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The global pandemic significantly affected customer preferences and expectations. Social distancing is now strongly associated with massive digitalization in our private life and at work. In the meantime, the travel industry is rising from the ashes, trying to get to know this new type of customer.
In pursuit of their business goals, companies create “a perfect service”, which often means implementing innovations in regular operations. What tool to use to remain competitive and gain back what was lost during lockdowns? Artificial intelligence has a lot to answer.
How exactly can algorithms help travel agencies and their clients, and what will change in the near future? This article reveals the potential of AI in travel and hospitality.
How AI Technologies Impact Travel and Tourism: Trends and Figures
Using innovations is a natural development stage of modern travel businesses. Getting from point A to point B is no longer a luxury. The priority is given to experiences, from buying tickets to checking out of the hotel. What role does AI have in this ongoing process? Let us look at the stats.
- 82% of airlines globally are going to try out business intelligence in the upcoming years;
- In 2022, the usage of chatbots in branded and independent hotels is expected to grow by 42% and 64% respectively;
- According to a report provided by McKinsey & Company, modern AI analytics techniques are 128% more effective for the travel industry than traditional analytics methods. This is the highest rate compared to 18 other industries studied during the research;
- According to the same research, AI will likely bring the most value to the travel industry (around 400 billion USD) than to any other niche.
Trending AI-driven innovations in travel and hospitality
Artificial intelligence in the travel industry works even better when implemented with other state-of-the-art technologies, such as:
- IoT. Several interconnected devices located in one room can create a one-of-a-kind personalized service for hotel visitors. Plus, sensors store the visitor’s preferences in the database to help create well-targeted customer experiences and marketing campaigns.
- VR and AR. Traveling many miles has never been so easy. One can use virtual reality gadgets to ‘go’ to a place they consider visiting, and there is more. The first VR-based booking platform was introduced in 2017. Such solutions can also provide AI-based personalized recommendations or price predictions for the virtual world.
- Blockchain. This technology can help the travel industry by providing transparent payments, smart contract options, and data processing. AI algorithms, in their turn, greatly simplify the tracking of baggage or personal information.
Read also: How AI transforms mobile app development
AI inspires entrepreneurs and software developers to innovate and restore tourism after a massive pandemic shock. The following examples of artificial intelligence in the travel and hospitality industry will give you an idea of ongoing transformations.
The Most Popular AI Use Cases in Travel and Tourism
You have probably come across several of these AI tools during your traveling experience but never paid much attention to their true value. It is time to examine them more closely.
1. Smart booking assistants (chatbots)
With modern online services, clients do not have to visit travel agencies to plan their trips. Technologies have gone even further: now customers do not have to talk to travel agents to make necessary arrangements. AI-powered chatbots have all questions answered.
They help book flights, accommodations, and even cars for rent. As a rule, these assistants are in-built into messengers or social media to make service for travelers more “natural-looking”.
Big market players, such as Booking.com or Skyscanner have been utilizing smart assistants for some time. The communication is simple but effective for users. They type in desired destination points, and chatbots provide all required details based on dynamic prices and availability.
2. Personalized recommendations
Machine learning algorithms started a new era in the recommendation service. They continuously track user activity and create personalized suggestions accordingly. It is no secret that personalization is the key engine for customer satisfaction.
According to McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect a personalized approach, and 76% get frustrated if they do not get it. Ignoring personalization becomes a highly hazardous business decision with time.
Strictly speaking, all big travel aggregators offer advanced recommendations. Otherwise, users may get lost in the myriads of hotel options and leave unsatisfied. To prevent this, Expedia provides recommendations for every platform visitor. If you are interested in technical details, here you’ll find a detailed explanation of how it works.
3. Sentiment analysis
Every user leaves a unique online mark. We post photos, share impressions, repost content, etc. We do it every day, and technologies are aware of our actions.
Using machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), companies from the hospitality industry get a complete overview of what people think about their service (or the services of others). In other words, they analyze users’ sentiments on social media platforms or any other online resources.
Can you imagine tracking it manually? Maybe, you or your employees have done it already, so you probably realize how much time and effort it takes. But technologies have changed everything.
You can find several ready-made solutions to analyze user reviews and, more importantly, derive valuable insights from them. IBM Watson offers Qualaroo, while HubSpot provides a dedicated customer service platform Service Hub.
4. Flight forecasting
Any person traveling by plane knows how hard it is to buy a plane ticket at the lowest price. But what if technologies do all the hard work? Innovative apps driven by AI algorithms help travelers find the most profitable deal and provide cost predictions.
Hopper is probably the most popular platform with flight booking and prediction features. Platform creators implemented sophisticated ML algorithms allowing users to book plane tickets and hotel rooms at the best price even a year ahead.
