March 20, 2018, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
For many consumers, the travel booking experience is usually tedious and impersonal. Most resources, such as booking sites, are created for the masses and not aimed at travelers' individual needs and preferences. In other industries, we're seeing how advanced technology (such as AI and big data) is actually helping to drive personalization and more customized experiences.
Travel companies need to look in this direction and find ways to deliver the particular experiences their customers want.
The Need For Change
Many leaders in the travel industry are calling for significant changes in the status quo. At a recent EyeforTravel conference in Miami, the Smart Travel Data Summit North America, Abhijit Pal, head of research for Expedia's Global Partner Group, called for greater personalization and making better use of technological advances. People in travel are starting to recognize that it's no longer enough to conduct business the same way they did 10 years ago. What are some of the factors that make this transformation necessary? Let’s take a look.
The Experience Economy
Today's travelers want experiences. One of the biggest shifts in recent years is that people are increasingly valuing experiences over traditional amenities. This trend is especially prominent among millennials, who are helping to create what is sometimes termed the "experience economy." One survey found that 72% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than material things. This is extremely significant for the travel industry, which often supplies some of the most exciting experiences.
In many cases, however, people have to book these experiences separately from their plane tickets and hotel rooms. Airbnb is moving in the right direction by listing experiences as well as rooms on its platform. However, as a whole, the travel industry has a long way to go. Too many companies still offer generic choices that don't take into account people's preferences for interesting in-destination experiences.
How Technology Drives Change in Travel
The internet brought about drastic changes in the late 1990s and beyond, making it much faster and easier to look up airfares, book flights and hotels, and research destinations. While these were welcome and exciting changes, they also had some drawbacks. In the pre-internet days, many people booked trips with travel agents. This was a personalized experienced, where the customer could sit down and talk, either in person or over the phone, with a live person. In the digital age, the process has become automated and less personal as people book trips online. Recent advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence and big data, however, are making it possible to bring about the best of both worlds. Travel companies and customers can make the most of the speed and efficiency of data while bringing back the human element.
Benefits of More Personalized Travel Services
Making travel arrangements more personal while still utilizing the latest technology has a number of advantages.
- Provide customers with personal recommendations. The success of companies such as Amazon and Netflix is partly based on their practice of noting customers' preferences and recommending products accordingly. There's no reason travel companies can't do the same, using data and past purchases to make better recommendations.
- Help people find the experiences they prefer. As more travelers seek unique in-destination activities and experiences, travel companies can identify the best choices and bundle these with other services, such as flights and hotels.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) can bring people more accurate information about flights, accommodations, prices, destinations and experiences. Chatbots can answer questions quickly. Virtual reality can give people a realistic preview of destinations.
As more travel professionals appreciate the need to bring the human element back into travel, we can expect some big changes over the next few years. When applied correctly, advanced technology doesn't have to mean less personalization. It can, in fact, lead to just the opposite: more targeted and personalized services that treat each customer like a unique individual.
To find out how Utrip can help you personalize travel with the most advanced artificial intelligence recommendation platform, contact us today.