Imagine your bus company had the ability to respond to inquiries instantaneously, provide a highly personalized experience, and consistently improve sales. And we mean 24/7, not limited to business hours. Well, this opportunity now exists – it’s called AI. It doesn’t end there either as AI is also a powerful analytical tool for businesses in the bus and rail market.
Over the years the industry has seen the emergence of tools such as travel apps which simplify reservations, chatbots which assist in customer service, and digital assistants which can find you a seat on the train. The technology is improving daily and has helped to simplify many aspects of our lives.
The Effects Of AI On The Travel Industry
According to a report compiled by Booking.com, Travellers are increasingly accepting of the presence of AI. Nearly 30% of them indicated that they would be willing to let a computer plan their upcoming trip based on their travel history.
Currently, it is common practice for businesses to collect and store traveller information. As this translates into more data for AI to learn from, the algorithms driving the technology will improve in efficacy and ultimately improve customer satisfaction through personalization of the entire interaction from planning to journey.
Let’s look at some examples of how AI is shaping the industry.
1. Research and Planning
With the rise of mobile, Travellers have become more accustomed to instant gratification. At the same time, they are also on the lookout for a personalized experience throughout the research and planning phase to the actual journey. Travel businesses increase sales conversions when they meet expectations on this front, but of course, the competition is stiff.
One way this demand for instant information has been met is through chatbots which respond to and even predict traveller’s requests for information.
Take Trainline UK’s travel app which helps passengers plan their journey. In the app, passengers receive a ticket price prediction which tries to pre-empt their demand for specific tickets. The app also indicates how long tickets will be available at the given price, how many tickets are available, and what the cheapest ticket is each day.
2. Travel Reservations
Naturally performing online bookings involves a person navigating a booking form and entering information into a website. While most travel companies make this as simple a process as possible to perform, the reality is that it does require a bit of time, especially when travellers are not familiar with the landscape.
AI is assisting with performing reservations now too, and we will look at AMTRAK’s Julie as an example of this. The US Rail service wanted to make it even easier for their 375,000 daily website visitors to access their online ticketing platform. As a result, Julie was developed to provide customer assistance.
With the help of the virtual assistant, Travellers can book their rail tickets by simply entering the details of where and when they would like to travel. Julie assists by filling out forms on the scheduling tool and providing guidance throughout the booking. She can also supply information related to travel on the trains, or help make hotel and rental car reservations.
3. Improved Travel Insights
All travel businesses will agree that creating a flawless customer experience is paramount to their success. Embodying that from booking through to the travel itself, is something that can be enhanced by learning from the data that businesses receive from travellers.
In addition to their travel app, railway service provider Trainline has BusyBot. This Bot uses crowdsourced data to provide passengers with insights regarding their trip. The Bot will indicate where a person is most likely to find a seat on the train according to their specific journey.
4. Cashless Payment Options
Of course, payment is a prominent part of travel. So it is natural that AI has entered into the picture here too.
An interesting example is Melia Hotel’s electronic bracelet. When wearing the bracelet device, hotel guests staying at Magaluf, which is one of their popular Spanish resorts, can pay for hotel purchases as well as unlock and access their room.
The bracelet syncs to the hotel chain’s mobile app and guests can personalize and control the payment limit settings for each bracelet.
Although still in the early stages of development, Travel companies hope to use this sort of data gathered about their guest’s habits to personalize marketing and travel experiences even further. This brings us to our last point.
5. Data Analysis
While AI is featuring prominently in the customer service sphere at the moment, its ability to analyze data from interactions should not be overlooked.
We live in a data-driven world, and from a business aspect, AI can be used to present travel businesses with information which drives strategic decisions. As an example, the Dorchester Collection used AI to analyze customer feedback, surveys, online polls and reviews in order to get insight on public perception of their brand.
With insights provided on various important travel metrics concerning traveller behaviour, data can be used to refine a business’ travel offering in a competitive market.
As technology advances and traveller’s needs change, the prominence of AI in the travel industry will only increase. The goal of travel businesses now should be to use it to their advantage before their competitors do!
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