July 19, 2024

Digital Transformation: A Competitive Edge in Tourism & Hospitality


If we are digitally on the way and data-based, […] it is essential that the guest stands for us in the center. Digitalization should simplify internal processes, increase the guest experience and always have in mind the tourism stakeholders of the destination. Only in such a trio we can be successful. Mattia Storni, Saas-Fee/Saastal Tourismus

Technology is an integral part of modern travel, influencing everything from trip planning, communication, transactions and beyond. The tourism and hospitality industry is rapidly evolving due to digital advancements. Guests now expect a high level of digital maturity from service providers, with some leading the way in using data-driven and digital tools to deliver innovative and personalized experiences.

Yet small businesses often face significant challenges in adopting digital transformation due to costs, budget constraints, labor shortages and complexity in implementation. They also struggle to harmonize the interests of different stakeholders and ensure a personalized human touch in the digital experience. Adapting to digital processes involves reshaping the entire value chain and service delivery, making digital transformation a lower priority for many in the industry.

Despite these obstacles, the digital era offers diverse opportunities for businesses to overcome these challenges and gain a competitive edge. To explore this further, we conducted interviews with 15 Swiss industry experts in our podcast, available on Spotify, who discussed how digital transformation can drive success, sharing their experiences and best outcomes on leveraging technologies. Below you can read five key reasons why this shift is crucial and discover how you too can be part of this transformation.

5 Reasons why every business should join the digital transformation

1. Enhance the customer experience

First things first. Digital transformation does not relate only to the use of cutting-edge technology to offer innovative experiences. Indeed, digital transformation is about improving certain processes in creating and delivering customer experiences. The focus should be on making the customer’s journey as exceptional as possible. In fact, nowhere is the pursuit of generating the best customer experience more important than the tourism and hospitality industry, as highlighted by many, if not all, of our interviewees.

Do not forget that tourism is made to travel. It’s about having an experience, it’s about making people dream. So don’t forget to be customer centric. That’s the key in the end, it’s to talk to people and make them dream. Emmanuelle Rose, Lausanne Tourisme

A unforgettable tourist experience generates great satisfaction for those who have lived it. As a result, they spend more and actively contribute to the local economy. Yet a heritage can only be preserved if the economic environment that supports it is profitable. In the case of the Lavaux terraced vineyards, selling wine to visitors is therefore crucial. Our mission to preserve and enhance the landscape therefore necessarily involves working in direct and close partnership with tourist offices to optimize the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the offers they provide. Vincent Bailly, Lavaux Patrimoine Mondial

Embracing digitalization is a game-changing strategy to craft personalized journeys and maximize customer satisfaction. The customer journey presents multiple touchpoints, each representing an opportunity to go the extra-mile and use technology in a smart way. In other words, technology is simply a means to an end.

2. Understand customer needs

To offer the best experience, businesses must understand customer needs and expectations. Digital transformation and data collection provide businesses with in-depth insights into their customers, enabling tailored experiences that boost customer satisfaction.

The beautiful challenge that we have in hospitality is that we have a guest that has needs, but we also need to make sure that these needs are satisfied, that there’s always new experiences created, that we always go the extra mile, and this is something that actually characterizes everybody working in hospitality because […] we have the passion to deliver the best possible experience for our guests. Julia Geffers, Hoxell

3. Improve efficiency and profitability

Digitization saves time and effort. Digital tools streamline operations, reducing repetitive tasks and freeing up employees to provide more personalized, human-centric service. Automation of operations ensures quality and generates better results.

Digitalization will not take away the personal touch, […] it will help [employees] to make sure that they know what they’re doing, but they will still be doing or delivering the human part of it in a more safe or more secure or more convinced way, because they know exactly what they’re doing and what they are talking about. Julia Geffers, Hoxell

However, a balance must be struck to avoid overcomplicating things: The hotel industry is still a field environment with people who work hard, who are all passionate. Technology will help a lot, but once again, we must not try to make things too complex. – Christopher Meignier, Blent.

4. Informed decision-making with data

Data insights are essential for effective business and destination management. Data can come from various sources, especially in our industry where numerous stakeholders contribute to the customer journey.

Consider the multitude of touchpoints that travelers encounter during their journey. These touchpoints shape the overall tourist experience and offer invaluable information to the businesses. However, collecting, managing, and analyzing this data effectively can be quite complex:

Tourism needs a great deal in the way of digital tools, apps and websites and so on. But everything is held and managed separately, so to say in the form of silos. So, for every topic, for every organization and for every company there is a nice website, a nice app, whatever makes sense for them. And very often, the data that is needed for this is collected repeatedly. And that, fundamentally, is not very efficient. And it is, above all, not beneficial for the quality of the data that is being collected. You must put a lot of effort into such data collection. André Golliez

However, collecting this data gold mine is important for a business to thrive. In fact, data provide knowledge and information on visitor numbers, behaviors, trends and many other essential elements that not only enhance the customer experience but also contribute to the sustainable development of the destination.

We’re trying to implement a novel approach to wine tourism to stimulate a better understanding of the site while encouraging the spontaneous purchase of Lavaux wines without burdening the winegrowers themselves. The first step was to identify and monitor the flows, types and behaviours of people moving around the perimeter. Based on this data, the idea is to enrich the tourist experience offered to the tens of thousands of visitors to the site by providing them with on-site and digital information, while at the same time closely connecting this information with the landscape and heritage on offer. Vincent Bailly, Lavaux Patrimoine Mondial

5. Promote industry collaboration

The interviews revealed an interesting point. When asking our interviewees to share recommendations, it was impressive to hear that all were highlighting the need for collaboration.

Don’t hesitate to share this data because if it is important for you, it can also be important for a whole destination, for example. And in the same way that you share your experience, I strongly encourage you to share this data anonymously of course, but to share this data within a destination, within a group, at least to help each other. That’s it, because we all live in the same industry. And if the industry is doing well, we are all doing well. Christopher Meignier, Blent

Sharing data and resources within the industry helps offset costs and enhance collective knowledge and experiences. The tourism industry is highly dependent on interactions among stakeholders. Collaborative efforts create synergy, ensuring seamless and rewarding experiences for travelers and make destinations more attractive.

I think we should try to create a kind of dynamic among the actors. Because it’s clear that, as a hotel, we are not just isolated, right? We are part of a market place, we are part of an ecosystem, we have other actors and finally, the tourist is looking for a global experience that is made by the different actors. So we have to say it, we have to create this dynamic, we have to create this interest for the theme and also show them finally what are the added values to use digital. And this is something that must be done between the players but also within the company. Prof. Roland Schegg

Would you like to be part of the change?

At the EHL Hospitality Business School, we are leading a coaching program created for SMEs in the Canton de Vaud in collaboration with the Service de la Promotion de l’Economie et de l’Innovation and Vaud Promotion. The aim of this program is to provide support and guidance to businesses in the Vaud travel sector that are looking to digitize their operations and leverage technologies.

We have just concluded the first edition in which we supported five innovative projects: a centralized platform for a smart destination, a VR and 360° streaming platform, an event performance analysis tool, a digital marketing strategy and a hybrid marketing project designed for a more sustainable UNESCO site. These five projects demonstrate the ongoing commitment of all stakeholders to strengthening the region’s competitiveness in the tourism sector.

The second call for projects was opened on October 31, 2023. If you are interested in learning more about this program, go to our dedicated website and submit your proposals before December 31, 2023.

All of these initiatives are part of the Flagship Resilient Tourism, learn more about our project on our website.

EHL Hospitality Business School
Communications Department
+41 21 785 1354

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