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Travel & Hospitality Transformation by AI

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Over the years, the influence of AI has spread to almost every aspect of the travel and the hospitality industry. 30% of hospitality businesses use artificial intelligence to augment at least one of their primary sales processes and most customer personalization is done using AI.

30% of hospitality businesses use artificial intelligence to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.

The sudden popularity of Artificial Intelligence in the Travel industry can be credited to the humongous amount of data being generated today. Artificial Intelligence helps analyse unstructured data, brings value in partnership with Big Data and turns it into meaningful and actionable insights. Trends, outliers and patterns are figured out using this smart data which helps in guiding a Travel company to make informed decisions. The discounts, schemes, tour packages, seasons to target and people to target are formulated using this data. Usually, surveys and social media sensing are done to know customer’s insights and behaviour.

Let’s look at how AI has influenced each aspect of the business

Bleisure – Personalized Experience

There are always a few who are up for a new challenge and adopt to new technology. Many hotels have started using an AI concierge. One great example of an AI concierge is Hilton World wide’s Connie, who is the first true AI-powered concierge bot.

Connie stands at 2 feet high and guests can interact with it during their check-in. Connie is powered by IBM’s Watson AI and uses WayBlazer travel database. It can provide information to guests on local attractions, places to visit, etc. Being an AI, it can learn and adapt and respond to each guest.

In the Travel business, Mezi, using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing, provides a personalized experience to Business travellers who usually are strapped for time. It talks about bringing on a concept of bleisure  (business+leisure) to address the needs of the workforce. A research done by them states that 84% of business travellers return feeling frustrated, burnt out and unmotivated. The kind of tedious and monotonous planning that goes into the travel booking could be the reason for it. With AI and NLP, Mezi collects preferences and generates suggestions so that a customized and streamlined experience is given and the issues faced by them are addressed properly.

Increased Productivity – Instant Connectivity

Increased productivity now begins with the search for the hotel, and technology has paved its way for the customer to access more data than ever before. Booking sites like Lola (www.lola.com) who provide on-demand travel services have developed technologies that can not only instantly connects people to their team of travel agents who find and book flights, hotels, and cars but have been able to empower their agents with tremendous technology to make research and decisions an easy process.

Intelligent Travel Assistants – Chatbots

Chatbot technology is another big strand of AI, and unsurprisingly, many travel brands have already launched their own versions in the past year or so. Skyscanner is just one example, creating a bot to help consumers find flights in Facebook Messenger. Users can also use it to request travel recommendations and random suggestions. Unlike ecommerce or retail brands using chatbots, which can appear gimmicky, there is an argument that examples like Skyscanner are much more relevant and useful for everyday consumers.

After all, with the arrival of many more travel search websites, consumers are being overwhelmed by choice – not necessarily helped by it.  Consequently, a bot like Skyscanner is able to cut through the noise, connecting with consumers in their own time and in the social media spaces they most frequently visit.

Recently, Aeromexico started using Facebook Messenger chatbot to answer the very generic questions by the customers. The main idea was to cater to 80% of questions which are usually the repeated ones and about common topics. Thus, to avoid a repetitive process, artificial intelligence is of great application. Airlines hugely benefit from this. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines uses artificial intelligence to respond to the queries of customers on twitter and facebook. It uses an algorithm from a company called Digital Genius which is trained on 60,000 questions and answers. Not only this, Deutsche Lufthansa’s bot Mildred can help in searching the cheapest fares.

Discovery & Data Analysis – Intelligent Recommendations

International hotel search engine Trivago acquired Hamburg, Germany machine learning startup, Tripl, as it ramps up its product with recommendation and personalization technology, giving them a customer-centric approach.

The AI algorithm gives tailored travel recommendations by identifying trends in users’ social media activities and comparing it with in-app data of like-minded users. With its launch in July 2015, users could sign up only through Facebook, potentially sharing oodles of profile information such as friends, relationship status, hometown, and birthday.

