As technology evolves, so does the way people travel. While only a couple of decades ago booking a holiday could involve having to go into town and chat to travel agent, nowadays it's a very different process.
Technology has transformed the travel experience, and travelers, like everyone else in the consumer landscape, are mobile, constantly moving, tech-savvy and accustomed to instant responses and personalized experiences.
The travel industry has to constantly come up with innovative new ways to engage with these customers, whether it's by providing enticing content, providing the cheapest deals or customizing travel experiences to its clients’ exact specifications.
Travel brands paying attention to the state of the industry are most likely aware that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be with chatbots. You may be wondering what this has to do with the industry at hand: the answer is, quite a lot. Read on to find out why chatbots will be the future of travel.
Some people like to have their itineraries down to a T, months ahead of departure, while others play it by ear. Whatever your target audience's travel style, chatbots are a great way to help consumers narrow down their options and swiftly find solutions that work for them - no easy feat in a heavily saturated market.
There are currently over 100,000 bots on Facebook's Messenger platform, and the number is set to keep growing. There’s a very good reason for this: chatbots provide consumers with the answers they need from within the apps they are already using on a day-to-day basis, providing an integrated experience that’s both efficient and entertaining.
It’s no surprise that travel companies are at the forefront of the chatbot revolution. (available for Facebook Messenger, Skype and Alexa) was launched in 2016 to help travelers narrow down their accommodation options, providing lists of available rooms according to location, dates and budget in just under 10 seconds.
Whether your customer is planning their trip a year ahead or in the minutes before take-off, that’s a lot of time saved.
In an ideal world, people would have unlimited funds to spend on their trip of a lifetime. That’s unfortunately not very often the case, leading customers to scour the internet in search of ways of making their pennies go further.
While low-cost airlines and last-minute deals are great ways to save money on a big trip, seeking out special offers that are in line with customers’ specific requirements is sometimes more hassle than it’s worth.
Yet again, chatbots are a great way to enable customers to find the best deals, whether they’re sitting on the bus dreaming of sandy beaches or waking up in their hotel room wondering how to best spend the day ahead. The Facebook Messenger bot Cheapflights
is a friendly little bot with a sparkling personality that helps users find great deals on flights and hotels rooms, while the Skyscanner bot points customers towards cheap airports close to their chosen destination. Just two examples among many of how travelers can find the right deals from their smartphones.
Package tours that offer full board, transportation and cultural excursions for a set price no longer really cut it in this day and age, with younger travellers looking for highly personalized experiences that truly reflect their tastes and possibly look great on Instagram at the same time.
AI-based chatbots draw on data from social media profiles, web searches and previous purchases as well as external factors such as the location and whether to offer deals that are tailored to meet users’ expectations. What’s more, the more consumers use them, the better they get at predicting what will make them happy.
Business travel can be a bit of a hassle, both for the person who’s going on the trip and the staff making sure that everything is policy compliant. However, help is at hand in the form of chatbot virtual assistants such as 30secondstofly’s AI travel manager Claire.
Bots such as this one memorise a given company’s travel policy and help users books compliant flights and accommodation, thus saving a lot of back-and-forth emails about whether staff are allowed to fly business class or not or if they can stay on for the weekend.
Some chatbots offer further features such as advice on visa requirements, « repeat trip » preferences that enable business travellers to rebook easily within the same hotel, expanse management and even multi-person booking capabilities.
Many of these offerings are still in beta and some use AI combined with human agents, but business travel is most definitely a field in which chatbots are set to make their mark in the very near future.
While in times gone by wealthy travellers would never be seen on the road without their personal secretary, that’s a very rare occurrence in this day and age. That doesn’t mean, however, that tourists won’t welcome a helping hand when it comes to their travel plans, and chatbots make ideal companions.
As mentioned above, customers can use chatbots to help them find the best flights, hotel deals and local transport options without having to resort to a myriad of different platforms. Bots such as Instalocate take this even further by offering information about flight delays, consumer rights and advice on how to get compensated if something goes wrong.
Beyond the obvious benefits for consumers themselves, the advantages of virtual assistants in the form of chatbots are numerous from travel brands’ perspective.
For a fraction of the cost involved in hiring human agents to manage bookings and customer enquiries, chatbots greet users, point them towards the products that are right for them and manage simple requests.
Customer service staff are therefore available to manage more complex requests, backed up by the necessary data.
Travel is an extremely personal experience, and chatbots are the key to providing your customers with what they’re looking for in a way that’s both efficient and cost-effective. What are you waiting for?