Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days – from smart assistants, cars, and homes to investing, advertising, security, and medicine – and it’s changing swiftly.
The travel industry is not immune to the impact of AI. On the opposite side, it is fertile ground for new applications and innovations. Travel management companies are increasing their investments in the technology in order to fine-tune the traveler experience and, in turn, achieve their business goals.
AI is already making business travel less nerve-racking. It can make baggage tracking more seamless, facilitate hotel check-ins, and help minimize the pain of flight cancellations. Travel managers reap the benefits of AI-enabled and automated business-travel bookings in the form of fast access to the most cost-effective and rewarding options for their travel programs.
While the technology has a way to go – and as with any innovation, it has its challenges – AI has started to shape the way we travel and is helping to inform the next generation of travel management.
Browsing for the best vacation
Travelers are certainly taking benefits of the internet revolution to create dream vacations and a lifetime of memories. Although, even with the maturity of the internet, customers are still using booking engines that may be functional and effective at best, but are highly lacking in inspiration and don’t really help travelers who are swamped by the sheer number of choices available to them.
Even though travel retailing is a remarkable complex sector and firms are faced with the challenge of matching an almost limitless combination of products to tens of thousands of individual consumers in almost real time. Only machines capable of continual learning can possibly compute the huge amounts of data that this requires –AI teams with operators to makes sense of those insights and determines how best to serve the traveler.
While the use of predictive analytics can increase the relevancy of the search results delivered to consumers, travel firms are blending the use of analytics with a human touch. Customers are in shopping mode at this stage in the journey. They want to explore the market, to compare, and to be offered range and choice. But customers also look for help, by being guided to the right option for them and will place their trust in those brands that are adept at computing what they want.
Booking the perfect vacation
Mobile doesn’t tend to be the booking channel of choice during this more functional phase of the traveler’s journey. Though, as more people adopt advanced and user-friendly devices, and secure payment gateways mature, this will likely to induce more customers to book on mobile devices. The “Urbanization” of travel will also see more firms inspiring customers to upload their payment details and log in to transact on mobile web or app.
As per the research by eMarketer, by 2021 desktop and mobile travel booking volume will be cut-throat, with mobile booking volume increasing to roughly $108.75 billion. With this trend towards fast and hassle-free online access to researching and booking travel, it makes sense that many travel companies are utilizing self-service tools and automated Frequently Asked Questions to provide straightforward answers to customer questions while helping them to focus their resources on more composite and valuable tasks.
This automated proactive portal then acts as a direct communication channel with the brand, and when machines don’t have the answer most of the travel firms can provide the human touch and provide the answers that customers seek.
As the clock ticks to the departure near, travel brands are automating circumstantial messages via email, text or in-app push messaging with the hope that the customer will use the brand they have transacted with as their personal travel assistant throughout the duration of the trip. The problem is to be able to amalgamate multiple data sources and then drill down to the precise information most useful to the customer at the time.
Right before the internet age, travel was all about the packages the tour operator created cookie cutter style. Nowadays, the consumer is savvier and demands travel-packages that are customized for them.
When the customer is back from the trip, the real work begins as attention turns to loyalty and retention. The pivotal component for travel companies is continual engagement, but how do they achieve that?
70% of the Airbnb guests leave feedback, while the industry average for hotels is just 10 percent. Airbnb has evidently suppressed the ability to obtain customer reviews. The goal of every travel company is to offer an experience that’s so good that customers become a spokesperson and start to refer the brand to friends and family, creating long-term loyalty in the process. Attain this goal and the job of hooking the customer again at the inspiration and research phase becomes that much easier.
Once the customer is back from his trip, it’s just about whether the relationship with the brand, built during the previous four phases, will continue so that when the next time they go through the research and inspiration phase they are treated as VIPs. Customer’s loyalty and retention come down to the experience your brand provides whether it’s delivered by a machine or a person, or both. What actually matters is whether the customer’s vacation met or exceeded all expectations.
Conclusion: Do you know as per the survey conducted by Tata Consultancy Services, 85% of travel and hospitality professionals are using Artificial Intelligence within their business? The speed at which Artificial Intelligence in the Travel Industry is rising, the day won’t be very far when check-ins in airports will be totally automated and travelers won’t have to wait in long queues. It will save a lot of time, delivers smart content which is contextually relevant, magnifies travel experience and makes boring tasks interesting.