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5 Ways Automation Is Revolutionising the Travel Sector

20 years ago there were many hoops to jump through in order to book a holiday. Travellers had to seek the assistance of travel agents or dedicate themselves to studying guidebooks. The key force in this transformation has been automation, allowing anyone with a phone or computer to book entire holidays in an instant. The following list shows automation current and future footholds in the travel sector.

Transparency

Information encourages travel, especially when it comes from an independent sourced on trip advisor or trusted media outlets. It is easy for every minute detail of accommodation, transport, and hospitality to be sourced and cross-referenced. This democratisation of information gives travellers peace of mind knowing that they can avoid

This principle has also allowed community based platforms to flourish, from Couchsurfing to Blablacar and a plethora of social media pages in between. The spirit of travel has always had elements of benevolence and current platforms are simply accelerating that goodwill.

Going mobile

Travel itself is inherently mobile so it makes sense that 24/7 bookings, UX-friendly apps, and mobile ancillaries are flooding the industry.

“Digital technology has changed the way we connect with guests, creating a 24/7 relationship in and out of stay,” says Stephan Croix, vice-president of marketing at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, owner of hotel chains W Hotels and Aloft.

“It is also transforming every phase of hospitality – from finding a hotel, to checking in, to unlocking your door and personalising your stay. As travel is inherently mobile, travellers expect to use their mobile devices to enrich their travel experiences,” Croix says.

As a result, Starwood has adapted and invested in mobile, leading to overall mobile gross bookings rising more than 50% in 2015 compared with the year before.

Despite more people still utilising computers to book their travel (77%) compared to mobile (8%), a closer look at the figures from Kayak show that 18% of younger British travellers are already booking through the latter.

The above statistics, coupled with the fact that the travel industry is currently inundated with new mobile ventures suggest that the only way is up. Furthermore 25% of British consumers abandoned their mobile travel purchase in process, amid concerns of security. With security set to improve on mobile devices, this serves as further evidence that mobile will soon become the predominant channel through which to book travel.

Personalisation

The next few years will see travellers requiring an increasingly personalised service, with companies able to suggest them customised products on the basis of their profiles and past behaviour,” says Rossini. With many travellers already seeking a more customised and “local” experience, truly personalised trips are already beginning to take off.

Airbnb serves as a standout example for this particular growing trend. CMO Jonathan Mildenhall outlined Airbnb’s approach to the industry last year by highlighting personalisation as the aspect which sets it apart from other travel companies. Mildenhall highlights the new guidebook feature, which is a communal piece of content that hosts contribute to, submitting various recommendations within their local neighbourhood. Furthermore, a ‘match’ feature has been introduced in order to find more like-minded hosts and add authenticity to a trip. As can be seen through their recent updates, Airbnb are pushing for more personalisation in order to provide each individual with an experience that is relevant to them.

Artificial intelligence

Customer service – Customer service is pivotal in dictating the reputation of any given hotel. As a result, AI’s ability to predict a customer’s needs is one key reason why hotels are exploring such an avenue.

The most well documented example of last year was that of Hilton, who teamed up with IBM’s Watson to create Connie – a robot providing help and information to hotel guests throughout their stay.

This works by extracting information from ‘Wayblazer’ – a travel advice tool that uses a combination of Watson and human speech. In essence, the more people talk to Connie, the more information it will be capable of interpreting and analysing.

Direct messaging – Alongside virtual reality and live video, chatbot technology was another big trend of 2016 that looks set to grow yet further this year. Although technology is still in its infancy, making its implementation in the complex travel industry a challenge, many travel brands have made their first inroads in the past year.

The best example is Expedia, who last year launched Facebook and Skype chatbots as well as a new ‘Expedia skill’ for Alexa. With this particular technology set to come on leaps and bounds in the coming months, Expedia have gained an important head start against their competitors.

Voice Technology – Voice technology is certainly not a new phenomenon but its prominence has been on a steep rise in the past year. The travel industry is just starting to catch on and several new ventures have occurred, including those from Skyscanner and Lola.Tech.

Skyscanner aimed to make the process of booking your holiday quicker and easier than ever before. They have developed an integration feature that allows users of Alexa to search Skyscanner for flight travel options, through Amazon Echo – all without raising a finger.

Towards the end of last year, Lola.Tech began testing their latest innovation in Marriott Hotels in London. They released ‘Dazzle’ as a voice-activated personal assistant compatible with Amazon Echo. This uses both artificial intelligence and hotel staff to deliver services and information to guests. It couldn’t be more simple!

It now appears a matter of time before devices and bots such as connie, become the norm for brands in the travel industry.

Conclusion

As can be seen in this article, disruption and innovation is currently rife within the travel industry. This looks set to continue in the coming months as the landscape of the sector continues to transform. The various aspects mentioned above were tentatively explored in the past year, but expect these to become far more popular with key players in the travel industry during 2017.

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