Can artificial intelligence pave the way for the future of travel?

The travel industry has always been at the forefront of technological progress. With the meteoric rise of gig economy firms like AirBnB and Uber, the recent spike of innovation in the industry has manifested itself in a new cohort of ideas and business models.

Typically, in response to growing customer demands, the sector as a whole has been more willing than most to embrace first-mover advantage when it comes to technology. With websites initially being used as the primary means to engage customers, the rise of evolving mobile applications is now the most popular and effective way of ensuring organisations stay connected with their customers any time, any place, anywhere.

>See also: Emerging tech: how machines will help humanise business travel

Artificial intelligence (AI) now represents the next wave of technological innovation in the sector. Whether it’s predicting travellers’ preferences, personalising a particular service, amending bookings, or addressing last minute requests, the power of the technology is increasingly being deployed to smooth these processes and overcome any obstacles.

Staying ahead of the competition in today’s market will ultimately be determined by whichever firm can offer the most relevant and tailored service to its clientele. This is where AI comes into play. For example, the hotel chain Dorchester Collection recently used AI to analyse guest reviews to update its breakfast menu by offering customised options.

To maximise the potential of the technology, understanding and recognising the areas that it should be applied to are crucial. Only then will the customer experience truly be improved.

The facial recognition makeover

Travelling anywhere has always required detailed inspection of documentation, and, as border security has tightened, embarkation and disembarkation processes have become stricter.

>See also: Technology is elevating the travel industry to new heights

Significant developments in facial recognition technology have however highlighted just how these processes can be eased, with the technology capable of eliminating the need for rigorous document checks altogether. In combination with blockchain, issues regarding transactions in duty free stores and restaurants will also become a thing of the past.

How can we help you?

Conversational apps are now commonplace for the time poor traveller in need of immediate access to personalised information.

Although websites provide information regarding the best holiday destinations, flights and prices, trawling through reams of comments and customer feedback is not only taxing on time, but is also a luxury that the average Joe rarely has.

Personal voice assistants cut out the middle man as they can interact with customers on behalf of humans, providing them with the information they require almost immediately.

>See also: AI and the sharing economy: how Expedia views the future of travel

These bots use a form of AI called natural language processing (NLP) to respond to requests contextually. For example, a traveller could say to their voice assistant, “I want to go out for drinks. Do you know a good local bar?” The chatbot would then be able to search for bars near the traveller and suggest the most suitable recommendations based on their preferences. They can also be configured linguistically to help travellers from overseas in the process.

These digital assistants can also be scaled with ease – an indispensable feature in emergency situations. Imagine the demands on staff frantically attempting to deal with the queries of hundreds of thousands of customers desperate to know the status of their travel in the midst of a natural disaster. How long will the delays be for? What will they be compensated for? In these situations, AI can respond to each and every customer in a timely manner, as opposed to dependency on humans alone.

The art of a good listener

Social media listening tools are another excellent tool for providing travel companies with insight into how their customers are feeling. For example, a customer may vent their frustration about a particular experience on social media. And, based on the customer’s requirements, the appropriate solution can then be offered accordingly. Whether it be flight options or a travel voucher, pre-empting any major issues by leveraging the power of social media is vital in today’s digital economy.

>See also: How technology will change your travel experience

Amid the multitude of social media listening tools, a number are designed specifically with travel applications in mind. The benefits here therefore lie in the ability to interpret customer sentiment and tailor this with each and every stage of a traveller’s journey, suggesting options that are likely to have a positive impact.

Why machine learning works

Machine learning is the talented sales assistant the travel industry has been looking for.

Throughout airports there are constant opportunities to glean further insights and create new streams of revenue in the process. The best way to get a better sense of customer preference is by tracking purchasing behaviour to allow companies to offer personalised options for every traveller, thus stimulating a higher conversion rate and improving customer loyalty.

The application of AI across a time sensitive industry like travel can ultimately not only substantially reduce the time taken to perform certain procedures, but also provide travellers with an experience that is truly personal for them to take ownership of.

Sourced by Adnan Saulat, general manager of Travel, Transportation and Hospitality at Mindtree

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