Persona based travel recommendations, use of customised pictures and text are now gaining ground to entice travellers to book your hotels. KePSLA’s travel recommendation platform is one of the first in the world to do this by using deep learning and NLP solutions.

With 81% of people believing that robots would be better at handling data than humans, there is also a certain level of confidence in this area from consumers.

Knowing your Travellers – Deep Customer Behaviour

Dorchester Collection is another hotel chain to make use of AI. However, instead of using it to provide a front-of-house service, it has adopted it to interpret and analyse customer behaviour in the form of raw data.

Partnering with technology company, RicheyTX, Dorchester Collection has helped to develop an AI platform called Metis.

Delving into swathes of customer feedback such as surveys and reviews (which would take an inordinate amount of time to manually find and analyse) it is able to measure performance and instantly discover what really matters to guests.

For example, Metis helped Dorchester to discover that breakfast it not merely an expectation – but something guests place huge importance on. As a result, the hotels began to think about how they could enhance and personalise the breakfast experience.

Flight Fare and Hotel Price Forecasting

Flight fares and hotel prices are ever-changing and vary greatly depending on the provider. No one has time to track all those changes manually. Thus, smart tools which monitor and send out timely alerts with hot deals are currently in high demand in the travel industry.

The AltexSoft data science team has built such an innovative fare predictor tool for one of their clients, a global online travel agency, Fareboom.com. Working on its core product, a digital travel booking website, they could access and collect historical data about millions of fare searches going back several years. Armed with such information, they created a self-learning algorithm, capable of predicting the future price movements based on a number of factors, such as seasonal trends, demand growth, airlines special offers, and deals.

With the average confidence rate at 75 percent, the tool can make short-term (several days) as well as long-term (a couple of months) forecasts.

Optimized Disruption Management

While the previous case is focused mostly on planning trips and helping users navigate most common issues while traveling, automated disruption management is somewhat different. It aims at resolving actual problems a traveler might face on his/her way to a destination point.

Mostly applied to business and corporate travel, disruption management is always a time-sensitive task, requiring instant response. While the chances to get impacted by a storm or a volcano eruption are very small, the risk of a travel disruption is still quite high: there are thousands of delays and several hundreds of canceled flights every day.

With the recent advances in technology, it became possible to predict such disruptions and efficiently mitigate the loss for both the traveler and the carrier. The 4site tool, built by Cornerstone Information Systems, aims at enhancing the efficiency of enterprise travel. The product caters to travelers, travel management companies, and enterprise clients, providing a unique set of features for real-time travel disruption management.

For example, if there is a heavy snowfall at your destination point and all flights are redirected to another airport, a smart assistant can check for available hotels there or book a transfer from your actual place of arrival to your initial destination.

Not only passengers are affected by travel disruptions; airlines bear significant losses every time a flight is canceled or delayed. Thus, Amadeus, one of the leading global distribution systems (GDS), has introduced Schedule Recovery system, aiming to help airlines mitigate the risks of travel disruption. The tool helps airlines instantly address and efficiently handle any threats and disruptions in their operations.

Future potential

So, we’ve already seen the travel industry capitalise on AI to a certain extent. But how will it evolve in the coming year?

Business travel

Undoubtedly, we’ll see many more brands using AI for data analysis as well as launching their own chatbots. There’s already been a suggestion that Expedia is next in line, but it is reportedly set to focus on business travel rather than holidaymakers. Due to the greater need for structure and less of a desire for discovery, it certainly makes sense that artificial intelligence would be more suited to business travellers.

Specifically, it could help to simplify the booking process for companies, as well as help eliminate discrepancies around employee expenses. With reducing costs and improving efficiency two of the biggest benefits, AI could start to infiltrate business travel even more so than leisure in the next 12 months.

Voice technology

Lastly, we can expect to see greater development in voice-activated technology.

With voice-activated search, the experience of researching and booking travel has the potential to become quicker and easier than ever before. Similarly, as Amazon Echo and Google Home start to become commonplace, more hotels could start to experiment with speech recognition to ramp up customer service.

This means devices and bots  could become the norm for brands in the travel industry.

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