Despite isolated scares and hiccups along the journey of global travel recovery, the world seems bent on restoring tourism to new and hopefully better levels of normality.

The hospitality industry has new pandemic preparedness challenges to overcome, and travelers are demanding more and different service levels from hotels and travel-related services in terms of efficiency, hygiene/safety, and contactless payment options.

In view of a recent partnership where the Swire Hotels group partnered with a global technology-driven payment solutions provider Adyen,’s team interviewed the respective spokespersons to find out how payment-solutions partnerships are a win-win-win proposition to survive in the new pandemic-resilience era.

DigiconAsia: In the pandemic era, how can the hospitality industry leverage data to power loyalty and the benefits to guests?

Swire Hotel’s Senior Manager of Operations and Efficiency, Zelotes Lam (ZL): In this era, we have become more distant with our guests (in general, six feet apart!), which has led our industry to create more ‘self-service’ or ‘self-requesting’ services.

There is less reliance on calling the concierge and more texting through a messaging system or using your own smart device to enhance your travel experience.

Although luxury hospitality is a high-touch industry, hospitality services have — in compliance with pandemic safety regulations and changing guest expectations — had to create new guest journeys using guest experience data to fill in the gaps of any automation and self-help processes such as checking-in/out.  

In the process of meeting this challenge while maintaining a strong brand experience, the industry has found that data-driven intelligence can benefit not only their guests but also improve internal operations in terms of efficiency, flexibility and employee safety.

Adyen’s Head of Hong Kong, Kai Tang (KT): Today guests expect personalized and seamless customer journeys. It is key for hospitality players to be able to recognize individual guests and welcome them with personalized recommendations.

We can do this through card ‘tokenization’, which takes sensitive payment information such as credit card numbers and their expiry dates (for example), encrypts and then transforms them into a combination of unique numbers called a ‘token’.

This token can then be used as a unique identifier to recognize returning customers and provide insights on where and what they spent money on. Hospitality providers can then use this information to tailor the travel experience to each individual, based on their past transactions. This process also makes the hotel stay for guests more convenient than ever, as the latter can simply purchase a drink or meal with their token, without having to present their card or enter a code or sign a bill.

DigiconAsia: As global travel rebounds, what are some trends you are observing when it comes to changed/changing guest expectations and demands, as well as the overall hospitality industry in the region?

ZL: While personalization has always been an important differentiator in the industry, it is apparent that this has become an even greater expectation as travel return to a ’new normal’. While personalization had always been delivered by hospitality staff, the new reality is that many brands are now leveraging technology to build an equally personalized experience — using data.

Safety and hygiene have been a defining trend, especially in regions with dense populations. This has influenced many areas of hotel services levels — down to deciding what hygiene amenities are offered in the rooms.

KT: The traveler of today expects the same connected experience at hotels as what they already receive from retail stores and airlines. Smart services and capabilities once considered optional (like mobile check-in) are now expected as part of the default experience. Our research found that Hongkongers in particular, value these services. Compared to the global score of 49%, 56% of Hongkongers surveyed preferred contactless check-ins.

With more people transacting online today, we are also witnessing the growing sophistication of cyber threats; guests are rightfully demanding more assurance around the security and privacy of their data.

DigiconAsia: Is the industry focus still on achieving five-star ratings from customers? What is the ‘hidden star’ that is claimed to be the new gold standard in delivering service excellence in the pandemic era?

ZL: Yes, the industry is still focused on achieving great customer satisfaction. That is the essence of hospitality. Each brand has its own ideal for the ultimate guest journey that helps them reach this end goal.

KT: Today’s hotel guests are looking beyond good customer service and luxurious amenities — towards memorable, personalized experiences. Hospitality providers have to meet and exceed these new expectations while protecting staff, complying with changing safety and resilience mandates, and with tight human resources. When they achieve five star ratings from the new era of customers, they are deemed to have achieved an extra but unspoken ‘hidden star’.

To achieve such a balance of service excellence within so many constraints, the key is to leverage data intelligence: by using the right contactless payment solutions linked to analytics to streamline automation and make self-service options seamless and enjoyable. Through leveraging valuable guest data, loyalty programs can be personalized to each guest, offering a digital ‘personal touch’ that is as good as, or even better than, the reduced level ‘human touch’ necessitated by pandemic preparedness.

DigiconAsia: With more technology in payments and data-driven strategy come cyber risks and fraud risks. How is the payment industry working with the hospitality to earn customer trust?

ZL: Payments have always been a complicated process, and building that trust in the current pandemic-aware era has come a long way in the hospitality industry. Hotels and related sectors no longer benefit from typical bricks-and-mortar payment providers who simply act as transfer agents for monies. The industry now needs technologically versatile payment solutions providers that work with each brand’s guest journey ideals and help them to implement highly secure and digitalized payment services across locations worldwide seamlessly.

KT: Card tokenization is one way for hospitality players to manage fraud and risk in the new normal. Even if fraudsters manage to steal tokenized payment data, they cannot use the tokens to pay for anything online. This is because they will be unable to link the token to payment information stored securely by the payment partner.

For hotel operators, this also means they can keep their Payment Card Industry (PCI) scope to a minimum since the unencrypted card data never touches their systems.

DigiconAsia thanks Kai and Zelotes for sharing their joint insights on hospitality industry digitalization.


Kai Tang

Head of Hong Kong


Zelotes Lam

Senior Manager of Operations & Efficiency,

CSO Support Office, Swire Hotels