This article from Tech magazine CIO, titled “7 ways AI will revolutionize business travel”, provides some cursory overview about how automation and computerized technology will aid in the business aspect of travel. As you may well know, the rapidly shifting economic landscape is increasingly becoming mechanized, to minimize or even eliminate human aspect and human error. Perhaps it can avoid fiascos (United PR) or help improve overall experience. Artificial Intelligence is the future, and I cannot wait to welcome our mechanized overlords.
Below are the potential impacts that AI could drive in travel, specifically business travel. I will go further in depth and provide my own perspective below.
- Fewer Overbooking Dramas
- Increased Personalization of Service
- Smarter Apps / Chatbots
- Better Customer Service
- Travel Planning Integrated into Everyday Tools
- Voice-Enabled Smart Home Rooms
- Hotel Robots
Fewer Overbooking Dramas
The argument that AI could have alerted staff of the issue before boarding is valid, and could have set off the voucher auction process earlier, before guests have boarded. The article suggests profiling passengers based on expected propensity towards vouchers, using parameters such as age.
Younger passengers, for instance, would potentially have more flexibility and greater interest in travel vouchers, vs. a physician like Dao, aged 69, who was anxious to return to his practice in Kentucky.
I would take it a step further, perhaps bidding up the voucher price until they found sufficient takers. By stopping well before their limit, the gate agents have no one to blame but themselves, and United took a rightful beating (figuratively, although some would say they literally deserve one as well). I’d segment the flier population by status perhaps those with high balances of United miles, who may be more open to vouchers.
Personalization of Service
Imagine sitting down on a plane and being immediately served your preferred drink and greeted by name. Or, this could be as little as knowing my travel preferences and implementing them. When I arrive at a hotel, I want the largest room and closest to the elevator, regardless of view. Those preferences are noted in my profile, but I always feel like I have to repeat myself at check in. Their thoughts on personalized service and marketing remind me of the futuristic shopping in Minority Report where Tom Cruise receives direct, personalized advertisements.
Smarter Apps & Chatbots
This one is already starting to happen, with requests being able to be made in various hotel apps. Lola is an app focusing on superhuman AI-powered travel consultants to optimize the booking process for guests. I’ll be sure to check it out.
Better Customer Service
Initially, I thought this would be similar to the service personalization. But, the article talks about Hilton, analyzing guest personality and mood with a behavior routing system. This is to optimally pair the guest with the right agent, best equipped to handle the specific situation. Very interesting!
Travel Planning Integrated into Everyday Tools
Expense App Concur and Outlook integration – can’t come soon enough for many a busy business traveler. Perhaps pair it with personal email as well? Concur’s chatbot partnership with Slack is intriguing, although I haven’t had the opportunity to experience it. (I don’t get business travel – I know, it’s a shame)
Voice-Enabled Smart Home Rooms
The W Hotel in Austin, Texas is the primary test point for Marriott’s foray into Smart Home Rooms – using Amazon’s Echo. I have personally experienced Smart home rooms in the Park Hyatt New York, or the Plaza Hotel (both times, thousand dollar hotel!), but those were connecting various utilities to the iPad, instead of voice.
These have been used for a variety of purposes – amenity delivery, cleaning, AI concierge, and more. I have only seen them once or twice, and always were an interesting novelty, but not much more than that.
Of course, the standard data security / privacy issues apply, but the article brings up very interesting “ethical” concerns. Is it profitability? Providing a human touch to a non-human interaction? Lastly, will this remain a novelty, or become the expectation, with those lacking the AI seen as behind the times? I look forward to finding out!
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