This is the second in a two-part series which aims to demystify artificial intelligence and machine learning for travel. In part two, we look at the benefits reaped by travelers in deploying these emerging technologies.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are more than a passing trend for travel. As consumers, travelers already benefit from AI and machine learning in many aspects of daily life – in fact, you may be surprised how often we use them in how we live, work, and travel.
In a relatively short period, AI has become embedded in the fabric of society. AI already seems to power everything from how we read emails to how we shop.
The benefits for the traveler are immense, so it's a good idea for travel buyers to understand and articulate the benefits of investing in these technologies to keep up with rising customer expectations who are already experiencing these benefits from other service providers.
Consumers are now adopting technologies in their homes, with global research firm Statista Global Consumer Survey indicating that the Australian market for smart homes is growing at a rate of 16.4% compound annual growth rate. With the current penetration of smart homes at 21%, this looks to increase to 40.6% by 2023.
The impact of AI at home and work has been enormous, and business travel is already benefiting from the technology's ability to perform computing tasks that previously required human assistance.
According to a recent survey by Booking.com, the majority of travelers want travel brands to use machine-learning technologies to make suggestions based on their travel history. And that's what we're seeing emerge as a trend in the travel industry – travel brands are now personalising recommendations based on the traveler's unique preferences.
AI looks at, analyses, and learns from previous reservations made by the customer and uses that knowledge to make relevant suggestions on everything like the best flights, hotels, car rental services, and even suggest destinations for their next trip.
Furthermore, if a traveler books a flight through the online booking tool without booking a hotel attached, a notification is sent a list of preferred hotels on the company programme, based on the traveler's trip history.
Saving money for the traveler
We live in a transparent world of pricing – however, the sheer volume of travel variation based on the number of enquiries means that it can be difficult for a traveler to know when they are getting a good deal.
We're now seeing AI tools that offer smart pricing options for travel buyers that lets them track the automatic adjustment of prices of flights or rooms depending on demand, weather, and other factors. Additionally, through some solutions, businesses can develop budgets based upon these predicted prices and encourage travelers to choose the most cost-effective options.
Advanced customer service without the price tag
We already see a rise in "bots" for travel use – as described in part one, chatbots are now frequently deployed as a travel buyer tool. For the traveler's experience, although to date no computer has officially passed the Turing test (an analysis designed to test the ability of a computer to exhibit intelligent human behaviour), the voices produced in chatbots are coming extremely close.
Not only are customer call centres using chatbots, but hotel properties are also exploring their use, determining whether they can take over some of the duties of a concierge.
IBM has developed a hospitality-focused program within its infamous Watson platform. This machine-learning tool can not only anticipate guests' needs (based on traveler data) but speak to them as well: "I see your flight was late, would you like me to order your usual from room service?"
Travelers can now see instant feedback via social media on what they can expect from their experience. Tools such as Yelp crowdsource feedback on any travel experience you care to imagine. TripAdvisor helps travelers see what their hotel room will look like, as opposed to the brochure imagery. Twitter is now virtually a customer service channel in its own right.
Travelers expect instant feedback and have no qualms providing their comments. This level of transparency is fuelling competition and also making it harder for travel suppliers to manage unless employing some form of AI or machine learning.
Improving traveler safety
Safety is an essential factor in business travel since employees are often traveling alone. It can be difficult for a corporate traveler to know who the reliable vendors are in the area, such as car services or food options.
Using the embedded online approval ratings within AI-enabled apps can be of great benefit to travelers since suppliers will almost always have a "grade".
Improving the ground transportation experience
The last mile of the travel experience is navigating from flights to final destinations. It's also the area that can cause the most headaches for travelers! AI can help maximise efficiency when going from point A to point B via ground transportation options.
For example, through location services, AI will predict traffic snarls and suggest alternative routes. An AI-powered GPS makes manoeuvring an unfamiliar city much more straightforward.
Additionally, AI embedded in Google Maps makes using public transit far easier for travelers, providing updates that include departure delays and stop notifications.
These aren't the only uses of AI or machine-learning within the travel industry – there are also voice-enabled technologies, location-based tourism, and translation services for international travel. AI and machine learning is becoming ever-present and growing exponentially. The key to any AI-driven future is about how wisely we use the technologies and how well we allow it to complement personalised service, rather than replace it.