November 7, 2017, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
With the current digital transformation that every industry is going through, it is no surprise that the travel industry is currently experiencing that as well. There is one trend though, that not every industry has quite embraced yet, but it has the potential to really drive success - and that is artificial intelligence.
The concept sounds abstract, and perhaps that’s why many businesses are shying away. Artificial intelligence, however, has the ability to automate and transform like no other, and for travel businesses looking to scale operations for growth, artificial intelligence is absolutely vital.
According to the Washington Post, most travel businesses are currently using artificial intelligence in their IT departments, mainly to process payments and other financial reasons. But many travel businesses are now understanding its positive impact and hoping to incorporate it into marketing efforts.
But What's the Real Benefit?
In a nutshell, artificial intelligence provides travel businesses with more opportunities:
- increased personalization
- better customer experience
- increased direct bookings
- increased loyalty
These four components not only help businesses become stronger, but are crucial for creating a customer experience that is rooted in personalization and provides a tailored experience. And this is not just one sector of the travel industry that needs to invest in artificial intelligence - it goes across the industry.
A recent article in The Guardian shed more light on this and how hotels and airlines are now expanding their investments into artificial intelligence. Businesses are finding that artificial intelligence is essential for boosting loyalty because it is "helping hoteliers know more about their customers, in order to better meet their needs and win repeat business."
At the end of the day, the travel industry is known for rewarding customer loyalty - from airline miles to hotel points and other schemes designed to encourage repeat behavior. However, the current struggle many in the industry face is how to find customers in the first place and how to maintain their loyalty throughout.
While there is value in providing consistent service to existing guests to encourage that loyal sentiment, it must go deeper. To thrive in today's travel industry, it is simply not enough to provide a door-to-door great experience - that needs to start from the very beginning.
Artificial intelligence is really the only scalable way to cultivate that sense of personalization from the very start of the customer experience. There is more nuance now because customers are far more discerning in what they are seeking from their travel experience, both on the ground and on the web.
And this means that artificial intelligence measures need to be deployed early on, in order to capture maximum attention and maintain that level of engagement. Travel businesses must find ways to incorporate artificial intelligence from the very beginning and continue that throughout the digital experience.
The Guardian provides some examples of how artificial intelligence can be used to increase loyalty by personalization. Wait staff could, for instance, be provided information beforehand on what kind of drinks and dinner guests might prefer, or anticipate dietary needs and recommend items from the menu.
Increased loyalty is something that every business in the travel industry strives for. After all, a loyal customer base signals that you are currently on the right path and are able to provide a consistent experience.
Previous approaches worked well with past customers, but modern travelers have a very specific idea of what they want. In order to provide the right level of service and personalization, artificial intelligence needs to play a much bigger role in overall strategy to capture customer attention - and keep it.