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7 ways AI will revolutionise business travel

James A. Martin | June 7, 2017
From chatbots to robotic bellhops, AI and machine learning are already having an impact on how we travel for work and pleasure.

 

3. Smarter apps and chatbots

Many developers are already using AI and machine learning to enhance the traveler’s experience via apps. For example, based on information Kayak has learned about you and what you’ve told the app/web service, your preferred hotel brands will be at the top of your Kayak search results. Location and context-aware data will alert you if, say, you’re on a trip to Paris and rain is in the forecast. “You’d get an alert, telling you if you want to see the Eiffel Tower, go now,” says Kayak CTO Giorgos Zacharia.

The Lola app, released in 2016, offers AI-based chatbot functionality along with a staff of human travel agents. “We’re trying to create superhuman travel consultants who are AI-powered and can handle more trips per hour than a regular travel agent can,” Lola CEO and co-founder Paul English told Skift. “They can make dramatically better recommendations than normal travel agents.”

Also in 2016, 12 Radisson Blu Hotels in the U.K. began offering guests access to “Edward,” an interactive, SMS-based service to answer guest questions about hotel amenities, directions, and receive guest feedback, Forbes reported.

 

4. Better customer service

Hilton Worldwide contact centers are using AI and machine learning in hopes of creating a better customer experience, according to Andy Traba, VP of Behaviorial and Data Science for Mattersight, a behavioral routing software service Hilton is using.

“When a business customer calls a Hilton hotel, Mattersight matches their data and analyses their personality and behavior traits in less than five seconds,” Traba explains. “Tone, tempo, grammar, and syntax are all fed into an algorithm, along with Hilton reward levels. That algorithm mines data from billions of customer calls to quickly pair the traveler with a call center agent who is best suited for their personality and current behavior.”

For example, a caller traveling internationally who’s distraught about a lost reservation “would likely be routed to a different agent than someone who calls up to check room availability,” Traba says.

 

5. Travel planning integrated into everyday tools

We’re already seeing travel tools added to apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype and Slack. For example, Concur (developer of TripIt) has developed a chatbot for collaboration app Slack, enabling users to request information about their travel plans and submit expenses via Slack using a conversational interface, says Tim MacDonald, EVP of Global Products at Concur. For example, users can type a question such as, “When is my next business trip?” and the Concur chatbot will respond with itinerary details, he explains.

Concur is also working with Microsoft to integrate travel planning and expense processing into Microsoft Outlook 365. From the Outlook inbox, you’ll be able to submit an expense by clicking “Send to Concur,” MacDonald says. “And when business travel plans are added to an Outlook calendar, you’ll have the option to book travel right then and see travel options pop up in the Details pane for those plans,” he continues. “The business traveler will have the option to book flight, hotel and transportation for that city. Concur will read the trip dates and suggest options based on company travel policy.”

 

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