Why AI Augmented Travel is the Next Frontier for Digital Natives
Dipping your toes into the Andaman sea, you wander the iconic shores of Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi. Passing a beachfront cocktail bar, an alert pops up on your cellphone offering you a 241 special on Margaritas for you and a friend, redeemable for the next hour. You pull off your Oculus headset, that’s it, that’s your next vacation decided.
A rise in low-cost transport and significant improvements to international infrastructure has made it easier to jet around the world, satisfying consumer hunger for new pastures. The old days of travel agents and shiny brochures have been replaced with AI travel companions and exciting VR apps, and end-to-end travel service apps are the new all-inclusive getaway.
Once you hit the ground, smart tools help travelers to uncover the hidden extras to tailor your vacation, just as you like. So strap in and relax, your new smart travel buddy has it covered. Augmenting your journey with new experiences, personalized suggestions and insider tips, transforming the way that a new generation travels.
Social media inspires travel
Despite being less financially comfortable than other cohorts, in an economically unstable climate, millennials are still more likely to invest their dollars into overseas travel. According to Boston Consulting Group, in the US this age-group is significantly more interested in travel: 23 percentage points more than older generations.
The millennial traveler budgets more for their trips, and as this spending increases, it is predicted to hit $1.4 trillion a year by 2020. Travel for millennials is not a luxury, it has come to be a part of their lives, spurred on by online tendencies and the adventures of their peers.
For a generation of digital natives, our online explorations have begun to influence our travel decisions. This journey begins at the initial conception and inspiration to visit new destinations. 87 percent of millennials use Facebook to research upcoming vacations. This means those Machu Picchu yoga selfies and sunbathing hotdog snaps have the power to influence others in your network. Reportedly, 84% of millennials will plan trips based on updates and photos on social media.
This all translates into a big industry, tailored to the younger generations, where digital solutions are an intrinsic part of the travel experience. So, what does this international tribe of explorers want? According to creative agency Blitz, they’re after “immediacy and personalized interactions,” and tech platforms armed with big data are poised to give it to them.
End-to-end smart travel services
Where once we hopped from app to app, browsing prices and options, today a rise of “travel as a service” tools cut outs the legwork. From the original research, offering recommendations, through planning and booking, and even aiding vacationers on the road, end-to-end services have it all covered.
In 2016, the largest global GPS navigation tool Sygic pivoted its business model, expanding its offering from offline maps and integrated driver application, forming a complete travel service. Sygic claims the service supports its users, “inspiring, planning, booking and tailoring the entire vacation through just one app.”
This new service is not a world away from Google’s own travel app Google Trips, which launched in September. The offline tool helps users plan every day of their trip, described as a “personalized tour guide in your pocket” helping travelers create their own itineraries, track flights and make reservations, with no need for Wifi hotspots. Unlike Google, Sygic boasts a flashy VR experience and plans to launch social integrations, to share holiday tales with all your Facebook friends.
However, arguably the secret weapon of both travel services will be the huge amount of data collected, with the ability to power hyper-personalized recommendations using intelligent software. Others are catching on to the potential of data they already possess to shape your holiday experience. Amazon wants to use its smart algorithms to combine consumer purchase behavior and travel bookings; enabling people to book transport and order holiday necessities, all from one place.
Your new AI travel companion
Our digital wanderings create a trail, a fingerprint that reveals a great deal about our interests. Our likes, dislikes, our experiences and behaviors color an online avatar, layered with our own big data. Advances in Artificial Intelligence mean your unique appetite for travel can be satisfied through your own personal AI companion.
Take, Alexis, the AI travel agent referred to as the “Siri of travel” by USA Today. Alexis uses natural language processing to interpret human speech. Through various travel provider integrations it can suggest and even book transport, accommodation and attractions in multiple languages. The virtual assistant knows traveler preferences and can offer up solutions suited to their tastes.
New chatbots are not limited to proprietary apps and travel services. If you want an independent travel companion there are a number bots, such as Marina Alterra or Hipmunk, that live within popular social messaging tools, ready to book you a hotel or give you recommendations. These tools come head-to-head with customer service tools and virtual assistants from major travel services; from Skyscanner to EasyJet.
In this busy land of bots, the most effective virtual assistants will be those that make use of all your big data, not simply recycling old holiday trends. The wider you cast the net the more data AI can access to tailor new discoveries. If you’ve got a penchant for south Indian cuisine a trip to Goa might pique your interest, or if you’re an avid hiker, posting recent trips may trigger a tip or an offer to explore new horizons.
Emerging technology is shifting the travel industry away from mass marketing and towards individual targeting. New frontiers will be augmented by AI, sorting through the masses of data to uncover the best picks — from the social media posts and VR experiences that inspire you, to your own historical data and digital activities. The world is getting smaller alright, and it’s becoming more personal, too.