Can you imagine how much revenue technology has generated for the tourism and hospitability industry? A report by World Travel and Tourism Council claims that in 2018, the application of technology brought $8.8 trillion to travel companies. Another report from IDC – Worldwide Hospitability and Travel also claims that 70% of Online travel agencies and 60% of hotels worldwide adopted AI in 2019.
Travel, tourism and hospitality are among the most high-touch industries as it requires more human contacts, face-to-face interactions and physical presence than any other sector. Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), this industry has been massively impacted by lockdowns. New norms of physical distancing and travel bans have brought the industry to a halting stage. Thousands of hotels and travel companies have to declare bankruptcy due to the worldwide lockdown for such a long time. In 2020, global revenue from the travel and tourism industry was estimated to drop by 568.6 billion U.S. dollars, representing a decrease of 42.1 percent.
Are there any ways that help these businesses survive? Technology in general, and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, seems to be an answer. Proof is that 2020 saw unprecedented growth in the adoption of digital technologies for hotels and the hospitality industry.
In this article, we’ll explore 4 ways Artificial Intelligence has changed the way we travel. These AI applications are believed to pave the way for the travel and tourism businesses to recover post-Covid.
Customer service with AI chatbots and AI voice assistants
With the need for contactless service during the pandemic, the advantages of an AI tour guide became even more apparent. AI-powered assistants, which are available on social media business pages, and on instant messaging apps, are able to immediately reply to questions and provide necessary information and recommendations without the presence of human service staff. In other words, AI allows tourism businesses and hotels to deliver very short customer service response times that would be impossible for humans. For example, Expedia, an American online travel company, offers a live chatbot on Facebook messenger to enable users to browse hotels around the world. Chatbot even can answer FAQs such as room availability, travel insurance, booking information, and so on.
Another emerging trend for AI functions within the Tourism industry after the pandemic that involves face-to-face customer service interactions is artificially intelligent robots. Connie, a welcome robot at Hilton Hotels, uses AI and speech recognition to provide any customers who speak to it with tourist information. In addition, the future quality of communication between hotel customers and AI robots gradually improves as the robot is able to learn and memorize from each human interaction.
Artificial intelligence allows tourism businesses to develop platforms that can offer amazingly useful travel tips, travel plans, and information on accommodations and tourist attractions to tourists. Let’s take Hekate, a leading technology in Vietnam, as a prime example. The company works in partnership with the local government to create the first automated tourist information search engine on messages in Vietnam called Danang Fantasticity using machine learning algorithms and big data. Users can look for anything from car rentals, sightseeing places, restaurants, hotels, and even flights information on this single platform. We can clearly see the advantages of saving costs and time from this innovation and thus enhance customers’ experience.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the real physical world that is achieved through the use of digital visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli delivered via technology. During this COVID-19, AR service is the best solution to those who want to experience something new after a long period of being under quarantine. Users can sit at home in their sweatpants or pajamas but enjoy the experience and feel like they are in Hawaii, for instance. The benefit of AR does not stop there. After the pandemic, hotels, airlines, tourism boards, travel agencies can jump on AR as an opportunity to offer AR previews or trials of local attractions, market destinations, hotel rooms and facilities to potential customers. Holiday Inn, an American brand of hotels, is one of the pioneers in this technology when they created an AR hotel experience, which allowed guests to see realistic virtual depictions of famous celebrities in the hotel with their smartphones.
Although the pandemic is a temporary disruption, many of these new technologies are going to evolve and continue to define the future. It’s worth noting that AI not only transforms the face of travel industry but also changes the way people travel. As people get used to everything being online, the hospitality and tourism industry has to catch up with this trend to meet customers’ demands. It’s never been more important for you as hospitality professionals to equip yourself with the foundational skills you’ll need to thrive in an ever-changing environment.
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