How tech is transforming travel  25th Jun 2018

Disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Bots and Blockchain are forcing industries to re-write their own value chains.

The global travel industry has enthusiastically adopted some of these advanced innovations across various business functions. The dynamic pace of disruption across smartphone, social media, digital space and visual content creation has transformed the way consumers search, book, pay and even submit claims and reimbursements for travel.

Newer technologies and digital platforms assist in improving customer experience. Technology helps in both customer acquisition and in customer retention, while offering the best possible service and experience to the end customers.

A 360-degree customer view

Big Data as a concept has been around with regard to multiple industries. Within the global travel, tourism and hospitality industry, it is primarily the large OTAs, metasearch players and branded hotel chains that have managed to use data to bring out insights that can help improve customer experience, using a mix of segmentation, personalisation, and supply-side insights.

Past search, booking, transactions and the click streams can help create user profiles which further help build cohort of customers and essentially create a wholesome view of each user. This data helps in better understanding a user’s intent of visit on the app or website—consequently preparing a customised user interface, sending relevant notifications and offers to convert ‘lookers’ into buyers. At the same time, supply-side insights help in surfacing the right product/inventory to the customer, thus increasing customer satisfaction and delight.

Banking on AI for relevance and precision

McKinsey’s Notes from the AI Frontier predicts that AI will have up to an 11.6% impact on travel industry revenues—the highest among any business stream so far. Today, hospitality and travel companies are delivering real added value by integrating artificial intelligence into online search and booking. The industry is adopting an AI-first approach, focussing on ‘relevance’ to build powerful messaging and product bundling capabilities based on context and traveler propensity. Today, newer technologies also decipher images, videos and audios that creates additional opportunities to predict and understand travellers’ needs better.

More value out of data

New digital mediums like chatbots have opened an advanced dimension, leveraging technology to take the customer experience to the next level. Chatbots are already helping airlines and online travel tech firms handle some of the simpler customer transactions, bookings, boarding passes etc, so that human agents can focus on more complex interactions.

As these chatbots mature, they will provide the opportunity to simplify and personalise the user experience throughout the travel lifecycle. Customers will benefit by facilitated search and booking, and travel providers by enhancing the user experience during travel, acting on data in real time to engage with consumers on a deeper level and drive conversions and, finally, collecting feedback post travel.

Bots using Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be deployed to accomplish more complex personalisation using AI for context. NLP and AI have the potential to add considerable value to all types of travel-related activities including allowing customers to perform travel search and booking—while talking in their native languages. For a country like India where there are multiple languages, and a huge population that finds it more convenient to communicate and transact in their native languages, this could make a very meaningful impact.

While some travel players are leading these changes, others are following to stay relevant in the market. With increased mobile phone penetration in Indian and data democratisation these tech-transformations are going to be central to all strategic decision making.


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