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Almost every organisation in the travel sector has now accepted that digital transformation is essential to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. Yet, many continue to struggle with introducing and infusing this change throughout their company.  

During our Tcube event on Building a cohesive digital transformation strategy, we found that: 

 50% of participants were currently undergoing a digital transformation but are still facing some challenges or areas they want to improve. 
Meanwhile, 1 out of 5 could confidently say their transformation journey has been successful so far.

According to a study by PulsePoint Group, 84% of digital transformations fail. In a Forbes interview with partner Michael Gale, he revealed that shifting mentalities was a major challenge:

“I think a large part of that 84 percent fail because they're not prepared to change behaviour. They think they can just have strategy and technology, but it doesn't get them there fast enough or in a good enough way.”

What makes digital transformation such a challenge is that it’s not just about adopting new technology, processes, or tools, it’s about reshaping the mindset of your people. This can be especially difficult for legacy organisations with deeply ingrained practices.

Integrating change management, or the process of introducing business change within the social structure of your organisation, into your digital transformation journey can make the difference between success and failure. 

We have all heard the common statistic that a whopping 70% of change management initiatives fail. But what are the differences between successful and unsuccessful change management strategies? What are some of the key elements successful ones share?

We spoke with 4 travel sector professionals who shared their top tips on developing a successful change management strategy:

Think big, start small 

During our February Tcube event we had the opportunity to interview Kung Teong Wah, Cluster General Manager for Millenium Hotels, about their digital transformation. Although the hotel chain is now 51 years old, in the last few years it has undergone a highly successful digital transformation across key parts of the business. 

What’s the secret? 

To counter ingrained practices and introduce a new digital ecosystem, Teong Wah believes the first thing you need is a guiding vision for the future. Digital transformation is a long-term process with plenty of ups and downs along the way. Developing a roadmap for the changes you want to introduce will keep you focused.

Prior to Covid, Teong Wah and his team curated six digital transformation roadmaps to guide them over the next five years in the areas of: guest experience, back-of-house, sustainability, staff training, job redesign, and IoT.  

For example, their guest experience roadmap focuses on the key touchpoints that can be digitised across the guest experience: pre-arrival, check-in, room tidiness/condition, breakfast, facilities.

Meanwhile, their IoT roadmap is a long-term plan to build this technology into the infrastructure of their hotels. 

If you think creating a five or six year plan sounds overwhelming, not to worry. Teong Wah suggests using these long-term roadmaps to create small manageable steps that will help lead to your overall goal. 

Millennium is now on week 25 of their digital transformation and has completed 25 small projects. By mid-October, the hotel plans to have 52 projects completed just in time for its 52nd anniversary. 

One tip: Try starting with a quick win project in order to boost morale and momentum for the change process. Rather than trying to tackle a large, difficult project from the beginning, go for the low hanging fruit. Continue to celebrate successes throughout the process to keep your people motivated and engaged. 

Build an ecosystem that embraces change  

Melia Hotels International was ranked one of the top 10 companies leading the digital transformation of the Spanish economy. Speaking with Digital Transformation Project Manager, Ester Abad, she pointed out that, beyond vision, you need a dedicated body within your organisation that will guide the process and keep your organisation on track. 

At Melia, they created a digital transformation team tasked with overseeing the process throughout the organisation and offering support to different departments in terms of project ideation and upskilling. She emphasised that this team reports directly to the head of strategy and also has direct access to management.

“You have to empower your digital transformation team because they are going to face a lot of difficulties. Design a clear governance model before starting,” Abad said.  

This team should also be cross-functional with both IT and functional department members. This will create the right environment to develop ideas and a strong innovation-centred environment.

Define what success looks like

No plan would be complete without clearly defined metrics and KPIs. Each new project you decide to undertake should have a clear business case, goals, and ROI. Having this in place will help you both measure success and get key stakeholders onboard and excited about the changes you want to introduce. 

Tiqets is an online ticketing platform that allows travellers to book tickets for museums and attractions across the globe.

As experts in digital marketing, being data driven is extremely important for Tiqets. Exposure, ticket sales, and searchability are all key metrics they use to measure success. 

If you don’t already have the data points you need, look to form partnerships with digital platforms that have the expertise to capture and leverage these insights. Tiqet’s CEO Laurens Leurink said:

“The trouble for a lot of the venues we work with when it comes to digital marketing is capacity.” 

They're aware they need to up their digital game, they simply don't always have the manpower, in-house data or expertise to develop a digital strategy with clearly defined metrics. That's where OTAs (online travel agencies) like Tiqets come in. Partnering with an OTA gives venues access to digital marketing platforms and digital marketing expertise.

Get buy-in from staff

Your people are the key facilitators of digital transformation throughout your organisation. They are the ones who need to adopt and embed a new technology. If your people are not onboard with your digital transformation, it will not be successful. 

Guest experience platform Vouch has worked with a number of hotels to help them automate processes and introduce contactless systems during the pandemic and beyond. 

Angie Li, Vouch’s brand and marketing manager, shared that one of the biggest pitfalls when introducing new technology is that it often gets underutilised with staff struggling to integrate it into their workflow. 

However, in Li’s experience, the most successful rollouts have one thing in common: management rolling up their sleeves and leading the change by example.  

“Be a user of the technology you want to introduce. This really increases the success rate for adoption.” 

Li also emphasised that it’s important to continuously collect feedback from your staff on how the new tool is benefiting them in their daily work. If your staff isn’t using the new tool, it can either mean that they need more training, or that it’s simply not the right fit. 

“Digital transformation is not a sprint, it’s a long-term commitment, so having employee buy-in from the start is extremely important since they’re going to be the ones working with this technology day in and day out and eventually benefiting from it,” Li said. 

One of the biggest barriers to getting buy-in from your staff is the fear of being replaced. For Teong Wah, the best way to address this fear is to include them from the beginning. After introducing their digital transformation roadmap, Millenium held two-day sessions with their staff so they could come up with an implementation strategy together. 

While including your employees is essential, it’s still important for management to drive your digital transformation. This way you can ensure change will happen evenly throughout the organisation and according to your overall roadmap. 

You don’t have to do it alone

While change can be complex, keep in mind that there are several organisations and opportunities that can provide support. 

To provide support in your digital transformation journey, Singapore Tourism Board launched Tcube, a one stop resource platform to support tourism businesses in their digital transformation needs.

Tcube's programmes, such as the Singapore Tourism Accelerator and DASH programme, help tourism businesses upskill their knowledge in data and tech and develop pilots for quick wins.

Meanwhile, Tcube's thought leadership events and content are aimed at helping and inspiring leaders in the travel sector with insights on best practices, emerging trends, and new applications for tech and data. 

Learn more about Tcube’s partnerships, events, and workshops here.