Whether you are an enthusiastic participant, cautious observer, or vehement detractor, artificial intelligence (AI) in tourism quickly alters how we plan our visits, where we stay, and what we do when we are there. You probably are not aware of how much conversational AI has permeated the industry, nor how it has, in many ways, completely transformed the travel industry.
Here is a quick rundown of how conversational AI in tourism impacts attractions, cultural events, and entertainment destinations, and can help you get the most out of your experience:
- Educational organizations, like zoos, museums, and aquariums, use conversational AI to educate their audience about specific animals or artwork.
- Cultural events and entertainment centers use conversational AI to handle transactions when you buy tickets or get guided tours.
- Many organizations use AI to guide conversations (Ai chat solutions can recognize a pattern in your buying habits and make suggestions based on previous purchases).
What Is AI?
AI is the practical application of a theory that computers or machines can perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence.
It is based on the concept that computers can process so much that they can be "taught" to perform functions, anticipate needs, communicate with humans, and help humans in their daily lives. Indeed, 91% of organizations plan to deploy AI in self-service by 2023.
Alexa is a great example of AI. So is a self-driving vehicle. AI chatbots, messaging apps like Facebook messenger, and other social media that encourage customer engagement by trying to give you personalized solutions to technical and account issues are also AI.
Similarly, when you use Airbnb, the prices are often set by AI. Google has used AI in its searches since 2015 to improve how its search function recognizes language, and thereby improve its results.
You may not recognize that you are using an AI chatbot in tourism, but primitive to sophisticated AI technology is everywhere.
AI in the Tourism Industry
One of the most common forms of AI is within the tourism industry. As much as there are people who enjoy tourist groups, there are those who want self-guided tours or want to avoid big groups. One example is the Asian Civilizations Museum, which offers a virtual tour with an AI guide named "Allie." You can "walk" through the museum, click on exhibits, and learn even more.
With the power of conversational-AI recordings, tourists have the option to enjoy virtual tours of museums, zoos, aquariums, and other attractions at their own pace. This technology helps tourists plan their visits by providing a general overview of the area they are staying in.
With so many tourists and visitors, AI will eventually pick up on customer trends and conduct data analysis to enhance your experience. For example, if customers go to nearby highly-rated restaurants after visiting a museum or zoo, AI may recognize that and share that as a recommendation. Another trend AI may pick up on is peak times and will recommend you the best times to visit a particular place.
AI can provide customers with views of what they will be visiting. These include hotel room views and videos from around the destination point. The videos can provide prospective customers with views of lakes, mountains, local towns, etc. Virtual reality also lets site visitors see the field or stage from various arena seats. In fact, Stanford is using new techniques involving AI to improve 3D for VR technology, specifically to help make displays holographic.
AI in Destination and Experience
The impact of conversational AI in the travel industry is mostly centered on improving customer experiences by providing them with as much information as they want. While human agents and human intervention are not exactly headed the way of the old-fashioned info booths, AI plays more and more of a role in travel-related management.
By analyzing search query terms, AI can now suggest destinations, hotels, points of interest, and even restaurants to anyone planning a trip. Suggested itineraries have been a boon to many destination marketing organizations because it helps them plan trips for customers based on customer feedback. Some travel and tourism sector tools also analyze customer survey responses and provide tailored AI-powered suggestions. For example, on some websites and apps, customers are asked to input their preferences for:
- Day trips
- Things to do
- Local attractions
- Customized retail properties, hotels, rooms, etc.
The app or web portal will then formulate an entire suggested itinerary based on the answers to those questions. It has personalized travel agencies that can recommend places to stay, eat, visit, etc., without human agents. In this example, the customer experience proceeds more quickly while the need for travel agencies or human agents diminishes.
Conversational AI and the Customer Experience
Another way the travel and tourism industry has been affected by conversational AI is via customer service AI-powered chat solutions. Across the tourism industry, you can find conversational AI Platforms that can handle complex questions and transactions, and more primitive AI-powered chatbots that can reply to basic questions.
Almost every airline and many hotels have this type of AI-powered system in place. AI chatbots perform repetitive tasks and answer routine questions related to the concierge, room service, payments, check-in, and other airline and hotel services. Some more innovative companies, like Universal Studios and Medieval Times, choose to implement a conversational AI Platform that can answer up to 95 % of all inbound questions and requests. The choice between these two AI-powered techs depends on the needs of the org and revenue goals.
Eliminating the need for human intervention for mundane tasks allows human agents to handle more personalized or complex issues, which improves employee morale and creates more productive and inspired employees.
Cross Selling Opportunities
AI-powered chatbots also analyze user answers on travel industry websites and provide cross-services opportunities. For example, you might be trying to book a flight to Las Vegas, and AI-powered chatbots suggest a hotel, car rental, and interest points in your locale. Many travel industry customers use this service to plan entire trips.
Streamlined Views and Administrative Processes
Customers can now check into resorts, hotels, flights at airports, and even visit some restaurants live to see how long a wait might be. When doing any of those, they never have to talk to a customer service representative unless they opt to do so.
AI can also be used to streamline more mundane tasks such as:
- Verifying COVID protocols have been followed
- Verifying ID and passports
- Finalizing itineraries
- Managing tickets and passes
- Arranging for special services like wheelchairs or special flight food
AI in Customer Feedback
While AI is used primarily for customer service, more and more businesses are relying on it to address basic customer feedback or simple repetitive tasks.
For instance, AI is used in the tourism and travel industry to cancel reservations and process refunds. Customers input basic data via an app, website, or phone when they cancel, and their claim for a refund gets instantly created. The only time the customer has to talk to someone is if they prefer that or if they have a complex inquiry or issue.
Improving Customer Engagement and Satisfaction
AI is also helping to implement and manage customer feedback surveys. A chatbot taking a customer review will often glean useful information via chatbot-managed customer polls, surveys and reviews. These interact with a customer, pose questions based on prior answers and then log all the answers into a database.
Human managers can then access the data and analyze customer feedback. That analysis can lead to new policies, altering policies, or identifying customer issues that managers and even ground-level staff might not have been aware of because most customers will not fill out hard-form surveys but will engage in conversational AI.
While the collected data is vital in helping the travel and tourism sector assess customer satisfaction, AI chatbots also improve customer satisfaction on the front end. It is not unusual, for example, to sit on hold for several minutes when trying to connect with an airline or hotel during the peak travel season.
Tourism and Travel Industry Concerns With AI
No discussion is complete regarding AI without mentioning some concerns that some have over its employment. Most people like AI, but only to a degree. Many people fear that AI will become so sophisticated it will become intrusive and even controlling. The reality is that while that might be something everyone should be aware of, it is a long way off. In fact, it probably won’t be for at least another 40 years, in 2060.
In the interim, AI is aiding the travel and tourism industries by helping improve customer experience, processes, feedback, and satisfaction. In that respect, AI is doing exactly what it is supposed to do while cutting out unnecessary steps, wait times, and convoluted processes that previously irritated some customers.
Consumer behavior is shifting towards 24/7 self-service with industry leaders like Disney and even Universal already using AI tech to improve their guest experience. Sooner than you think, it will be the golden standard and something your guests will expect.
Even now, chances are you are using AI, like AI-powered services that provide instant answers to routine queries and did not notice it. It is even more likely that you used AI, which made your planning and the trip more convenient, fun, and affordable.
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