But that is not all. Hopper offers another AI-powered feature we already mentioned, which is personal recommendations based on the user’s search history. The app also informs users about the most attractive discounts via push notifications for travelers to quickly “hop” to the best deal.
5. Facial recognition
Facial recognition is another increasingly popular application of AI in the travel industry. As the name suggests, it helps identify a person by comparing their facial features with images available in the database.
Read also: How to build smarter apps with AI?
This use case is already employed at airports, train stations, hotels, and other places, providing tourists and travelers with an easy access to these facilities and saving their time. Going further, it also guarantees a high level of security for a particular business and its personnel.
It is not exactly a market example, but still, it demonstrates how artificial intelligence becomes a game-changer on all levels of decision-making. As of July 2022, the U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) service used facial recognition at 32 airports for those traveling abroad and at all airports for those who arrive in the country.
This biometric recognition is a part of the Simplified Arrival program launched in 2018. It is stated that manual facial verification takes 10 to 30 seconds, while algorithms cut it to two-three seconds.
6. Baggage handling systems
It is time to say goodbye to well-known baggage labels – AI algorithms will handle the task way more successfully. Plus, it is environmentally friendly. What exactly do we mean by that?
While the number of travelers grows yearly, specialists from the travel and tourism industry are looking for a way to optimize baggage processing. And here it is. Computer vision technology can trace the tiniest bag characteristics and send a complete bag “profile” to the database. Machine learning then distinguishes the right baggage according to its unique portrait.
AI-based baggage handling was first tested in 2020 by BagsID at Eindhoven Airport and proved successful. The pilot is extended till 2023 to provide higher accuracy and improve customer service.
Travelers take a photo of their luggage and upload it to the system. This is the only step needed to track the bag wherever it may appear. At first, such a system does not seem reliable, but mind that every bag is unique, considering size parameters, spots, scratches, dints, and so on. As the creators say, “Pictures do not lie.”
7. Robotized self-service
Are you ready to hire a robot for customer services? Surprisingly or not, the robotized staff is appearing in different corners of the world, and the Covid pandemic has played a significant role in it.
Robots can speed up numerous daily operations, make assumptions based on vast amount of data, and deal with several tasks at a time way more effectively than humans.
Connie, created by IBM Watson for Hilton hotels, is a classic example of a robotic concierge first presented in 2016.
Connie understands human speech using voice recognition technology and can answer client queries. Machine learning helps the robot study on the go and become smarter with every new interaction.
The Future of AI and Machine Learning in the Travel Industry
We can say for sure that the use of artificial intelligence is gaining momentum across many industries, and tourism is only a part of the big change occurring in the world. Let us try to forecast what will happen in the upcoming years.
In November 2022, the global population reached the eight billion mark. For travel and hospitality, it means increasing passenger traffic and fewer rooms for hotel visitors.
Advanced data analytics with deep learning algorithms will help travel companies make occupancy predictions accurately, optimize their resources, and plan marketing activities a lot more effectively.
AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things)
The combination of AI and the Internet of Things will continue to be a thing in travel and hospitality. This time, we mean a recent innovation of autonomous cars. The Waymo One ride-hailing service is now available in two US cities, but soon, it may become a trend and spread within the country or even globally.
Autonomous (also known as self-driving) cars do not require any human involvement during the trip, which provokes a lot of questions and concerns. But, as with any other innovation, these cars are still being perfected to ensure the security and reliability important for passengers.
Customers may come for products (or services), but they stay because of great experiences. A big portion of it is given to personalization. While it is a common feature already, it is also a quickly-evolving innovation.
Read also: Will AI algorithms replace content creators?
The latest niche advancements demonstrate that businesses can hit the right spot with the highest precision ever. Technologies allow companies to treat travelers as individuals with their distinctive set of traits. Thus, each person will find something unique for themselves. It may be one product (or service), but, at the same time, it is myriads of experiences.
NLP for exquisite translation services
You can hardly find a hotel manager or travel agent speaking more than three languages. Instead, you can turn to modern technologies that understand dozens of languages and are capable of providing answers.
The latest developments provided by OpenAI give extra powers to NLP solutions. GPT-3 is the largest neural network collecting vast amounts of data from the entire Internet. Technologies have never been this close to a high-quality translation.
Experts do not question if businesses will use artificial intelligence in travel. The revolution is happening just as you are reading this article. Be it website chatbots or concierge robots, AI brings higher transparency, flexibility, and convenience to the industry. What business would give that up?
If you are wondering what AI use case to implement in your company, contact our team. CHI Software has managed various business challenges with the power of smart algorithms, and we will gladly share what we have learned so far.
About the author
Polina is a curious writer who strongly believes in the power of quality content. She loves telling stories about trending innovations and making them understandable for the reader. Her favorite subjects include AI, AR, VR, IoT, design, and management.