The most important problems that tourism and hospitality providers can solve for global travellers are issues with simplification and convenience. These were key takeaways from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s 2022 Global Passenger Survey, coming out ahead of issues like privacy and cost.
In fact, IATA’s survey data suggests travellers will compromise on price and privacy if their overall experience is better. This is the “Amazon Effect” on travel, where having a wide range of choices and seamless delivery has forever changed how consumers interact with all industries.
While some of the hurdles for improving travel must be addressed at the regulatory level (such as pre-flight screening, biometric data and passports), there is much that tourism and hospitality brands can do to personalise and enhance their experiences through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI).
Ironically, it takes the adoption of advanced technology to re-humanise industries that have become sterile and impersonal. There are infinite ways that AI can improve each step of the traveller’s experience, blending seamlessly with human experts using the “centaur model”. The below are areas where AI can bring significant changes to the travel sector.
Fully automated travel agents: The travel industry’s adoption of real-time accommodation searches and sales nearly ended the human travel agent business years ago. What saved the upper echelon of agents was offering a high-end, highly personalised experience to elite travellers.
With the help of AI, that service can now be fully captured by technology, including intimate knowledge of the traveller’s history and preferences, offered instantaneously. Just as digital tools can automate meeting notes and follow-up items, a plugin could listen in to your Zoom calls, suggest travel options and book a full itinerary before you hang up. As travel plans evolve, this service could manage all cascading schedule changes on the traveller’s behalf.
Real-time language recognition and conversation: One of the most refreshing aspects of generative AI models like ChatGPT is its ability to grasp context and meaning, even in conversational settings. Rather than languishing in a lengthy decision tree of pre-set questions, users can skip ahead to relevant queries, and ask for clarifications and details where needed.
In a travel context, this convenience becomes essential. According to the University of Maryland’s Langscape project, more than 7,100 languages and dialects are spoken around the world, making it impossible for humans to provide customer service to all travellers. The solution is a robust AI-powered language recognition tool, which recognises specific dialects and translates it in a conversational manner.
During a medical emergency in a foreign country, this service becomes a matter of life and death. AI paired with personal devices can help provide critical clarity and break down barriers that currently restrict global travel.
Smart cities in the Middle East and beyond: Smart cities are generally defined as urban centres with an underlying framework of cloud-based IoT applications that receive and analyse data in real-time to help everyone make better decisions. Cities may implement a wide range of smart concepts, including energy usage, logistics, infrastructure and public services.
The Middle East is a global leader in the development of smart cities and should be at the forefront of implementing AI to enhance the smart city traveller experience. One of the primary concerns of smart city tourism has been how to reduce friction for visiting travellers. The benefits for residents are clear but could be invasive and onerous for transient users. AI may be the solution for bridging the gap between enterprise smart infrastructure, allowing visitors to maintain control of their digital identities while still integrating seamlessly into the local information grid. This interoperability is still a few steps away, but it remains a multi-billion-dollar question that AI innovation can help answer.
Words by Cenk Sidar, founder and CEO of Enquire AI