There are two types of people – ones that think artificial intelligence [AI] is the future – and others that think AI will be the end of our future.
I personally believe (hope) we will leverage AI for the betterment of humanity.
I feel it can transform many industries (especially travel), evolve our current technology and help humans work less so they can do more of what they love.
I talk about AI to people all the time, and many often say “AI is the future”. Yet, when I ask them if they’ve ever used any service with AI, hired an AI assistant, or looked into using some of the AI services already out there, they almost never know what I’m talking about – and are surprised it already exists. So while many believe AI is coming – they don’t realize that it’s already here, being implemented in businesses in countless industries, many that we interact with on a daily basis – Including travel!
About a year ago, when it came to AI, I had only heard of Watson in a press conference. When we started looking into using watson for our business, researching other services, I was blown away to see just how many industries were leveraging AI and offering services to businesses. There are creativity tools, sales and workflow tools, emai marketing tools. I couldn’t believe I could already hire a virtual assistant to make and schedule appointments, make reservations, listen to phone calls and take notes, and so on. Although a little creepy, it’s pretty cool!
What’s super exciting for the travel travel and hospitality brands are now embedding AI tech in their search process, and chat platforms in their online communications, to improve customer service and engagement. There are even travel apps that currently are powered by human and robot (eventually just robot), that act like a concierge – booking hotels even airbnbs, rental cars, planning your travel, helping with itinerary, and so on!
In 2016, Hilton Worldwide launched its Watson-powered “Connie” robot, and Leading Hotels uses Watson’s brain to match specific guest searches with individual hotels. Air Canada and SAS Airlines both use IBM’s machine-learning platform for its flight attendants’ in-flight iPad app. And we’re not even getting into driverless cars or flying taxis yet (Dubai)!
AI-powered chatbots will become even more advanced and mainstream in 2018.
Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell have already led the way with AI chat to improve customer service efficiency, and provide roadmaps for ambitious travel brands. At the other end of the hospitality scale, luxury brands like Dorchester Hotels and Edwardian Hotels have invested in new AI-embedded customer relationship management systems. Edwardian’s virtual concierge “Edward” is described as a “new interactive text response mobile SMS service” to help guests request basic hotel amenities.
Meanwhile, Facebook is developing its in-house “DeepText” AI engine in an attempt to compete with Google’s dominance in travel search. Also, Booking.com launched its new AI-powered Booking Experiences pilot platform in 2016 in select cities, so travelers can now search more intelligently for bookable tours and activities within the Booking.com app.
There’s still a long way to go before AI and human-machine interfaces truly transform travel research and the user experience across a broad spectrum of brands. But we’re on our way.