Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data have permeated almost every industry. Retail companies use it to access a priceless form of customer feedback while managing stock and staff. Travel management companies are using it to cut costs daily. You cannot watch a show on Netflix without four others being recommended to you based on what you watched before. AI is reaching into our every day lives, making it more convenient for consumers and businesses alike. The travel business is no different.
From the moment you book a flight to touchdown at home, AI is your unofficial travel companion. Below are five ways AI makes both your and your travel provider’s lives easier:
1. Super human travel agents
In 2016, the Lola travel app was introduced offering AI chat bot functionality armed with a team of travel agents. These chat bots sift through and analyse mass amounts of data and provide recommendations and bookings faster than any human travel agent can. Suggestions based on what the customer has preferred before will always be taken into account.
2. No more overbooking
In April 2017 a 69 year old doctor was forcibly removed from a United Express flight. The flight had been overbooked to the point where four seats had to be given up to accommodate cabin crew. The airline first asked for volunteers. After nobody volunteered to give up their seat, a random four names were produced by the system and told to vacate the plane. The first three complied, but the fourth refused and had to be dragged off the plane.
AI could have both prevented and controlled this situation. It could have analysed the booking system and staff rota to provide early warning to the airline’s crew scheduling. The airline would have more time to address the issue before the guests boarded the plane. Upon discovering the problem, AI could have assisted by analysing key demographic factors associated with each guest on the flight. The four names picked out could be those who are more likely to give up their seat than a doctor who needed to get home for important events. Younger people, for example, are more willing to be flexible. Nobody would have had to be dragged off the plane.
3. Virtual Personalised Service
Present AI interventions sift through large amounts of data to assess needs and make recommendations based on what has happened before. In the future we will see a shift towards more advanced systems that are able to use cognitive computing. They will be able to sift through data, understand and reason with it and then address a travellers needs in a way a human employee will find impossible
This is great news for frequent flyers and hotel guests who would have already left a vast road map of data to draw from. For example, an air hostess can have your favourite drink ready for you before you ask. Your hotel room could be at your optimal temperature with your favourite TV channel turned on. Everything will be done just the way you like it- offering a unique, personalised service.
The system can communicate with you intelligently in real time. For example it can inform you when you go to the wrong gate. This provides excellent service for you and benefits travel companies by creating customer loyalty.
4. Travel management will be integrated into everyday tools
PredictX uses big data to integrate all Travel Management Companies, expenses, financial and HR data into one intelligent system providing real-time analysis and prediction. Suggestions and real-time data on where and how their business travellers are spending as they travel is provided to travel managers.
PredictX is busy developing a future experience that is even more user-friendly. We are building a prototype to allow Travel Managers to ask Alexa what their total spend in each travel category is.
Other new technology will, in the near future, integrate travel management into business traveller’s everyday tools like Slack and their Outlook calendar, making the business traveller’s lives easier as well.
5. Personalised Assistants in hotels
The assistants will use natural language processing to allow guests to request wake up calls, order room service and personalise their hotel rooms. At Wynn Resorts Ltd, guests can use Alexa to control lights, drapery and the television.
“I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead on to making a guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient than the ability to talk to your room,” CEO Steve Wynn told The Verge.
Radisson Blu also has an AI sms system named Edward who acts as a virtual host for hotel guests, assisting them with check in and check out procedures plus any questions they may have during their stay.
Some hotels are taking AI even further, creating robots to act as butlers and bell boys. Japan’s Henn-na Hotel became the world’s first robot hotel. They have a humanoid robot, a dinosaur in a bell boy uniform and other robots that clean hotel rooms. The Hilton has Connie, a robot who acts as a virtual concierge. Marriott’s Starwood division introduced “Botlr” at the Aloft Hotel in Calif. The small robot acts as a butler, doing simple chores and supplying guests with small adhoc items at their request.
Robots, personal assistants, virtual travel agents and an intelligent system analysing traveller data. The future is not as far away as one may think. AI and its developments are already here. How long will they stay? The jury is still out.