AI is one of the biggest buzzwords in technology today. Before you start imagining human-like robots and self-driving taxis, AI in the travel industry is a very real thing. Chances are, you’ve experienced AI in the world of travel, whether you realize it or not.
As travel technology advances and people rely on it more, so do new AI-powered opportunities arise. This is an area of technology that is steadily transforming the way the travel industry operates.
What exactly is AI, how does it work, and how is it applied to travel businesses? We’ll answer all of these questions, and more, in our complete guide to travel AI.
What is AI Exactly?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a type of computer science where technology is used to simulate human minds or intelligence.
The basic idea behind AI is that machines or technology are designed to behave in a way that is similar to human thought. This improves and augments our own problem-solving and decision-making abilities as humans, hopefully leading to better outcomes.
How is AI in the Travel Industry Used?
AI can be used in a variety of ways to help travel companies save time, reduce human input in various tasks, and maximize efficiency.
To date, airlines, hotels, tour operators, tour guides, travel businesses, and more have implemented the technology in some way, the details of which we’ll discuss in the sections below.
In general, the more AI develops, the more you’ll be able to optimize how your business operates.
5 Examples Of AI in the Travel Industry
There are many practical applications of AI within the travel industry, for large corporations as well as smaller independent operators.
Here are a few of the most prominent examples of how AI is being applied.
1. AI Booking Assistants
One of the most common use cases of AI in the travel industry is through online booking assistants. Instead of waiting for help from an online travel agent, travelers can use AI booking assistants to discover and book tours and travel experiences, flights, accommodation, and more.
These booking assistants take the form of chatbots placed on travel companies' websites If a customer has any queries or booking requests, they can easily engage with these chatbots in real-time. The chatbot can make booking recommendations and walk the customer through the booking process step-by-step.
For example, say a customer enters a site and prompts the chatbot by telling them what they want to book “a flight”. The chatbot can pull up various flight options and prices. Once the customer chooses the right one, the booking assistant will walk them through the process of securing the flight tickets.
Next, the booking assistant could ask the customer if they need a hire car or accommodation. The customer can prompt the process, and the AI-powered assistant will go through the procedure of finding the right deals to secure the booking.
This means that a customer can practically plan and book an entire trip without requiring assistance from a human travel agent. This can save huge amounts of time, money, and effort, streamlining the booking process and enhancing the customer experience.
One of the great things about AI booking assistants is they can pull up all of the information a customer needs instantly and in real-time. Even if the person prefers to make bookings with a human, they can still use these booking assistants to understand their options and plan their trip.
2. Customer Service Chatbots and Robots
AI-driven chatbots aren’t only used for booking assistants, they can also perform customer service tasks. Instead of relying on humans to provide information to your customers and update them regarding important travel information, you can use AI technology to do this for you.
Chatbots are commonly used in the travel industry to answer customers' questions and keep them up to date with the right information. This is a great way for tour operators and small businesses to deal with their customer service without spending a lot of time on it.
However, AI or travel industry customer service can extend beyond simple chatbots. In some advanced examples, robots are being used to assist customers in airports and hotels. Human-like robots can help customers check into their rooms and handle customer queries. In fact, there is a hotel in Japan that is fully staffed by robots.
3. AI-Powered Recommendations
This is one of the more simple uses of AI in the travel industry, but it’s prominent and useful. AI is used to understand customers' travel preferences and plans and recommend relevant suggestions. This is often seen utilized by online travel agents like Expedia.
AI technology considers the data that customers search for, and uses this to make strategic automated recommendations. This can include upsells on current bookings, recommending tours and experiences, rental cars in the same area, or more.
This is a great strategy to ensure that your travel agency offers the customer as many relevant options as possible - helping you make more sales and improve the customer experience.
AI allows travel companies to process larger volumes of data faster and more accurately. This opens up a whole new world of being able to offer more personalized travel experiences to customers.
4. Price Forecasting
Hotel and flight fares are always changing. One thing that all travelers want is to be able to access up-to-date fare information and score the best possible deal on tickets and hotel stays.
Travelers often use price forecasting tools to help them monitor price changes and get alerts for the best deals. Certain travel booking sites, like Hopper, focus on this idea. These sites use AI-powered analytics tools to help customers book the cheapest possible flights.
Travel businesses can add tools like this to their websites and booking processes to help customers get better deals and inspire them to book more trips and experiences.
5. Data Processing and Analysis
AI in the travel industry is not only limited to providing better customer services and experiences. It is also used to gather and comprehend data to help travel businesses better understand their customers.
This can help travel businesses to deliver more optimized pricing strategies and business practices that better match their customers' interests.
While this is a broad idea that can cover many different processes, the main idea is that AI can be used to efficiently process larger amounts of data. This data processing is fast and accurate, which allows travel companies to use more customer data and draw more meaningful and actionable conclusions from it.
For example, a hotel could use AI technology to efficiently work through customer feedback forms, reviews, and online polls all at once. This will paint a picture of how the customers are feeling in real-time, allowing them to make fast, data-backed decisions to enhance the customer experience.
Future AI Trends for the Travel Industry
Here are a few AI trends and predictions expected to take over the travel industry in the near future.
Voice Assistants and Contactless Travel
Since the start of the pandemic, all kinds of new, contactless solutions have developed in the travel industry. This includes voice-assisted AI technology solutions.
The general focus of contactless travel is to increase independence and empower travelers through self-service. Examples of this include contactless check-in and check-out processes and voice-assistant customer service.
Robot Baggage Handling
SITA is a specialist airport technology company developing AI solutions to automate baggage handling and airport processes, making it a lot easier and more accurate to manage airport baggage.
AI-driven luggage handling systems are being implemented in European airports, a move that will likely spread quickly, given the success thus far.
Wearable technology, like smart watches and Airtags are on the rise. This provides a whole new world of AI-powered opportunities.
AI technology can be integrated with wearable technology to better understand travelers, their health, their locations, and their habits. And Airtags can be used to locate luggage at any given point during traveling.
This all comes together to create an environment for more personalized travel planning. The more data technology can gain from travelers, the more advanced the end-to-end travel planning solutions arise.
AI technology is one of the most exciting developments in the world of travel. It can vastly improve the way travel businesses operate and how travelers plan and experience their trips.
While AI is being applied all over the travel industry, it’s also still in its early phases. This means that we can expect all kinds of new and exciting, innovative developments in the future.
As a travel business, now is the time to embrace AI technology.
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