It’s the time of the year again when everyone wants to get out and visit a new destination or go back to the familiar feeling of home. The holiday season brings about an enormous surge in consumer traffic and, therefore, opportunities, for enterprises in the travel and hospitality industry. Be it a cruise, a flight, a hotel stay, or a solo experience, most people carry out thorough research to ensure that they secure the best deals from the most reliable sources. However, with the increasing penetration of the internet and the advent of new and advanced technologies, there are several more options for travelers to choose from than ever before. This has brought forth huge changes in consumer behavior as well, where traditional methods of predicting behavior are no longer proving to be effective.
As per a recent study by Google, 88% of leisure traveler will ditch an app or website for another, if it isn’t fulfilling their requirements. Therefore, it has become essential for companies to take their research efforts up a notch – and do it right – to strategize, cut through the clutter and stand out as a top preference for travel planning and booking.
This is where artificial intelligence and advanced analytics tools step in to go way beyond the bandwidth of human teams. These technologies are helping enterprises in the travel and hospitality space at large to understand and target the right consumer with seamless end-to-end services and experiences. By leveraging data insights smartly, accurately and effectively, they are helping businesses eliminate human error, optimize processes, cut down costs and improve ROI at every stage of the travel purchase cycle. Let us see how.
Personalizing offers and recommendations
Given the vast amounts of data generated due to the whole travel purchase cycle being taken online, AI and its tools can gather, analyze and organize the data to identify patterns and unearth valuable insights. This is helping companies personalize their recommendations for various consumer segments in real-time and across multiple channels, to elevate the experience at every touchpoint. By utilizing public datasets on weather, major events and cancelled flights, hotel chains and travel operators can redirect their advertising efforts towards consumers in specific areas which are impacted by these occurrences.
Additionally, OTAs can leverage keywords and preferences from past searches to put forth recommendations for services that complement the primary search. For instance, if some one searches for a flight, the platform will provide tailor-made offers for taxi services, car rentals, local attractions etc. related to their destination and/or preferences. They can also recommend destinations for the consumer’s next set of travel plans based on the same approach. Overall, this can help increase bookings, promote higher positive conversion as well as boost the brands share of voice for travel-related search queries.
Implementing predictive pricing technologies
Dynamic fares are something that everyone has witnessed today, both from a business perspective and that of consumers. You open a platform to search for a flight, and if you happen to take a little longer before making your decision, next thing you know, the fare has changed. This varies from provider to provider, and manually keeping track of these changes across platforms and channels is not only daunting but a close-to-impossible task within a fixed timeframe.
Therefore, by implementing AI-based research tools which study historical data and current trends, travel and hospitality businesses can monitor deals across the industry and get real-time updates which help them alter their offerings accordingly. It helps businesses with accurate predictions based on several relevant data points, while also enabling them to inform travelers about room vacancies in a particular hotel or suggest alternative itineraries as per factors that may affect their trip. Proactively addressing hurdles helps cut down costs for the consumers, and goes a long way in providing them with a seamless and enjoyable booking and travel experience.
Realigning offerings through feedback and sentiment analysis
Today, a majority of travelers share their experiences via social media, be it photos, reviews, complaints or general feedback. This generates a large pool of consumer data that businesses can analyze and implement to improve their offerings. TripAdvisor has revealed that the platform has 390 million unique visitors from social media and 435 million reviews, where close to 280 reviews are submitted to the site every minute. By using AI-based tools, in addition to an overall statistical analysis of reviews, businesses can also use machine learning (NLP) to gain insights into the tone and sentiment within each one for a better understanding and systematic classification. This helps brands identify problem areas and opportunities, allowing them to adjust their offerings and processes accordingly.
Improving customer loyalty
Loyalty programs have been a huge part of the travel and hospitality sector and, with the changing dynamics of the industry and increasing competition all around, there are a greater number of variables involved when shaping the offerings. In this scenario, AI and analytics tools are coming in handy to facilitate personalization by leveraging past data from loyalty programs and combining it with real-time customer data. This delivers a comprehensive picture and plan of action tailor-made for each customer segment, which is then automated to target individual customers, whether existing or potential.
By presenting an offering that is based on accurate insights on each customer, enterprises will be able to target the right person, at the right time and with the right kind of offer. This greatly increases the likelihood of them choosing the brand and will also help the company strengthen its relationship with existing customers, thereby positively impacting the customer lifetime value as well.
As per recent reports, by 2020, it is expected that digital travel sales will cross USD 800 bn. To ensure that their businesses secure a significant share of this growth, players in the industry will have to focus more on getting a holistic understanding of the modern-day traveler, and what goes into creating one-of-a-kind experiences for them. AI and its tools are helping them do this, by bringing in smarter ways to categorize and process data, as well as identifying links between various data sets to provide actionable insights in real-time. How well these enterprises harness the power of AI within their specific business contexts can greatly shape the success of their future initiatives, adapting dynamically over time for long-term, scalable impact.