ behaviour, and their choices in types of accommodation, flights etc will reflect the importance of sustainability, because travelers do care about it, but aren’t given sufficient opportunities to show this.

If these highlights have piqued your interest, watch the webinar recording to follow the discussion in-depth.