It’s official, we are well and truly in the future, thanks to the rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) infiltrating our industries. Take for example Nestle's use of SoftBank's Pepper robots. These clever bots have been programmed to sell Dolce Gusto coffee pods and machines in stores in Japan. As you can expect, bots and AI are the next big thing in travel, which are set to revolutionize the industry. Although the future looks good, let’s look at how bots and AI are currently impacting the industry and how this will evolve this year.
Bots have allowed travel brands to grow their reach and talk to current and new customers via third party channels such as Facebook Messenger. Functionality such as search and travel updates are not necessarily new, but both the channel and the environment are different; bots enable brands to speak with users in places where they already live and feel at home.
It's no surprise that the use of bots and AI reduces costs. Not only are bots more cost effective, they can improve productivity. With the ability to do simple, and at times more mundane routine tasks, it is quite evident to see why they are an attractive option.
Solving problems and creating opportunities
Bots and AI are starting to chip away at travel problems. From last minute requests for a boarding pass via Facebook Messenger through to automating disruption alerts, bots are beginning to have a top-level impact on some of the industry’s issues. But opportunities are also starting to be uncovered with progress being made in harnessing AI to improve recommender systems for ancillary sales and providing personalized destination suggestions based on individual and aggregate historical travel preferences.
There’s no doubt that 2016 saw significant progress being made, but much of it is scratching the surface and is fragmented in nature. So where do bots and AI need to go to make a bigger impact in 2017? To date bots and AI have been great at acting as a basic assistant using scripted responses, however, bots need to understand context and history and ultimately need to act as collaborators on more multi-layered and complex travel challenges, rather than simply responding to basic commands. Things are moving fast, experimentation is recommended!