AI in travel
Categories Corporate Travel

Would you let a robot book your hotel?

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In the film 2001, the computer HAL 9000 is the bleakest representation of artificial intelligence. One robot capable of speech, face recognition, lip reading, interpreting emotional behaviors, and eventually, autonomous reasoning to the point it turns against humans.

That was fiction. In real life, Siri, Alexa and other intelligent personal assistant are still far from HAL 9000’s capabilities. Yet, artificial intelligence (AI) has already become part of our daily lives.

AI and machine learning are two very hot buzzwords in tech, and are often used interchangeably. They are not quite the same thing, though. Machine learning is an application of AI based around the idea of giving machines access to data and letting them learn for themselves.

In practice, we interact with machine learning applications every day. They are inside our phones, for example. When you write a message, machine learning allows the keyboard to adapt continually in a smart way to predict what you want to type.

Chatbots are another popular use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Through instant messaging, bots are capable of responding to increasingly complex queries and so are becoming common in customer support where repetitive questions need to be answered.

Often, we’re completing unaware that we’re talking to a bot. Next time you return an item from online shopping, consider whether the person you’re talking to is actually real.


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In travel, virtual agents could easily handle tasks like re-booking and cancellations to deliver the hassle-free experience so many business travelers desire. “My meeting will last longer than expected and I need to stay an extra night. Please amend my reservation with an extra night”, you could tell the bot.

Bots can also mix personal preferences with destination data for a highly relevant, bespoke offering.  As technology learns and understands our hobbies, it can suggest activities to fill up our free time. Avid runner? No worries. The virtual agent will opt for hotels near the best running routes.

Voice to search

Travelport’s 2018 Mobile Travel Trends report identifies voice search as a key trend for the travel industry. Consumers and travelers are becoming comfortable having conversations with virtual assistances. And voice commands are quickly replacing text as the way we interact with our devices.

Research says 40% of adults now use voice search once a day and smart speakers are the new hot toy to own. One-in-six adults in the US now own a smart speaker, according to research published by Edison Research for National Public Media.

Smart speakers are not so much about listening to music, but about the AI that powers them. Voice takes on an increasingly central role in the way we control our devices, and personal assistants keep getting smarter. Instead of searching for hotels on a desktop computer and browsing countless options, we’ll be able just say “please, book me a hotel for two nights” while we read a book on the couch.

AI will help simplify business travel arrangements

Machine learning algorithms can collect relevant travel data to detect useful patterns. And, because business travel is much more frequent and predictable, it produces very structured data and insightful patters.

AI systems can learn from all manner of data sets, such as flights booked by corporate travelers, average duration of the trip or preferred hotels and locations. With that information, AI will help simplify complex travel arrangements and deliver a more personalized travel experience.

As it develops, AI can automate travel arrangements in the corporate space, assuring policy is respected and bookings are compliant. As soon as a trip is put in the diary, a virtual agent will offer a full itinerary and make the necessary bookings.

Let’s just hope those virtual agents and robots do not get as emotional as HAL 9000.

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