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Considering how quickly Siri, Alexa and Hey Google have become a part of consumers’ everyday lives, it is not hard to imagine an environment where these “AI agents” take their place at the center of shopping – for travel and everything else.
The experience will likely look something like this: When you want to book a trip, you will call upon your favorite AI agent — Siri, Alexa, Google, Cortana, Facebook “M”, or some yet to be created AI assistant — and tell it the origin, destination, dates and price point. With that one request, the AI agent will search all of the existing travel content, or data, across the globe. This includes flights, ground transportation, lodging – including the ancillaries and extras such as seat upgrades or baggage insurance. Then, the AI agent, knowing your personal preferences, will quickly book the best possible solution based on your dates, budget, and personal preferences. Done.
One can thus see a future where AI agents are the trusted source behind trip searches and driving travel experiences.
In the present, travelers are already beginning to enjoy an increasingly seamless experience from planning and booking, to managing changes and updates in real-time while traveling. As an example of this shift, online travel agencies that offer consumers a one stop shop to book and manage their trips are expected to own 41% of the online digital travel market in the U.S. by 2020. But those of us building for the future know it won’t stop there.
Let’s examine three key factors that are driving AI’s impact on the future of travel.
1. The pervasiveness of AI agents
People already have smart homes with AI agents everywhere from thermostats to door locks to Alexa, Google Home, and Siri. These technologies are still in their infancy, but they continue to evolve. While consumers may not end up trusting their AI agent to complete the entire travel shopping process, they may utilize their preferred AI agent to search specific sources of travel information. They may ask their AI agent to “search for a trip from Denver to London next weekend on Priceline, Expedia, and Google Flights.” Despite the level of detail consumers provide, the key takeaway here is that consumers will trust their AI agent to do most of the travel search legwork and make their lives easier.
Furthermore, the AI agents of the future will have a fuller picture of who the consumer is and what their preferences and behavioral patterns are, which will allow the AI agent to determine the most relevant results for the consumer. The AI agent will contact multiple sources of global travel content to stitch together the entire trip and report back with a number of choices the consumer is most likely to choose from, based on the consumer profile it has already created.
2. Compounding intelligence
Since we may end up relying on AI agents for most aspects of our life, those agents will have learned everything about us and our preferences. These AI agents will therefore not only be intelligent about the world, but they will also become smart about us too. For travel, this will allow companies to personalize options and offers. These options won’t be targeted directly at the consumer, they will be directed towards the consumers’ AI agent. Thus, there may end up being two layers of intelligence between the travel provider and the consumer. The first will be the travel providers AI recommendation engine and the second will be the consumers AI agent.
3. AI-to-AI distribution
In a world of AI agents searching and booking travel on our behalves, agencies and travel providers will need to offer their AI customers highly individualized and personalized content, based on artificial intelligent inputs from the consumers AI agents. Those in the business of selling and managing travel will need powerful AI capabilities in order to respond quickly and easily to requests from consumers AI agents. As the level of personalization increases over time, with AI agents servicing consumers in every aspect of their lives, the need to aggregate and return highly relevant travel content will become much more complex. Part and parcel of returning a search result will be imperative to anticipate what the AI agent predicts the end consumer is looking for and desires.
In an AI driven world such as the one described, success will come down to three things:
- Can you immediately respond to a search request with an accurate, intelligent response based on predicted customer preferences?
- Can your AI capabilities grow and scale with rapidly growing volumes of requests from worldwide travel searches, bookings and transactions?
- Can your intelligence evolve to anticipate travelers’ personalized needs and desires?
The future of travel bookings may end up being all about helping the AI agent deliver the most relevant results for a search query in the most efficient and complete manner possible. Therefore, it is vital that travel companies invest in technology solutions with AI capabilities necessary to curate and process the data that will drive AI – and the future of travel.