Artificial Intelligence–AI–isn’t new, but as technology advances and computers improve, its use in travel is becoming ho-hum common. As AI replaces humans, aspects like 24-hour service, instant responses, and client personalization can improve customer satisfaction rates. The Future is here…
How Artificial Intelligence Is Already Used
You’ve seen this: You’re on a website and a little window pops up, often with a photo of an attractive female. She’s actually a chatbot. She asks: “How can I help you today?” You type in a question, hit send…and wait for a few seconds, as if an actual person is thinking or looking up the answer. With every question, AI “learns” and gets better. It “remembers” how to respond next time.
Booking.com’s survey found that 29% of travelers didn’t mind if AI did their itinerary and 50% didn’t care if they spoke with a human…as long as their questions were answered. AI plans trips based on past experiences; many people are thrilled not to have to slog through an entire itinerary, when AI knows what they like and can book accordingly.
From your device apps that let you search and book a trip, to tracking your luggage, to asking Alexa for any kind of help, Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. It’s not a trend…it’s a real thing.
What’s Coming Quickly with AI…or Already Here
Now meet Hilton’s new robot concierge, Connie. Like all businesses, the travel industry is doing more with less. A full-time concierge may not be available…or even part of the staff of mid- and budget-level hotels. But a robot is always happy to help find a restaurant or recommend attractions. (And it never calls in sick!)
In and around your hotel, an in-room assistant texts you, making sure everything’s okay. Text back with requests or questions. In Las Vegas, at the Cosmopolitan, Rose can get extra towels, order food, or play a game of Would You Rather. Rose is sassy, smart, and helpful.
How about Sam, from FCM Travel Solutions? It’s absolutely handy…and a little unnerving to think that AI is coordinating your entire trip. Sam even reminds you take an umbrella, because he’s “looked up” the weather at your destination. He is also a travel guide, letting you know what the best attractions are at your destination. Need a taxi back to the airport? Sam arranges it, using your company’s preferred provider and travel policies. He even takes into account traffic delays.
Everything seems fabulous, right? Pepijn Rijvers, Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com, states, “As technology continues to advance, it’s also advancing and enhancing the way we travel. It empowers us to plan the perfect holiday and makes it easier to explore further and with more confidence, flexibility and options than ever before.”
Is there a downside? You bet! Read on…
Artificial Intelligence and Your “Options”
For the past four years, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been working on New Distribution Capability (NDC) to capture our travel patterns. The purpose of improving communication between airlines and the travel industry professionals sounds innocent enough–we all want our trips to be smooth, right?
Not so fast. What NDC does is look at how we’ve traveled in the past and will bundle airfares accordingly. Do you check bags? Pay for priority boarding? Fly business class? Nonstop? Those are the prices you’ll see when you check out flights. Less expensive options won’t even show up on your screen.
If you’ve been flying for business–bigger budget, more upgrades–and want to take a trip on your own dime, well…you will have to get clever to find something in your budget. And it’s not just flights; look for these practices in car rentals and hotels. Even Airbnb will present you with similar properties to those you’ve picked in the past. NDC is going to be everywhere…
What can you do? Become anonymous!
- Use a different computer! You want to be able to find the bargains, so don’t use your computer’s IP address to visit travel sites that you’ve relied on the past.
- Clear cookies! If you don’t have an endless supply of laptops, at least clear cookies before and after you check websites.
- Even using a public connection like Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Panera, or the library can help. You’re using their IP address. However, be aware that these may not be secure connections, so don’t go crazy with your credit card.
- To learn more about anonymity on the internet, here are a couple of articles: Computer Hope and PCMag.
So…it’s a double-edged sword. While Artificial Intelligence can improve your travel experience, it does so by drawing from your personal data: your past choices and behaviors, your budget, your apps. Be aware.
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