Transforming the travel experience with AI: Why your brand is more important than ever

AI hardly needs much of an introduction anymore. Since ChatGPT was unleashed to the public towards the end of last year, people got a tangible taste for its current power and future potential. AI hasn’t left the newsreel since, with discussions ranging from “the beginning of the end for industry X” to “the savour of industry Y”.

In the rapidly evolving world of AI, one industry stands out for its unique challenge: travel. Travel, at its core, sells an experience, an offline adventure where the senses come alive and tangible connections are made with the location. Tech does, however, play an integral role across the entire customer journey, from seeking inspiration to booking a trip and searching for recommendations mid-flow. Tech has transformative potential in the industry, even if it’s removed from the experience itself. Case in point: the rise of online travel agencies disrupting the traditional high street travel agents, or the sharing economy empowered platforms like Airbnb to redefine the way people experience destinations in a more authentic way.

So, how are travel brands currently using AI and what does the AI-fuelled future look like in this space? There is a theme: personalisation.

Expedia, the leading online travel company, has embraced AI to provide personalised recommendations. Their Virtual Travel Agent, powered by ChatGPT, enables customers to book flights, hotels, and excursions through natural language conversation. The result? A knowledgeable travel assistant is available 24/7, ready to curate your perfect itinerary.

Kayak, another industry frontrunner, leverages AI to deliver personalised recommendations by analysing user search patterns, preferences, and past bookings. With this technology, travellers receive tailor-made suggestions that align with their unique preferences and interests.

This is good news for the consumer. It bridges the gap between high street travel agents’ individual attention and the convenience of online platforms, taking the best of both worlds.

However, as brands rush to adopt AI, a new challenge arises: avoiding the commoditisation of the travel market. Many brands in this space are using the same AI programmes to carry out the same instructions and provide the same service to consumers. While AI enables personalisation, it is crucial for brands to use this technology to create distinct and memorable experiences that set them apart from the rest of the pack.

There is a danger that, in the quest for personalisation, brands may inadvertently blur their identities, pushing themselves closer together and diluting what makes them special. To stay ahead of the curve, travel brands must embrace AI as a tool to enhance their strengths and reinforce their brand identities. The way services are delivered, the tone of voice used, and supplementary offerings can all contribute to a brand’s uniqueness in the market and interventions in their customer’s journeys should be distinctly ‘them’.

We stand on the precipice of the AI revolution, a transformative force that brands cannot afford to ignore. Adapting to this new landscape will determine whether they thrive or fade into irrelevance. Knowing what your brand stands for, understanding its unique value proposition, and leveraging AI to amplify those differentiators will be the key to success.

By: Heather Young, Nick Campbell and Rose McLelland

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