How AI is Changing the Travel Industry

Artifical Intelligence Travel Industry

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neural networks are words that are often seen in today’s business technology headlines. Are robots taking over the world? Or are they just here to help you find the best hotel for your next holiday?

Artificial intelligence may seem like the bane of some futuristic, dystopian society but you’ve probably already come into contact with it in something as simple as booking a hotel or flight.

Making Recommendations

If you have ever binged watched a series or two on Netflix, you’ve seen the ‘what to watch next’ recommendations pop up on the screen. This is similar to what you can expect when searching for holiday destinations on an OTA. You will see recommendations based on your previous searches and bookings. This is also the case if you book a flight to LA, for example. Typically, you will be taken to a page offering hotel and car rental options in the Los Angeles area after booking. OTA’s can even recommend alternative travel dates, destinations and local sightseeing options based on your search queries.

These data-driven recommendation tools are widely adopted by OTAs. It’s common for users to receive recommendations based on their previous searches or even what others have booked. Google Flights, for example, gives you ‘Date Tips’ that suggest cheaper travel times and cheaper airports based on your destination. Kayak, among many others, provides a map view of an area that displays prices of hotels as well as ‘popular area’ views. This gives you a heat map of your destination city showing eating, sightseeing, shopping, and nightlife.

Google Flights Date Tips

Dynamic Pricing

Hotels change room pricing many times every day based on different variables in the market. They use data such as pricing, weather, user booking pattern, occupancy, room types and more. As time goes on, more and more data points will be added, allowing hotels to adjust prices to an even more accurate degree. For example, if a hotel in LA only has a few rooms left during the summer when the forecast calls for sunny skies, the price of the room will be higher than during a cloudy day in February. Data-driven pricing can be used by hoteliers to drive more direct bookings and stay competitive.

One example of a hotel brand using dynamic pricing is Starwood Hotels. The company spent $50 million over three years to develop an analytics engine to alter hotel pricing rates on the fly, and the technology has improved demand forecasting by 20 percent since 2015.

Travel Assistants

Often appearing within instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Slack, AI travel assistants (also known as chatbots) can help you plan your entire trip. They do everything from searching for the best flight and hotel deals to giving suggestions on tourist attractions like the best places to eat or museums to visit. You can even ask them for flight, airport, and traffic information, making them perfect a perfect resource while on the go. The uses of these assistants will be amplified in the future as more travelers use voice devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas revealed a new AI concierge named Rose. This is both a differentiation effort and a way to improve guest services. When guests check in at the Cosmopolitan, they receive Rose’s phone number to text with any hotel inquiries. Kayak’s integration with Google Assistant and Hipmunk’s Hello Hipmunk are examples of travel assistants on the metasearch side that give you a variety of options and answer questions for planning your trip.

Self Flying Planes

It may make you a bit nervous to hear that aircraft manufacturers like Boeing are stepping into the pilotless passenger airplane game. Afterall, would you trust Skynet with your life over a trained pilot in a nice suit?

But today’s airplanes are already built to basically fly themselves, using a mixture of auto-piloting and manual controls to get you from point A to B. The mix of human versus machine control also depends on where you are flying from. US airlines require the pilots to retain some level of control, while in Asia it’s more common for autonomous control to be enforced. While autonomous planes could save airlines billions per year, a UBS report showed that only 17% of travelers are willing to fly without a pilot.

Actual Robots

Don’t worry, they don’t look like Arnold…yet. Robots are being tested in the hospitality market as concierge assistants in hotels, baggage checkers at airports, and bartenders on cruise ships.

Last year, Hilton Worldwide launched its Watson-powered hotel concierge robot, “Connie.” Connie uses Watson and WayBlazer’s domain knowledge to provide guests with information on local tourist attractions, dining recommendations, and hotel features. Another example is in the Oakland Airport, where “Pepper” the robot greets travelers in Terminal 2 and offers assistance and recommendations. With an interactive map displayed on Pepper’s screen, travelers are able to find directions, restrooms and other points of interest in the airport.

Pepper the Robot

Using robots to complement customer service is becoming more popular in airports. Additional airlines and airports that are embracing robotic assistance include Glasgow Airport, Haneda Airport, Japan Airlines, and KLM.

How has your travel experience been influenced by AI?

Technology , Travel