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STC Virtual Tech & Innovation: Tech Talk from the Top

by Asa Sargeant | April 22, 2021 | General News & Events, Cruise & Maritime, Q&A | 0 Comments

Last week saw the latest must-see event from Seatrade Cruise take place. Attendees were treated to another fantastic collection of panels and sessions on IT and cruise. CEO and Co-founder of theICEway, Ian Richardson, led technology discussions as Seatrade Cruise Technology Ambassador. Today we focus upon the first session between him and Jan Swartz, Group President for Holland America Group.

There follows a precis of the conversation, with a video to be released in due course. We will add the video to our brand new Seatrade Cruise page once it is out, and we will also include videos for the sessions listed below in an upcoming ICEbreaker e-shot:

Return to Service Technologies Spotlight

Navigating the Future of Fleet IT Infrastructure Investments

If you have not yet signed up to receive the ICEbreaker, do so below. As promised, here is a heavily summarised version of what was a very interesting discussion.

Tech Talk from the Top

In the very first session of Seatrade Cruise Virtual Tech & Innovation, Ian Richardson welcomed the attendees and introduced them to the Group President of Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seaborne, P&O Australia, and Carnival Australia: Jan Swartz. Richardson asked about her start in the cruise industry before moving onto a key question on the role that technology has played in cruise over the last 20 years. (Continued below)

Q&A snippets

Ian Richardson (IR): “How do you see the next two or three years in terms of technology investments in the cruise industry?

Jan Swartz (JS): “I think all of hospitality will find that the future of leisure is in truly personalized experiences in today's consumers who are living a life full of Amazon and Netflix.”

“Most importantly, in the cruise business, we find that… the letters [from guests] are most often about a shipboard teammate and how a service interaction that they had… dramatically enhanced their experience. So the thrust of our development efforts have been in truly enabling that form of special connection… guests to shipboard teammate.

IR: “There's probably going to be an under investment in technology over the next few years… but you see that… you have to keep investing.”

JS: “I think strategic companies press on with their most critical initiatives, despite the largest of challenges.”

IR: “What would you say your key criteria are when deciding on what technology investments to assign budget to?”

JS: “So the key criteria is really around how will this investment radically enhance our guest experience because we are all here to serve our guests. Often there are times we must serve our shipboard teammates better or give them enhanced tools, so they in turn can serve our guests better.”

IR: “I'd like to hear your thoughts and insights into the emerging technology in the cruising ecosystem. Do you see any changes in the way that ships are designed for the future after the pandemic?”

JS: “I think as we continue to make investments as an industry in our guest experiences, in our crew experiences, they will continually inform ship design… increasingly a service is no longer tied to a physical space… consumers expect to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it. I think we as an industry… [will look] to on-demand services and the role that those will play going forward.”

IR: “[Please] give me a score between one and 10 of how confident you are that the industry will… be continuing on our pre-pandemic growth trend by 2023.”

JS: “Well, by 2023, I would give that scoreboard an 11, because I believe that cruising offers an extraordinary vacation value… and I believe by 2023 we should be back to smoother sailing.”

(Continued from the top)

Jan Swartz joined Princess in a commercial capacity, initially “helping [to] create demand for our guest experiences… I was privileged to work with groups of teammates to create… Polar Online, which is the top travel agent booking engine in the cruise business, as well as Princess Academy, which is one of the largest online travel universities. [I] saw the power of how defining a fantastic user experience can elevate… the performance of the business.”

Ian Richardson then asked another important question: “As we look into the return to service this year, what do you see as the biggest challenges faced by cruise industry leaders?”

“I think operationally, it's going to be quite a challenging environment in the form of making sure that we are in lockstep with all of the relevant authorities in each respective market around the world. Everyone [must feel] absolutely comfortable that we can return to service safely. Our guests’ health and wellbeing [plus] environmental protection [are] our top priorities.”

The next question saw Richardson quizzing Swartz on Ocean Medallion, the popular, multiple award-winning* wearable technology. He went on to ask how it will be used in the ‘new world’.

“The Ocean Medallion effort really started [when we thought] about how [we] could become even more focused on our guest experience. How can we make that experience easier, more personalised and more extraordinary for our guests… And we have really used this time in pause to accelerate our progress such that we will return to service with the entire Princess fleet Medallion Class enabled.

We will have a fleet of floating smart cities. [By] using cutting edge, world-class invisible technology, we allow every single guest to engage in more effortless, personalised, and truly touchless experiences… that I think consumers now after COVID-19 fully expect to be part of their lifestyle.”

Upon mention of COVID, Ian Richardson then asked if there had been “anything that you've had to adapt in Ocean Medallion in the last year in terms of… the new protocols?”

Jan Swartz: “I think we entered return to service significantly advantaged because so much of Medallion Class cruising was so forward thinking… we can deliver truly touchless embarkation, keyless door entry, on-demand services anywhere on the ship. All of that supports… unique needs of consumers upon returning where they may want to stay more physically distant from others. We feel very well prepared to take care of our guests upon returning to service.

The discussion then covered the way people with different preferences can engage with Ocean Medallion “in whichever way that they see fit.” The agile IT solution allows everybody on board “to engage in the full array of experiences.” Swartz went on to describe it as a “completely holistic… and integrated ecosystem [which] allows our guests to engage in whichever way that they see fit.”

Richardson remarked upon the pioneering spirit shown with Ocean Medallion and asked what it was that made Princess such a key element in the Carnival Group’s innovative technology. Swartz pointed to the millions of guests from hundreds of different countries around the world served by Princess, with sailings to all seven continents. “If you can solve the tech opportunities within that, it really is… the highest level of inclusion and complexity and difficulty.”

Turning specifically back to the return to service, Swartz went on to mention “effort in defining our health protocols… embarkation or safety assembly are handled in new ways that are more responsive to the unique circumstances related to the COVID-19 challenges. Each cruise line has adapted their technology to meet the needs of the time and serve our guests even better upon our return.”

*Awards and accolades include the CES Innovations Award, the IoT Breakthrough Wearables Innovation of the Year award plus an Edison Award.

Contact us for the full transcript of ‘Tech Talk from the Top’

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