Social media is rife with complaints about travel difficulties. Problems with booking travel arrangements, getting to the airport or train station on time, waiting in lines, and dealing with delays all take their toll.
All these travel issues make for less pleasant experiences. But AI in hospitality has started making its way into hotels and travel vendors in ways that may improve customer and provider experiences.
Intelligent assistants improve the booking process
Most people turn to the internet when looking to book their next business trip or family vacation. However, the search process for airfare, lodging, activities and more is still a complicated and time-consuming affair.
Online travel booking providers are now increasingly powered by AI to help provide tailored suggestions based on customers' recent searches and booking history. Companies like Expedia, for example, are already using machine learning to learn customer patterns and offer personalized lodging offers. Booking.com also helps users plan future trips by offering suggested destinations for future travel.
These AI-enabled travel providers are also able to monitor online information and send out timely alerts with personalized deals and offers. These companies are applying AI technology and, in particular, more advanced predictive analytics to understand consumer demand for travel-related goods or services, as well as to optimize and forecast prices.
In a sea of options in which no two vendors offer the same product at the same price, and even prices for the same offering vary wildly between different customers, the use of this sort of predictive analytics can help companies, such as hotels, offer customers a competitive rate and, ultimately, win the business.
Chatbots help provide instant answers
Today, more than ever, customers are demanding support every day of the week at any hour, and brands are taking notice.
Instead of using expensive customer support representatives, AI-powered chatbots are able to offer valuable customer engagement as front-line support. Customers can converse with these bots at any hour to get help with booking or changing a flight, booking a hotel room, making restaurant reservations, or getting suggestions of local tourist attractions based on user preference and seasonality.
Using more advanced AI-enabled technology, these bots are increasingly able to provide smarter and more helpful suggestions and answers. Bots are starting to be able to go off script in order to answer more complex questions or give greater detail than what's provided in simple FAQ-style answers, all while learning from previous interactions to better respond to future conversations.
AI helps resolve travel disruptions
Delays and disruptions are a fact of life in the travel industry. Weather is often a cause for delays and disruptions, in addition to other factors out of the control of travel providers. AI technologies are now helping to alleviate some of the stress and unnecessary delays.
Algorithms are able to better predict travel disruptions based on factors such as weather, current delays at airports, plane information and maintenance schedules. These algorithms can constantly monitor the various systems, identify travel delays or issues, and immediately notify airlines and travelers as needed. Airlines are now able to better optimize operations to improve efficiency and more immediately react and respond to disruptions in service. These initiatives can help airlines reduce costs.
In addition, AI in hospitality is being used by large hotel brands to observe delay patterns and to mitigate issues by proactively reaching out to customers about alternate lodging arrangements.
If you've booked a hotel in Tampa, but you're stuck in Tulsa, some of the large hotel brands are now able to automatically message you with an offer to switch your reservation if you are unable to make it to your desired destination. The use of big data combined with machine learning-enhanced predictive analytics makes this possible.
Airlines improve the check-in process with AI
Airlines are continuing to look for ways to improve their bottom line, speed up service and improve customer experience. Delta is turning to facial recognition technology to help customers improve the check-in process.
Rather than use a kiosk or a physical support representative, the company is employing facial recognition to expedite the check-in process from ticket printing to bag checking. The facial recognition technology is able to quickly match customers to their passport photos using identification verification, speeding up the check-in process and freeing up customer service agents to handle more important issues.
While this approach might concern those who are privacy- and security-conscious, it is already being used by various countries to assist with customs and border duties. In general, we've seen greater use of facial recognition across the whole of the travel and lodging industry, leading both to increased convenience, as well as improved security and customer satisfaction.
The hotel stay gets a technology upgrade
Many hotels are turning to AI technology not just for chatbots and customer support, but for operations inside the hotel, as well. Some hotels have concierge robots that can help guests with check-in; answer questions about the hotel, such as when breakfast is served or pool hours; help with billing; and more.
No longer do hotel guests need to worry about arriving late in the evening or search to find front desk staff, as these systems are always available. Some robots have also taken to light housekeeping, delivering room service and helping carry baggage.
Some hotel rooms also have voice assistants installed to continue to enhance the customer experience. With a few simple voice commands, customers can now do a variety of things, including order additional towels for their room, order room service or request a wake-up call. In addition, guests can use voice commands to turn lights on and off and control things like the TV, blinds and room temperature.
Overall, AI in hospitality is having a positive impact. These technologies are becoming more proactive rather than reactive, providing suggestions and recommendations based on personal preference and travel history. As AI technologies continue to get smarter over time, their use cases and usefulness will continue to increase, as well.