While this may not come as a huge surprise given how digital and mobile-centric the world has become, the demand for technology in the travel sector has no intention of slowing down. In fact, almost half (48%) of UK travellers now want to see increased use of interactive tech like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to help them interact with destinations before they arrive. 21% want to see artificial intelligence (AI) to provide them with more personalised holiday suggestions and intuitive support.
But this demand for more technology use doesn’t have to spell the end for traditional high street travel agents. Instead, new interactive technology is presenting opportunities to attract travellers back to the high street.
So, how can travel agents use this new technology to their advantage?
‘Intelligent’ solutions for improved customer service
Our recent travel report found that 35% of holidaymakers want travel agents to provide them with more personalied recommendations to help them during the initial booking stage.
AI chatbots are the ideal starting point for travel agents wishing to provide a more tailored level of customer service. Pairing already known information such as web-browsing history and previous purchase preferences, travel agents are able to offer a true multi-channel experience for people visiting their high street stores.
Using the data collated and analysed from AI tools, employees working in high street stores can tailor options to each individual based on what they already know about them. The alternative is to follow a scripted series of questions to find out what the individual really likes before providing suggestions to them.
AI can add wonders to the level of customer service companies are able to provide. Coffee or champagne on arrival? A flight out of Manchester or Liverpool? Cancun or Cannes? If you know this information already, use it.
Any new information discovered during this face-to-face session would then be added to the database and used for future promotional activity to help improve brand awareness and repeat business for the travel agent.
The ultimate try before you buy
Our recent travel report found that over a quarter (28%) of travellers think holiday brochures and websites lack enough useful detail about the hotels and packages on offer, with 29% saying they found the images of destinations misleading and not representative of their experience.
VR can allow consumers to ‘step into’ a virtual representation of any destination from the comfort of a high street store - before they even book. The ultimate try before they buy.
Providing customers with the ability to walk around and explore a location before arriving will go a long way towards helping them visualise what the area will really be like. While using a VR headset, customers will have the chance to look around a hotel’s facilities, and even visit local restaurants and attractions outside of the hotel.
Some travel companies are beginning to recognise the value of providing an immersive and interactive booking experience to attract people back in-store.
Thomas Cook has started rolling out Discovery stores across the country, which include VR headsets. Once in the store, users can take a virtual tour around selected hotels and different transport options, so they can preview their choices before booking. Since the headsets have been introduced into these new stores, the travel agent’s Caribbean cruise sales have risen by 45%.
Augmented reality drives greater engagement
The recent release of ARKit for Apple devices, and its Android counterpart, ARCore, will see a splurge of AR apps enter the market over the next few years.
These tools will allow developers to create highly immersive AR apps in a much shorter space of time, and at a lower cost than previously possible.
AR apps are already creeping into the market to disrupt the travel sector.
Departures Switzerland is an app that is based on the Swiss public transport network, and allows travellers to find their nearest public transport option. Users simply hold their phones in the direction they wish to proceed and an image of a departures board is overlaid on their screen in a real-world view to show the departure results.
As the technology advances, and mass-market hardware develops to provide even better experiences than what’s available now, the scope for the travel sector to use this technology will only broaden.
Data that was previously confined to being housed in images, videos, text and tables can now be displayed in a more interactive format via AR. The technology drives user engagement and creates those more personal experiences that customers are now demanding.
Mobile apps allow this technology to be used offline, so poor network connectivity and roaming charges won’t affect user satisfaction, or lead them to discover a hefty bill when they arrive home.
And the breadth of applications where this technology can be used is huge. Theme parks, luxury island retreats and cruise ships are the obvious examples here where navigating around a location can be aided, as well as interactive information on landmarks or attractions that can be enhanced beyond the humble sign post.
Technology won’t slow down
Technology continues to be a main driving force in changing how people are exploring the world.
More and more people are booking holiday’s online. And the continual evolution of powerful smartphones, and wearable devices, means travellers have the ability to stay connected with family and friends, and enhance their experiences whilst they’re abroad.
Customers are now demanding the use of more interactive technology, and it’s up to travel companies to provide the level of service they’re asking for. Otherwise, their place on the high street could come under serious threat.
For more information you can view the full report here.
Nick Black, CEO of Apadmi
Image Credit: Lucky Business / Shutterstock