Can AI-driven tech help bring back tourism travel?

Can AI-driven tech help bring back tourism travel?. Source: Reuters

Can AI-driven tech help bring back tourism travel?

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) will rapidly spread to almost every aspect of the travel and the hospitality industry post-pandemic
  • AI can be used for a plethora of uses, including fleet and operations management, disruption management, customer service and retention, autonomous machines and services, recommendation engines, price forecasting, and many more. 

The global restrictions imposed since March this year due to Covid-19 has brought international travel to a screeching halt. It has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020 and could further decline by 60-80% over the whole year.

Travel will be back — inevitably. But the way we travel will undergo a dramatic transformation. 

Although technology may have already changed how travelers plan, book, and embark on their journeys drastically over the past decade, at this juncture, data science and artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to play a major role in helping the industry resuming back to the new normal. Before the pandemic, AI and other forms of machine learning were just beginning to infiltrate the travel sector. Their biggest advantage is the ability to personalize experiences and streamline services based on customer data.

Singapore, for example, is hoping that AI — through local start-ups — can help the city-state’s tourism sector bring back visitors safely, as ongoing border restrictions and lower consumer appetite for international flights have changed travel as an industry. 

So what could traveling look like in the wake of the pandemic?

Naturally, companies would explore solutions that allow travelers to maintain social distancing norms as much as possible. 

Industry experts believe data science and AI technology will be a key tool in the revival of travel, with electronic passports and IDs, boarding passes, medical screening, and robot cleaners being deployed widely to limit physical contact between people and surfaces.

If AI is utilized to its full capability, the travel industry could be completely revolutionized, as it would be able to change aspects of customer service, assist in passenger identification while traveling, and personalize a traveler’s experience through curated recommendations. 

One great example is the adoption of AI concierge by numerous hotel chains including Hilton Worldwide’s Connie — the first true AI-powered concierge bot since 2016. 

Standing at two feet high and interacting with guests during check-in — Connie can provide succinct information to guests on local attractions and places to visit. Being AI-driven with self-learning ability, it can also learn and adapt and respond to each guest on a personalized basis.

Chatbot technology is another big strand of AI, and not surprisingly many travel brands have already launched their own versions in the past year or so. Skyscanner is just one example, creating an intelligent bot to help consumers find flights in Facebook Messenger.

Another immediate and visible change in the travel industry will be a shift to touchless travel from airport curbside to hotel check-in. Automation across the entire travel industry will become the new norm. From a visa application center, an airplane, to sightseeing at a destination, people would look for an assurance that all touchpoints during a journey have adopted the health and hygiene aspect.

With physical fingerprint and hand scanners phased out, its use will become more widespread and m0re touchless options will come into play including contactless fingerprint, as well as iris and face recognition. 

All in all, the travel and hospitality industry transformation will morph into an experience-driven and asset-light business, as wide adoption of AI will usher a new-age customer experience and set a benchmark for other industries to emulate.