Smart Travel Assistant Powered by AI

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October 25, 2017
A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) & Robots
Amitava Chatterjee

©2017 Hospitality Upgrade
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The modern world we live in is constantly evolving. One great example is recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science that deals with simulated intelligent behavior in computers. Does this futuristic-sounding technology have a place in the hospitality industry? Yes. Its self-learning capabilities allow our systems to better sense what patrons want to do, comprehend what they are doing and act on that information. This drives innovative opportunities like creating proactive solution offerings by sensing customer needs, driving efficiency and optimization across the value chain, offering personalized expert level advice and suggestions. 
The growth of trends like hyper-connectivity and automation is generating tremendous amount of data. All this information can help companies realize these innovative possibilities. Artificial intelligence used in conjunction with technologies like IoT, predictive analytics and machine learning is helping many companies anticipate the future and stay ahead of the curve. 
Companies in the travel and hospitality space, by their very nature, are riding this curve. The huge amount of data they hold, like traveler profiles, destination-related data, airline/hotel preference, experiential data and more, makes this industry a perfect choice to implement artificial intelligence. 
Companies can use AI to sense the vast volume of data and tailor offerings to customer needs, comprehend the data by identifying unique patterns and using them to drive efficiencies within the processes and the organizational value chain, and act on the identified patterns and provide the end customer with personalized suggestions and insights.
Many travel companies are already starting to leverage AI to build relationships with travelers throughout their travel journey from inspiration to post travel. Systems that can learn with little to no supervision can bring these relationships and experiences to a whole new level. There’s little doubt that AI has found ready acceptance in the travel and hospitality industry, but most of these developments are just scratching the surface and are still fragmented in nature. A comprehensive implementation of artificial intelligence in the travel and hospitality industry will help companies realize benefit themes like enhanced customer experience,  improved operational efficiency, and increased gross sales and revenue (top line impact).
An AI-powered virtual travel assistant that can learn with little supervision can help achieve all three themes. It can perform various travel-related tasks and factor in both the user’s personal information along with data from outside sources like flight schedules, hotel availabilities, country events, weather and traffic conditions. 
For example, the smart assistant will scan its user’s calendar to identify events that require travel and offer to book flights proactively. It will take into account the traveler’s preferences and past booking behavior. These assistants can change the way people make travel plans as they become the new mediators between airlines, hotels and travelers. The ability to predict a traveler’s behavior and provide him with relevant and timely assistance has the power to change the industry’s rules. 
An AI-powered Smart Travel Assistant
This can help companies within the travel ecosystem achieve all three previously defined benefit themes. A virtual, AI-powered travel assistant coupled with other technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) will ease most customer pain points while also creating a robust mechanism end state known as Travel Delight. 
An AI powered virtual travel assistant is part of an evolving landscape. Right now the technology is still in hype cycle. Over time, AI can be leveraged to deliver exceptional experiences to travelers. However, its full, successful implementation in the travel industry and ecosystem will require infrastructure work to accelerate the machine learning process. 

After all, AI is only as intelligent as the data used in its creation. That means automated data collection, organization and usage are crucial to its continuous improvement and ultimate success. With a major push in terms of investment and research coming in from technology majors, an AI powered virtual travel assistant looks to be a viable solution. The travel industry, by its very nature, may be well suited to implement artificial intelligence and realize potential end to end benefits and efficiencies.
Amitava “Chats” Chatterjee and Siva Kantamneni are leaders in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Travel, Hospitality & Leisure practice where Abhinav Varshney, Vikram Vishal and Rohan Gupte are practitioners.

What’s the Current State of AI Usage in the Travel Industry?
Over the last few years, AI has expanded to more and more new contexts. In the travel industry, every stage of the customer cycle contains data points and patterns for it to analyze and act upon. This includes qualitative information like the motivation for travel, quantitative data like the booking date, and personal information from birthdates to primary language and marital status. Plowing through all this seeking insights for travel companies is a daunting task, but intelligent algorithms do it with ease. Companies can also gain insights into the effectiveness of offerings and marketing campaigns along with guidance on how to target certain demographics. It can also be part of an automated system that’s programmed to do certain things independently throughout the customer journey. 

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