In an earlier post I stated that tech could become an industry to rival tourism in Maldives. This is absolutely the case but it doesn’t mean that tourism and tech can’t have a harmonic, symbiotic relationship. Resorts must invest in environmental technology as well as content based social travel products at the least.

Environmental technology investment incentives should be utilized to reduce their carbon footprint, take for example the solar arrays on Soneva Fushi. The initial cost of installing these systems will be offset in the long run not only by the impact on the environment but also more far reaching consequences which effect the bottom line in a positive way.

Investments in content based social products such as iOS, Android apps and websites can help hone in on the right market for any particular resort plus a countless number of other things. It can be integrated into not only a resort’s marketing and booking system but also to a customer satisfaction and experience system allowing a resort to deliver satisfaction and pleasure beyond all expectations. For example as a newbie to Maldives who has heard about it’s immense beauty etc, I would appreciate an app which told me based on my interests and expectations of a vacation which resort would work best for me. Once I had chosen the resort I want to book it easily online, specify my needs while I am there, book activities and excursions and even let the staff know of my likes and dislikes. When I leave I want to check out on my phone so that I don’t have to go to the reception counter, have a buggy magically appear to collect my things and be able to provide feedback on my experience if I need to do so. If anything goes awry during the trip I want to be able to take care of it immediately through my mobile or other interactive device so that I know that the staff and I are in constant invisible communication and they are literally at my fingertips. This app will be beautiful and easily intuitive… please don’t make me think too much on my vacation.

The beauty of this vision is that technology serves to enhance, augment and enable the tourism industry in Maldives unlike anything else we can do, both for environmental protection, guest satisfaction and retention. I was lucky enough with a few friends to stay at several resorts while in Maldives, most of which were great, but several could have been even better through the use of strategic, technological investments. Take for example the check-in, on-boarding and related activities. In the USA, 49% of the adult population now has a smart phone. In mobile adoption rates, the USA is NOT leading the charge – other countries have significantly higher penetration. Eventually this kind of experience will become standard. A part of the battery of guest expectations and if we fail to deliver, if we fail to lead the charge on this kind of development, our industry will suffer.

However, if we make the strategic investments, take the bull by the horns and invest in not only improving in apps and information technology but also in more emerging technologies like augmented reality and truly push the boundaries of what tourists can expect when they visit Maldivian resorts, we can dramatically transform our industry and our booking rates. By making the investments in generic tool-sets that any resort can access, large, small, chain or domestic, we can improve the experience for every single visitor to Maldives. This way, resorts still compete on service, on amenities and on the usual facets they do today, however, the bar for a Maldivian resort is set at such a higher level compared to any other tourism destination on the planet that we not only lock in the booking rates we have today but we extend our lead and become the highest sell through, most sought after destination on the planet. It would be great if the resorts, as a coalition in Maldives, all got together and decided, collectively, to pool resources and make this happen.

While that is one avenue, we have had government intervention, advocacy and more in the past around tourism. Netflix, an American company, offered the “Netflix price” to the scientist who developed a better recommendation engine from which to suggest alternative things to watch, based on previous viewing history. Similarly, the government could step in and over the “Tourism Prize” for the company that provides the most innovative blend of tourism and modern technology. Or we could fund this development separately, as a society, as we believe that tourism will always form a cornerstone of our economic development. Every single modern society invests, as a collective, in things that add to public good. Roads, bridges, telecommunications, public health care, retirement accounts and social security are a few examples of social good that most societies invest in across the globe. Today, we as a society depend immensely on tourism. Why not declare it a public good, and make investments along those lines to ensure that while we increase the industry, the profitability, we also increase the distance between us and the competitive set?

After all, tourism is a business, like any other. China has provided an amazing example of PPP the likes of which the world has never seen before, and the blistering growth of their economy is testament to the strength, resilience and growth potential of this structure. Today, we have the tools, the infrastructure and we only lack the vision. Shoot me down if you like, propose an alternative view if you want, but mindless whining about a solid strategy, simply because you disagree with the origin of the proposal, is lunacy at best and the downfall of our culture and way of life at worst. Personally, I stand for openness, for change, for technological advancement for our children, for my children and for yours.

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