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How technology is redefining the travel industry

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Every traveller has encountered less than perfect experience at one point or another within the tourism value chain. Often these situations can become part of funny back stories, but more often than not they can be a source of frustration and even poor experiences that may put one off a brand for good. Tech trends are already changing customer behaviour and expectations, and over the next decade or so these effects are only going to grow more pronounced. It is why online travel has to not just keep pace with emerging technology trends, but re-examine every choice through the lens of technology to stay ahead in the game.

Advances in technology, the proliferation of social media and the increasing ease with which services can be purchased online, have all made the travel industry even more dynamic. Consumers are seeking ever-more choices, expect frictionless purchase, personalised services and inspirational brands to meet their travel expectations.

The huge amount of customer data at the disposal of online travel companies is allowing for more in-depth predictions and behavioural analytics than ever before. Not only that, modern-day computing power can now deal with traveller requests in real time. Intelligent virtual assistants are increasingly being integrated into mobile devices and messaging apps, making truly on-demand service a genuine reality, not to mention a key driver of disruption in the travel industry.

Artificial intelligence in travel sector has already started to change the way people are searching and booking their travel. These range from algorithms that are constantly refining how options are ranked on people’s favourite website, data collected from the apps on phone, sentiments shared on social media etc. AI is helping travel companies to provide highly-tailored offers based on customers’ needs and preferences. Past behaviours can obviously feed computers to predict future purchase actions. But deep learning algorithms can help travel companies make the most out of their customer’s online activities. Computers are now able to understand images, videos and sounds, creating opportunities to better understand travellers.

New digital mediums like chatbots have opened an advanced dimension taking the customer experience to the next level. Chatbots are already helping airlines and online travel tech companies like ours handle some of the simpler customer transactions booking, boarding passes etc, so that human agents can focus on more complex interactions. Further, customers are now being recommended flights, hotel and holiday package based on their search history, booking behaviour, location and user segments. The use of voice-activated assistants like Amazon‘s Alexa is being used for flight and hotel booking, cancellations and changes to travel itineraries.

The next big frontier for online travel space is conversational commerce which combines conversational design and NLU (Natural language Understanding). We have already integrated our chatbots with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to help customers search for hotels and flights. These bots are designed in a manner to help customers with wider travel booking considerations such as searching for flights as well as in-trip assistance.

As artificial intelligence matures, they will provide the opportunity to simplify and personalize the user experience throughout the travel lifecycle, from facilitating searching and booking, to enhancing the user experience during travel and, finally, collecting feedback post travel. These technologies are already changing the rules of travel in India and are going to redefine how people take to travel in the years ahead.

The writer is Founder and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip

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