Why artificial intelligence could be a game-changer for the travel industry

Christophe Ancolio

Innovation Manager, Amadeus IT Group

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Once upon a time planning a holiday meant that you had to actually leave your home and visit a travel agent. More daring travellers would rely on word of mouth recommendations or their ever trusty travel guidebooks. Technology like high-speed internet disrupted these bygone ways and now artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping up to be just as disruptive. Computers performing tasks that would usually require human intelligence is already game-changing. But computers with the ability to learn - with little to no supervision - will bring automation to a new level. Used in conjunction with predictive analytics, machine learning, which is one subset of artificial intelligence, actively helps companies anticipate the future. For the travel industry, this means serving travellers faster and better throughout their journey.

Why artificial intelligence could be a game-changer for the travel industry

Here are a few examples of the benefits of AI in the travel industry:

Big Data, AI, and Personalisation

While big data analytics looks at past events, AI uses predictive analysis to anticipate and plan for the future. And inspiring people to travel is all about showing them relevant content and offers. The digital advertising industry has long used cookies to display relevant ads. Now, artificial intelligence and machine learning is able to predict whichad space is more likely to generate better conversions. This is making the business of buying and selling ad spaces smarter, so companies like travel audiencecan empower travel players to target online travellers more effectively.

Artificial intelligence also helps travel companies create highly-tailored offers based on customers' needs and preferences. Past behaviours can obviously feed AI computers to predict future purchase actions. But deep learning algorithms can help travel companies make the most out of their customer's online activities. Computers are now able to understand images, videos and sounds, creating opportunities to better understand travellers. Knowing that they usually go on vacation in March and they’ve liked many pictures from Malaysia on Instagram would represent a valuable insight for any travel agency or airline.

AI-based ultra-personalised offers increase conversion rates while ultimately improving the traveller's shopping experience. AI will also bring customised suggestions during the trip based on a traveller’s profile, location, time, and many other parameters and data that algorithms will process. What is relevant in AI, is that the output of all these technical processes must bring a more natural experience to the traveller. When consumers will interact with the travel company, AI will help create a smoother experience. AI technology dedicated to travellers will also help companies in decision making, managing predictive maintenance, and handling disruptions like weather conditions.

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

As we've discussed before, chatbots are expected to have a big impact on the way the travel industry serves its customers, e.g. asking for information, booking a trip, and requesting assistance. These solutions are partly based on Natural Language Processing (NLP), a subfield used in artificial intelligence applications. The challenge here is not only ensuring that a computer is able to understand the meaning of human language, but that it is also able to account and assess on the fly the context of the conversation to ensure relevant dialogue.

Moreover, by combining context (location, time, language) with personal information (age and interests), chatbots are able to push relevant offers to customers thanks to AI. Companies like Evature are already well established in arena.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, perform tasks for an individual based on user information and access from many external sources such as user flight schedules, hotel availabilities, country events, weather, and traffic conditions. For example, intelligent virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Amazon's Alexa perform tasks by combining user input with their preferences. Scheduling is handled particularly well by virtual assistants. In the not do distant future, a virtual assistant could scan its user's calendar to identify events that require travel and offer to book flights proactively, while taking into account the traveller's preferences and past booking behaviour. Virtual assistants will change the way people make travel plans as they increasingly become the new mediators between travel players and travellers.

Artificial intelligence is changing the rules for the travel industry and the ability to predict the behaviour of travellers will unlock new revenue opportunities for travel players. Without a doubt, exciting times are ahead within the travel industry and Amadeus will be at the forefront of this revolution.


Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Research