Words by Andy Owen Jones, CEO bd4travel GmbH
With so many different options when it comes to travel, personalisation can greatly improve a visitor’s experience. Quite often, travel sites rely on traditional retail approaches to personalisation - such as creating suggestions based on past purchases.
A past travel purchase is often very different from a current travel purchase, though. For example, someone who booked a trip around a wedding may book their next trip for a family vacation. Both experiences, booked by the same person, have very different needs in terms of accommodations, possible destinations, duration and cost.
AI can be used to personalise a user’s experience on your site in real-time by analysing a user’s current behaviour. As a visitor navigates a website, they put out “signals,” showing their search intent. These signals are used to adjust the search experience and help provide recommendations related to a visitor’s desired experience, luxury level, childcare and activity considerations and so on.
This type of personalisation helps business in a big way as well. The longer a user engages with a particular site, the more likely they are to book on that site. Also, you can see what your site visitors’ current interests are, for example a rising trend in non-Mediterranean beach vacations, and create new offers more likely to convert based on this interest.
Intelligent Travel Assistants
AI-driven travel assistants can be used to help create a supportive and personalised experience on a site, offering advice and help in certain predefined situations. This is like a travel agent guiding the user through the site in the form of a chatbot. Chatbots have moved from generic questions and answers to interactions based on current desires, past experiences, and the difference between the two the customer is looking to experience.
For example, a customer may want another beach holiday in Spain, but at a different beach and with a bigger pool. Or they desire a similar hotel to their last city trip to Paris, but in a different city. Advances in this technology mean the interaction is more natural and can be used for a wider category of topics.
AI-driven travel assistants aren’t limited to chatbots, though. At the latest travel tech fairs humanoid assistant robots were presented for use in busy tourism offices - to assist travelers while waiting for a representative. These prototypes aren’t meant to replace agents. Instead, they are used to gather basic information while a customer waits. When a customer approaches the desk, the agent is already informed of their needs and can provide more detailed assistance or recommendations.
Customer Service and Loyalty
Instead of generic messages from the loyalty program, AI will be used to personalise many interactions with the traveler and the provider. This could be in the form of offers based on predicted interests and desired experiences, such as a special offer on a holiday itinerary previously looked at intensively but not booked.
This also extends to the travel booking experience and combines with the intelligent travel assistant. And AI can be used to determine when a user would benefit more from speaking with a person than continuing to search for himself. He’ll receive a unique code and number to call. The representative receives the information about his search and he doesn’t need to repeat what he’s already done. This creates a more effective interaction and can result in higher spending as well. 8 in 10 consumers would spend more with an organization for better customer service.
AI applications continue to evolve. These three areas are only the beginning of how AI can change the travel industry.