Boris Škorić, director of our Business Intelligence division, participated in a panel discussion on the future of technology, sustainability, marketing and innovation, at this year's "Wave 4 Tourism" student conference, organized by the University of Rijeka’s Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Along with the other panellists - Megan Valenta, Professor Svetlana Stanišić and Filipa Vrhovnik - Mr Škorić considered the contribution IT technologies make to the hotel industry, the potential impact of IT systems on Croatia’s competitiveness as a tourist destination and the importance of technologies regarding student competitiveness in the labour market; he also presented his vision of future technology development in the tourism sector.
As much as 95% of time wasted on retrieving and preparing data for reporting
During his presentation, he highlighted some experiences that users of analytical, business intelligence, online reputation management, and rate shopping systems in the hotel industry have emphasized as reasons for implementing these modern systems and consequent advantages for their businesses. One of the most important factors for commercial users is the promptness and speed of access to the information necessary for making business decisions. As hotels are faced with huge amounts of data coming from various sources (such as PMS systems, financial accounting systems, cash registers, CRMs, systems for planning and revenue management, OTA sites, review sites and so forth), getting integrated and accurate information in a short time becomes almost impossible.
Indeed, a huge outlay of employee time (95% of which is spent on retrieving and preparing data for reporting, and only 5% on analysis and decision-making) is frequently required. By contrast the idea of the modern systems is that the time that users would otherwise spend on reporting (data retrieval + data processing + report creation) can be devoted entirely to decision-making and core business.
Also, these types of systems serve as a "know-how repositories"; these are extremely important if companies face rapid employee turnover or personnel shortages. Often, the know-how of business analysis, business reporting, individual service profitability calculation, online reputation monitoring, methodology management and so on is built up over years: by using such modern systems, it becomes documented and transparent - so the introduction of new personnel into certain business processes is much simpler and faster, which greatly contributes to the company's agility and business performance.
Competitiveness is affected not only by price but also by reputation
Regarding the impact of information technologies on individual tourist-destination competitiveness, Mr Škorić pointed out that this topic can be viewed through the prism of both operational and strategic management. In either case, when managing a destination (whether macro- or micro-), it is important to have advanced systems that enable the processing of a large amount of data (big data) for detailed analysis. On one hand, this will cover the price competitiveness of the specific destination or hotel and its value for money, in comparison with direct competitors - for the reason that the price component is an important factor for the guest when choosing a particular destination.
On the other, competitiveness is not only governed by price but also by reputation - because the guest’s overall experience of the destination is influenced by several reputational parameters (for example, gastronomic and wine offer, cultural content offer, sports content, destination management, traffic organization, and location quality), so such data, which primarily comes from open sources (the internet), also needs to be processed and synthesized.
Of course, all reputational parameters must also be considered in relation to those of the competition in order that high-quality operational and strategic decisions can be made in managing destination competitiveness. Such modern systems rely on the application of artificial intelligence, that is, advanced and customized machine learning models. Mr Škorić pointed out that for the past seven years, in addition to his work in the Business Intelligence segment, he has been dealing with the development and implementation of exactly these types of solutions together with the Alfatec R&D team.
Advice for students: how to become competitive in the labour market
On the subject of the IT knowledge necessary to make young people (students) more competitive in the tourism sector, he pointed out that it is very difficult to specify particular technologies, given the multitude of them used in the hotel industry. He definitely believes that young people must follow the development of technology and keep up with it because there is almost no job today that does not involve the use of technology.
In addition to the technology itself, he pointed out that it is extremely important to focus on getting to know the business processes in which one day, as employees, they will participate - because each process is a cog in a broader context and affects other processes, and it is imperative to know its wider repercussions and try to improve it in every respect. As all IT solutions are, as a rule, based on business processes and strive to improve them as much as possible, knowledge of business processes, along with monitoring technological development, is certainly the best recipe for success.
Will future technology mean replacement of humans in the tourism sector?
In summary, Mr Škorić presented his vision of the future of technology development in the tourism sector. In his opinion the greatest focus will be on the implementation and application of artificial intelligence in existing IT solutions - but also those that will appear as innovations in the tourism sector - with the aim of increasing productivity and improving services and the overall guest experience.
When asked whether technology will be able to replace humans in tourism, he expressed the belief that it is human beings who contextualise social relations, draw definitive conclusions, represent the culture, mentality, and charm of an area, and make the guest's experience special, which artificial intelligence will certainly not be able to achieve.
Therefore, he considers it important that all employees in tourism remember that the word hospitality derives from host - implying pleasing someone with your kindness and approach; if this serves as the basis of relations with guests, then artificial intelligence in tourism will never be able to replace us. However, if we behave, as Professor Romana Lekić described in her earlier presentation on the history of tourism in Opatija, "like robots", then we can be sure that that will come to pass!