This year’s Skift Global Forum shone a spotlight on the travel industry’s responsibility to the planet and its people. Speakers from across all of the industry’s sectors took the stage over the course of the two-day conference to speak on issues from environmental conservation, economic sustainability, and inclusivity. Industry leaders and Skift moderators presented many ways that forward-thinking companies are prioritizing the human-centric and reimagining the role of travel — and its potential to be a force for good.

“Many brands today focus on driving surface level engagement with their customers instead of focusing on driving active participation in the brand experience,” said attendee Guy Cierzan, managing partner of ICF Next, a consulting agency specializing in loyalty strategies and customer experiences. “But we know that brands whose customers are more involved with them in meaningful ways outlast and outshine those who don’t. It’s about applying a human lens to your business.”

That sentiment was echoed from the stage as speakers touched upon optimizing the customer experience and technology’s role in enabling it.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian plans to optimize the airline experience from the ground up. The airline is a global consumer brand and “broader than a transportation company,” Bastian said. That’s one reason Delta is investing heavily in improving the airport experience. “We need to create an airport infrastructure for the next 50 years,” he said.

The most ambitious of those projects is revamping New York’s LaGuardia Airport, including leveraging biometric and facial recognition technologies to streamline security queues and improve passenger wayfinding. “We’re modernizing the ground experience to match what we’ve done in the air,” Bastian said.

Creating smarter, more connected travel experiences through technology was brought up by leaders from across sectors as well.

Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald discussed how the cruise line is leveraging Internet of Things tech through its Ocean Medallion initiative to give its passengers a more personalized, connected experience. The cruise line is collecting real-time data through a discreet wearable device and on-board sensors, enabling travelers to find their way on board or locate other members of their group more easily. Ocean Medallion also enables crew members to provide fast, personalized service to guests.

Hotel leaders also see technology as a tool to enhance customer experience. Hilton has added mobile and in-room technologies such as digital key, select your own room, and controls to adjust room lights and temperature within an app, said President and CEO Chris Nassetta.

Marriott’s chief financial officer Leeny Oberg spoke about growing and differentiating the brand’s Bonvoy loyalty program through a close examination of the end-to-end guest journey. “You want to be building relationships with customers and address the things most important to them,” Oberg said.

“It’s not just having a great experience with amazing service in a spectacular hotel in China,” she continued. “It’s also how they build the travel journey and how they experience travel from the time they start looking for the hotel, all the way to when they actually want to bypass the front desk and use their phone as the key in the room. All of that goes through the loyalty program.”

This content was created collaboratively by ICF Next and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

ICF Next’s loyalty and customer marketing practice offers comprehensive loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and program design services. Services include benchmarking, qualitative and quantitative research, design/development/analysis (including anthropological studies), program strategy and design, economic modeling, segmentation, test/control design, measurement, customer journey mapping, lifecycle communications planning, digital strategies, training and best-in-class loyalty technology. Our team helps clients uncover and develop deeply resonant customer moments and experiences which can be leveraged to drive increased customer engagement and ultimately drive incremental business, with an emphasis on infusing humanity into the experience. Learn more here.