How does a week wine tasting in Bordeaux sound? Or perhaps two weeks skiing in snowy Colorado? Or even a month-long cruise around the Mediterranean?
We have more choice than ever before when choosing where we spend our time off. Our travel report found that over a quarter (27 per cent) of UK holidaymakers think there’s too much choice when deciding where to go.
28 per cent think that travel websites and brochures don’t make the choice any easier, not offering enough information about the hotels and destinations listed.
Consumers are now urging travel operators to invest in developing technologies to help make the booking process simpler.
Almost half (48 per cent) of UK travellers want to see augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools implemented to allow them to preview and interact with destinations before booking.
21 per cent also want to see artificial intelligence (AI) implemented by travel companies to provide them with personalised suggestions and also greater support when booking a holiday.
So, how exactly can the industry use AI and VR tools to its advantage to provide consumers with the personalised searches they so desire?
Simplifying the booking journey with AI
With so many holiday options available, 35 per cent of UK holidaymakers now want travel companies to provide personalised recommendations during the booking stage.
And those travel agents are listening; many are already using AI tools to provide a bespoke, multi-channel service, tailored to a customer’s unique preferences so that they receive a seamless booking experience across all purchasing channels.
This technology uses customers’ already known information, including past online searches and purchases, so that travel companies can present consumers with personalised deals or recommendations that guide them through the booking process.
Booking.com is already using AI within its Booking Experiences app. The AI component of the app predicts traveller intent and offers personalised recommendations on visitor attractions, tours and venues based upon holidaymakers’ past bookings and likes.
Kayak, an online travel search engine, has opted to use digital AI chatbots on its site to provide holidaymakers with updates on flight delays and gate changes to keep them informed throughout their trip. But the chatbots also have the ability to answer questions, such as “Where can I go on holiday for £250?” and “What is there to do in Paris this weekend?”
AI makes the online booking process easier, but it can also be extended onto the physical high street. Taking insight from information collected online through user activity, travel agents can provide tailored recommendations in-store. Whether using a new device or switching to a face-to-face interaction, customers will always be able to pick up where they left off.
Letting holidaymakers ‘step into’ their destinations
Once holidaymakers have been given personalised holiday suggestions, what’s next? How will they truly know if the recommendations are to their taste?
VR is the ideal tool to help minimise any element of ‘risk’ or second-guessing associated with booking a holiday. Travellers can virtually ‘experience’ their holiday from the comfort of a high street travel agent to get a feel for whether it’s their ideal location.
VR systems could use the data collected from an AI chatbot during the initial search stage to show consumers immersive, virtual representations of the destinations recommended to them.
Thomas Cook is one of the first major tour operators to pioneer the implementation of VR headsets, and is set to roll out the devices across all of its new Discovery stores. After consumers used the VR headsets, Thomas Cook reported a 45 per cent rise in sales for its Caribbean cruises.
What does the future hold?
Voice technology and further developments in AI have the potential to completely transform travel, taking how we search and book our holidays to the next level.
People are already carrying their own personal assistants around with them within their smartphones and tablets.
Currently, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are the three primary AI systems dominating the marketplace. At Apadmi, we’re putting a lot of emphasis on the power of voice recognition technology, having recently collaborated with Amazon to host a series of workshops.
Voice recognition isn’t something that just affects the consumer – our tech lunches show businesses how voice technology like Alexa can transform their operations.
However, each system’s current functionalities are quite basic – at the moment. AI bots can accurately respond to primitive questions, such as “Siri, how long is it until my holiday to Turin?” or they can carry out simple tasks, such as “Alexa, can you set my alarm for 7:30am so I can catch my flight to Madrid?”
But with each passing day, developers are experimenting more and more, and it’s only a matter of time until we see AI and voice recognition software carrying out complex commands. This could allow customers to book or search for their holidays via conversation.
“Siri, I need to see all holidays to Milan within in the next two weeks and my budget is £300” or “Alexa, can you book the earliest Blue Lagoon tour tomorrow for me?" This could soon become the norm when booking a holiday.
But, that’s not to say that the travel sector will lose its human element in 2018. Real life travel agents will still play an important role, as holidaymakers continue to value their insight and expertise.
Just last year, Apadmi launched the ‘My TC’ app with Travel Counsellors, the personal travel experts. It aimed to expand its premium, personalised customer service offering, allowing consumers to access all travel documentation and information at an instant, and from anywhere.
It was crucial that the personal interaction element was retained, so the app kept holidaymakers in constant contact with their personal Travel Counsellor for ongoing guidance and support.
Today’s increasingly connected world has presented holidaymakers with more choice when selecting where to go on holiday. People can now go anywhere and at any time. But, with so much choice, consumers often feel overwhelmed, struggling to find their ideal location.
Interactive technology has presented opportunities to streamline and personalise the booking process. And travellers are already clocking-on to the benefits themselves.
It’s up to travel companies to invest in innovative solutions to help them provide a more personalised level of customer service, and remove the stress of booking that dream holiday for customers.
Nick Black, CEO, Apadmi
Image Credit: Carballo / Shutterstock