Travel volumes returned to pre-pandemic levels this year despite rising living costs. For travel industry enterprises, it means no longer worrying about demand and starting to implement innovations. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most promising technologies of today that may redefine the travel experience for all stakeholders.
A recent survey by Visa revealed that the travel surge occurring since Covid-19 limitations were lifted is not going to abate any time soon. While the majority of Americans surveyed by Visa (73%) have noticed an increase in travel costs, only 6% of travellers plan to cancel or delay their plans. People seek tourist trips for relaxation, adventures, and new experiences.
Reaching these goals can be facilitated and enriched by technology. One powerful example is the use of AI in the travel industry which is now starting to roll out globally.
What Can AI Do?
The potential of artificial intelligence for businesses, irrespective of the industry, is immense. First of all, it can help automate mundane routine operations for employees. It is able to process vast amounts of data with speed, ease and accuracy, unachievable for human professionals.
Moreover, the next iteration of this smart technology – generative AI – has natural language processing capabilities, helping businesses to cope with customer queries. Clients, in turn, can enjoy the benefits of genAI while doing a customised search or looking for creative suggestions.
Trip Planning Becomes Smarter With AI
The first application of AI which can drastically improve customer experience is smart itinerary planning. AI-powered travel platforms or personal planning apps can analyse user preferences, their travel and search history, current tourism trends, prices, and special offers for truly customised trip routes, accommodations, and activities.
AI-powered tour planning tools may offer the benefit of flexible itineraries, with updates based on real-time data such as weather, crowd density, traffic jams, flight cancellations, and user preferences.
Furthermore, besides planning your trip, an AI-enabled virtual assistant can serve as a travel agent, helping you make reservations, add the dates to your calendar, and even pay for your trip in a fast and seamless way.
For example, Indian fintech Paytm has recently partnered with Amadeus – a global travel platform. With AI-powered capabilities, Paytm will deliver hyper-personalised recommendations and dynamic pricing offerings to its customers, enabling them to find the best deals and book flights to destinations around the world within a single app.
Tourist Agencies and Hotels Can Use Chatbots for Customer Service
AI chatbots in hotel apps or on booking platforms can provide instant assistance in various travel-related situations, from ordering room service to providing local sightseeing recommendations.
In the early travel planning stages, chatbots can also answer common customer questions about hotel utilities, peculiarities of chosen destinations, payment methods, check-in and check-out rules, etc.
AI chatbots already help travellers search for flights, hotels, and car rentals, compare deals across platforms, and more. With advanced natural language processing capabilities, they become more convenient, allowing flexibility of use 24/7 in any given location.
Automation in Travel Increases Due to Modern AI Tools
AI-powered check-in and check-out automation tools are becoming increasingly common. Due to the use of innovative AI-driven facial recognition technology, travellers can pass immigration checkpoints or check in to their hotels avoiding long queues.
The ‘smart’ technology can also automate the backend work of travel agents. Travel agencies can automate some data processing with significant cost savings as well as improved performance, personalisation, privacy and security benefits. Quick and detailed data analysis can help them optimise operations and keep up with ever-changing customer behaviours and trends. Besides, AI-powered chatbots simplify the work of customer support by offering answers to frequently asked questions through automated responses.
AI Makes Car Trips More Enjoyable
Car rentals are popular among tourists exploring new regions or countries. AI use in the automotive industry enables automated experiences like giving directions with voice commands. Moreover, due to the advanced AI-enabled language translation apps, travellers can communicate with locals in real time, as well as navigate the vehicle like a local.
In addition, AI-driven navigation apps help tourists build the quickest, most sustainable or most picturesque routes across new cities, and alert them about changing traffic and weather conditions. In-vehicle generative AI tools can also potentially enable safer driving with fewer distractions, by connecting to other functions, e.g. initiating contactless phone calls, making reservations, placing orders, answering quick, free-flowing conversational queries about trip details or destinations, etc.
Travel and Hospitality Sector Can Optimise Maintenance and Schedules With AI
Hotels can equip their rooms with AI sensors and controls to offer highly personalised services such as climate control preferences, lighting settings, TV voice control, the temperature and firmness of the bed, wake-up nudges, and more. Besides, AI can help hotels implement energy-saving measures based on visitor data, making their overall operations more eco-friendly.
For airlines and railways, AI can bring the benefit of predicted maintenance, analysing the state and maintenance schedule of various systems, devices, and appliances. In addition, AI algorithms optimise flight and other transport schedules and routes, helping both providers and travellers choose the most cost-effective, sustainable and efficient options.
Airlines, railways, and bus transport services can also use advanced AI and data science algorithms to predict the demand for flights and rides. Relying on the analysis of statistics from the different segments of the travel industry, these predictive models can help save resources and optimise travel schedules to the changing trends.
Track Luggage Faster With AI
Lost or mixed-up baggage is a common problem for many travellers. AI-enabled sensors and NFC-tags along with rapid computer vision, can help travel companies recognise and track luggage better during different stages of the customer’s journey.
Currently, many airlines are working towards addressing the pain points of the majority of travellers, applying AI to the baggage re-routing process.
“We are working to deploy AI-based solutions to facilitate the management of mishandled baggage at a higher level of information for the user. We are working with companies like Lufthansa to develop AI-based solutions that will automatically rebook the baggage in the next available flight and allow the passenger to see where their baggage is.”
Sergio Colella, SITA President, Europe
AI-empowered tools and services can help tourism industry players improve their forecasting capabilities, data processing, and customer services. This innovative technology also greatly contributes to the level of customisation a company can offer. From individual climate controls in hotel rooms to highly personalised travel routes – AI can create an enjoyable and seamless experience for the tourist. This, in turn, will boost conversion rates and customer loyalty for tourism service providers.
Moreover, AI can help solve existing industry problems. For example, many airlines are already implementing the technology to track the missing luggage and return it to the rightful owner. The application of generative AI tools able to translate various languages also assists in international communication, eliminating the issue of cultural gaps and misunderstandings.