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Conversational AI Solutions for the Travel Industry

Are you planning a vacation? Conversational AI can help.
As humans, we love to explore, we love to travel.
And we expect this experience to be frictionless from the beginning to the end.
We hate to lose time with googling for the right hotel among hundreds of other options. We don’t like to navigate across complicated phone menus to reserve a room or spend time to purchase a ticket.
Fortunately, tourism industry has discovered conversational AI technologies. The more they implement these technologies, the more we can enjoy our experiences.
What is Conversational AI?
Conversational AI is a type of artificial intelligence that enables a natural interaction between humans and machines. With the help of natural language processing, conversational AI allows users to interact with systems via natural speech. For example, they can complete a task by simply saying “I want to make a reservation” or “I want to buy a ticket.”
Conversational AI for the Travel Industry
Planning A Trip with a Chatbot
Planning a trip can be quite a task for travelers.  Planning requires users to make various calls, send emails and even visit a travel agency. Each of these options means additional tasks to complete for users and an extra workload for the personnel.
Conversational AI solutions simplify these tasks by helping users to make reservations via natural language. Users can use text or voice commands to find a hotel, reserve a room, buy a ticket or update a reservation.
Brands implement conversational AI into their customer services to help customers in the researching, planning, and booking phases of their travel program.
For example, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers a chatbot to improve and simplify customer service. The bot answers users’ questions and allows them to search and book tickets. By using this technology, KLM managed to decrease the workload of its call center agents.
Booking.com also offers an AI-enabled booking assistant, which can answer queries on issues such as payment, transport, arrival and departure times and date changes. The bot answers questions from customers after they have booked their accommodation. This conversational AI bot can deal with nearly 50% of customers’ post-booking accommodation inquiries.
Controlling a Smart Hotel Room with a Virtual Assistant
Today, hotels are embracing virtual assistant technology to offer enhanced services for their guests. These technologies help hotels to deliver personalized and practical guest services. Hotel guests can complete various tasks by interacting with virtual assistants. They can control smart devices in the room, play music and search for local businesses and services just by using voice commands.
For example, Marriott Hotels put Amazon Alexa in its rooms. Marriott guests ask Alexa to control room temperature, lighting, the TV, play music, set an alarm, give weather updates, travel updates, order room service, housekeeping, call reception, and check out.
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts collaborated with Baidu to offer guests unique experience at its InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun and InterContinental Guangzhou Exhibition Centre. The hotel implemented a smart virtual assistant which allows guests to control the room’s lights, curtains, etc. via natural speech. For example, if a guest says “I’m going to bed” the system triggers the curtains to close and lights to dim.
Divan Hotels in Turkey also offer virtual assistants for their guests. The hotel chain preferred Arçelik Asista, Turkey’s first Smart Home Assistant. Asista, which includes Sestek Natural Dialogtechnologies, supports English, Turkish and Arabic languages. The assistant allows guests to control lighting, curtains, the air conditioner, and the TV by using natural speech.
What end results does Conversational AI provide to Travel Industry?
Enhanced Experiences
Users enjoy the easiness in their lives. These technologies allow them to complete numerous tasks through conversation without hassle. They not only enjoy ordering food by just talking to a smart speaker but also can get personal recommendations from it. They expect the same experience from travel businesses. And the travel industry is doing its best to engage these new technologies into their services.
To sum up, Conversational AI technologies enhance customer experience by:
  • Understanding what they say and what they mean thanks to advanced AI and NLP capabilities.
  • Saving customers from traditional interaction methods like talking to an agent to book a ticket or reserve a room.
  • Performing intelligent tasks, providing real-time information, and even controlling other smart devices nearby.
  • Offering personalized recommendations based on customers’ preferences.
  • Shortening response times and streamlining processes to perfect the customer experience

Business Opportunities due to Higher Automation
According to Lodging Technology Study, 70% of hoteliers’ believe conversational AI devices have the most potential out of emerging technologies.
Conversational AI solutions increase self-service rates by increasing automation. Using these solutions instead of live agents help businesses save operational costs. While an agent could answer only one customer at a time, conversational AI solutions can answer tens of customers simultaneously.
Answering customers’ questions on time means a lot for the travel industry. By implementing AI-based solutions, travel businesses not only enhance customer experience but also free up staff from repeating tasks and allow them to focus on genuine relationship-building with customers.
Besides, conversational AI solutions can offer an opportunity to upsell/cross sell, thanks to their technical capabilities like natural language understanding and intent recognition. A chatbot can utilize upsell/cross sell opportunities during the interaction with a guest. For example, when a guest reserves a room, the bot can step in to offer additional services like massage or spa. This helps travel businesses enjoy new income opportunities without the cost of hiring additional sales staff.
Young and Dynamic Brand Image
Up to 55% of millennials report that interacting with a chatbot has changed their perception of a business in a positive manner. Young population embraces AI-based self-service solutions. By offering such services, businesses can reach millennials and build a younger brand image.
Conversational AI technology is still a novelty. Businesses in the travel industry can use these technologies for differentiation purposes.  They can position themselves as a forward-thinking and technology-literate brand.
Conversational AI provides a huge advancement in the way we interact with machines. Implementation of these technologies are increasing as they are becoming more and more mainstream. The travel industry is among the early adopters of conversational AI solutions. With the help of these technologies travel businesses not only automate their customer services to save money but also enhance the customer experience and increase loyalty.

AuthorHilal Bakanay

Senior Marketing Specialist, Sestek https://www.linkedin.com/in/hilalbakanay/

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