As AI gets smarter and blockchain moves more into mainstream use, business travel will become more personalized and seamless.
Regular business travelers know the experience can leave much to be desired. From clunky booking tools and lost reservations to tedious expense reporting, the entire experience is rife with potential pitfalls that cost time and cause frustration.
The coming years, however, will bring pivotal changes that look to improve business travel. Recent technological innovations, coupled with an increased focus on traveler satisfaction, means that travel is becoming more personalized, flexible, and seamless.
People have already come to expect personalized experiences when accessing information. When searching for a restaurant, for example, the results are based on signals such as date, time of day, location, and the user's own purchase history. Advancements in AI mean that this kind of customization will soon completely permeate the travel industry.
Business travelers generate a significant amount of data about their preferences, and various platforms will be able to use this information to individualize booking and offer advice.
These services will function like personal assistants, pointing travelers toward hotels within their companies' travel policies, for instance, or where the travelers themselves are loyalty members. Taking it a step further, chatbots and digital assistants will be able to use that information to book preferred accommodations for travelers based only on travel date and destination information, reducing the time and energy spent on booking travel.
The same technologies that make these personalized recommendations and services will start to allow for more flexibility. Travelers are fed up with inconveniences like waiting until 3pm to check in, so hotels will have to become more flexible with options for shorter or longer stays and to offer more accommodation types and amenities in order to ensure they meet travelers' needs. An AI that functions like a personal assistant can interface with a hotel's booking platforms to build in the precise accommodations a traveler needs.
Travelers are also weary of having to wait in line after line and fish out their credit cards and identification every step of the way from home to the hotel. By the time they arrive at the hotel, they just want to check-in and collapse in their beds. Unfortunately, checking in means waiting in another line to show those same credentials once again.
Within the next few years, the check-in process could be revamped in multiple ways. Instead of showing IDs, travelers may be able to check in to their flights and hotels using facial recognition driven by machine learning.
Blockchain technology can also be used to safely secure identity details. With this in place, travelers won't need to provide all their information upon check-in. In the short term, this will mean not having to carry a passport, which is easily lost, or being denied entry if the name on the ID is lacking the middle initial on the credit card. A pilot facial recognition program in the airline industry was unveiled recently at Boston Logan International Airport, where it proved to have a high success rate. When combined with blockchain technology, facial recognition can completely alter the rhythm of traveling for work.
Eventually, travelers may be able to just scan their faces using their phones and check in to flights and hotels entirely digitally. Similarly, places like Disney are experimenting with wearables that allow travelers to check in using a device. The devices also give them opportunities to purchase services and goods at the venue and nearby participating businesses.
A combination of technologies will streamline and improve the hotel experience in particular. Blockchain can eliminate the hassles of missing reservations, wrong names on a room, and paying for business travel with personal credit cards. And as hotels adopt smart room technology, travelers will be able to easily control their room temperatures, manage their entertainment preferences, and even order food from their phones. These types of amenities are being studied qualitatively and piloted in upscale hotels around the country, giving guests more control and flexibility from end to end.
While these trends focus on the traveler experience, many of the same technologies will also improve travel buyers' programs. As AI gets smarter and blockchain moves more into mainstream use, these advancements will help ease the frustrations felt by all parties.
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