• Since I have a passion for travelling as well as the hospitality industry (having a bachelor in hospitality management), and I believe in the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for this week’s article I decided to look into what happens when you combine the two. As it seems, Artificial Intelligence is set to be a game-changer for the travel industry.  It is helping consumers and companies simplify making travel arrangements and streamlining business processes. AI is also modernising travel by taking it from a complicated, drawn-out experience to one that is more enhanced and customer-focused by improving the overall efficiency for hotels, airlines, and other travel providers. AI’s impact on the travel industry is powerful and massive and it has the potential to transform business completely. Here’s how AI will revolutionise the travel industry:

    Enhanced Booking and Ticketing via Dynamic Pricing

    Tracking price fluctuations for travel and lodging accommodations can be difficult for travellers who are looking for the best time to book a hotel, flights or vacation packages. However, travel providers can help enhance the customer experience using dynamic pricing tools that leverage predictive, or even prescriptive, analytics such as the Hopper’s travel deal tracking app. These tools help consumers track deals and notify them when travel deals become available. This helps customers to realise the travel deals and even prompts them to know when to buy versus when to wait. Hopper’s app processes 300 billion flights every day and has resulted in saving its customers an estimated $50 per flight.

    Dynamic pricing tools also present opportunities for businesses for ticketing. For example, hotels and airlines can benefit from dynamic pricing tools to forecast fare prices. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide uses dynamic pricing tools to modify hotel rates quickly. As a result, the hotel chain realised a 20 percent improvement in its demand forecasting.

    Improved Operations

    Hotels and travel providers are also benefiting from AI’s ability to enhance the efficiency of its operations with smart tools and approaches, such as a travel genome for customer segmentation and dynamic customer profiles via automated, AI-powered dashboards. For example, Mezi’s AI-powered travel dashboard uses automation to help its clients, such as American Express, Casto Travel, and Bluefish, to respond faster to customer requests. The technology enables travel agents to access the history of a traveller’s conversation anytime quickly, and it uses chatbots to update user profiles in real time automatically. These tactics help Mezi clients’ agents increase utilisation and productivity by five times.

    Enhanced Customer Service

    Chatbots, or conversational AI, are helping to pave the way of enhancing the customer experience. Hotel chains and other travel providers are using chatbots to improve the customer’s experience by bringing a new way to communicate with customers.  You can use AI chatbots to support customer loyalty programs and assist customers, for example, in transferring loyalty points. The Holiday Inn Osaka Namba hotel uses Bespoke’s AI-powered Bebot to check in guests, make restaurant reservations and act as the hotel’s concierge. With the chatbot, guests can get an answer to questions about hotel check-in and check-out times and other pertinent details during a stay at any time of the day. This helps to improve operational efficiency as chatbots, obviously, do not need a break.

    You can also use chatbots to prompt hotel guests for sales opportunities, such as upselling a room based on a conversation. The Marriot Hotel is already employing chatbots by using Facebook Messenger to prioritise relationships they have with their customers and to create an extra moment of engagement. Aloft–a Marriott hotel brand—also uses chatbots to help customers with requests with its ChatBotlr chatbot. Travelers can access ChatBotlr via text messaging for service requests.

    AI offers future implications worth leveraging to enhance the customer experience via voice technology. Voice technology can provide a great opportunity with IoT enabled devices, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, which uses Amazon’s AI software Alexa. For example, Wynn Las Vegas is in the process of installing Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo in 4,748 of its hotel rooms with the goal to enhance guests’ experiences. This Alexa-enabled device will give guests the capability to control the room, including the room’s temperature.

    AI Travel Startups Making It All Come Together

    There is a wide opportunity for AI to enhance the customer experience and operational efficiency for businesses and travellers, and there are some startups leveraging that opportunity. Here are a few startups making it all come together:

    • AltexSoft. AltexSoft helps travel industry companies, such as hotels and airlines, with enhancing the customer experience with AI-powered technology to enhance travel providers’ offerings with tools such as fare forecasting and dynamic pricing tools, intelligent fleet and crew management decision-support systems, and conversational interfaces for customer support. AltexSoft helped Fareboom.com, an online travel agency, to predict the prices of fares on its booking site using its Price Predictor tool. It also helped the company build an app that alerts travellers of flight schedules and provide customer support beyond their purchase.
    • Hopper. Hopper is helping travellers get a head start and forecast prices for different seasons with its dynamic pricing-powered mobile app. The company uses predictive analytics to help consumers know when to buy a travel promotion. Travelers search for available flights by entering dates in the app and check the app’s colour-coded calendar for available dates based on price. The app monitors the trip’s dates, suggests alternative dates that offer better pricing, and alerts users of price changes. The app claims to provide 95 percent accuracy for its predictions.
    • Mezi. Mezi’s Travel-as-a-Service (TaaS) platform is powered by AI to help travel providers improve their workflow. It helps to enhance and automate travel booking for corporate travel. It acts like a personal travel assistant and travel concierge using chatbots and travel dashboards to provide end-to-end booking service and data insight.

    Final Thoughts

    From enhanced data insights to automation, organisations can take advantage of the benefits AI offers the travel industry. There are multiple opportunities to enhance travel products and service offerings, including chatbots and dynamic pricing tools. As such, artificial intelligence can help improve the customer experience and drive operational efficiency within all areas of the travel industry and AI should be an important aspect of any digital strategy for any travel company.

    This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

    Image source: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock