The days of journeying to a travel agency and sitting at the desk of an agent just to book a trip have all but disappeared, but technology is increasingly putting that level of personalized service in the palms of our hands.
A number of travel apps have begun to incorporate artificial intelligence, technology that allows machines to analyze large amounts of data and “learn” on their own, according to Greg Oates, senior editor at travel site Skift. The technology can help machines outperform traditional search engines and real humans (including travel agents) in speed and efficiency, he said. “The holy grail for travel brands today is personalizing the guest experience,” he said. “Artificial intelligence really helps with that because it can crunch so much data and connect dots around users so much faster than traditional search.”
These apps work by taking a wealth of data on travelers into account and anticipating their choices. Personal travel assistant Mezi, which raised $9 million in 2016, is one such app that claims to have artificial intelligence capabilities. With countless search engines for travel information, Mezi co-founder and chief executive officer, Swapnil Shinde said his app customizes travel suggestions based on past searches, conversational tone, and other online habits. If you showed a preference for boutique hotels or locations near national parks (or even water parks) in the past, the app will skew its suggestions to fit your needs.
Of course, hotels and travel apps have long used algorithms to adjust prices and offer vacation packages. But artificial intelligence allows these search engines and apps to go a step further by gleaning more information on your online behavior and building a more complex profile of users by (in theory, at least) anticipating their needs, said consumer travel advocate Christopher Elliott. “They keep getting smarter and smarter and the only thing you have to do is give them permission, which often means giving them access to all your personal data and telling them what you need and want,” he said. “But if you do you might save a lot of money.”
Existing companies are also rapidly adding artificial intelligence capability. Expedia is planning to use artificial intelligence for customer service and Booking.com launched its own smart chat tool in May 2016 so customers can give the same information they would give a travel agent, but the information will be processed faster (and taken in context with your other online searches). It is testing integration with Facebook’s chat platform to expand these capabilities. Todd Dunlap, the Americas managing director at Booking.com said the capability was developed after learning that 75% of their customers prefer to search and book travel on their own.
Oates predicts that despite the many developments in the travel industry, there will always be a need for human beings in planning — particularly for luxury clients. “Nothing will ever replace the expertise and intuitive nature of travel agents offer,” he said. “Artificial intelligence brings just another component to their tool kit.”
See original article at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-artificial-intelligence-is-the-future-of-2017-01-10