The travel industry, like many others, is undergoing a profound transformation driven by emerging technologies. New age tools and technologies are revolutionising the way we experience travel, examine the challenges they bring, and outline strategies for building a resilient future for the industry.
Emerging technologies such as Extended Reality (XR), Internet of Things (IoT), Edge computing, and Gen AI virtual assistants are at the forefront of reshaping travel. They promise to enhance convenience, personalisation, and efficiency, offering travellers a new way to experience the world.
At the heart of this travel revolution lies Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is not just a technology; it’s the catalyst for change. Its applications in travel are vast, and they are already making a significant impact.
Extended Reality (XR): XR technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are changing the way travellers interact with destinations. Imagine being able to take a virtual tour of your chosen hotel before you even check in or exploring a city’s attractions from the comfort of your home. XR brings destinations to life like never before.
Smart hotels equipped with IoT devices allow guests to control room temperature lighting and even order room service with a few taps on their smartphones. This level of control enhances the overall guest experience.
Gen AI virtual assistants: Gen AI virtual assistants are your personalised travel consultants. They assist in everything from booking flights and accommodations to providing real-time recommendations based on your preferences. These AI-driven companions are changing the way we plan and execute our trips.
What’s the impact?
AI algorithms analyse mountains of data to understand individual preferences. This enables travel platforms to offer tailored recommendations, from destinations and hotels to activities and dining options. AI-powered chatbots provide instant assistance to travellers. They handle routine inquiries booking processes and offer real-time support during travel, ensuring a seamless experience.
AI-driven pricing models also ensure travellers get the best deals. These algorithms consider factors like demand, seasonality, and historical data to offer competitive prices for flights and accommodations.
At the same time, AI-driven security systems can analyse passenger behaviour and detect anomalies, enhancing overall safety in the travel ecosystem. Facial recognition technology is being used for seamless and secure check-ins.
For instance, airlines are using AI for predictive maintenance, identifying potential issues before they lead to delays or cancellations, ensuring a more reliable travel experience.
What industry thinks?
The travel industry, hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, is on a path to recovery. The adoption of digital technologies is crucial in this journey. Industry stakeholders feels travel companies must embrace digitalisation, leverage data-driven insights, and innovate agile business models.
According to a recent digital travel knowledge paper released by FICCI in association with Accenture highlighted that building resilient supply chains is a key factor to adapt to change and move forward. By reimagining supply chains as customer-centric, flexible, transparent, and intelligent, travel companies can navigate disruptions effectively. “Expanding supplier bases and collaborating with ecosystem partners are vital steps,” it added.
Ashish Kumar, Co-Chairperson, FICCI Travel Technology & Digital Committee, while commenting on the digital transformation during FICCI’s Digital Travel, Hospitality, & Innovation Summit, said that the industry must view customers as consumers and label their presence as global, not by demographic or cultural lines.
“India has huge numbers and scale in areas like biometric IDs, digital payments, and e-commerce, which represents immense opportunities for travel and other industries. Travel industry should aim to create new customers rather than serve existing ones, given the large potential market in India,” he said.
Kumar further added that he envisions the creation of a large travel e-commerce like Expedia out of India, which will cater the needs and preferences of discerning travellers. “Travel is a large segment of e-commerce in India and will be impacted by India’s upcoming e-commerce policy. Travel moving towards will be consumer-centric rather than defining customers by inbound/outbound, B2B/B2C, etc,” he stated.
Personalisation and sustainability
Personalisation is no longer a luxury; it’s an expectation. Travellers demand experiences tailored to their preferences. Simultaneously, the industry must prioritise sustainability, emphasising responsible travel and reducing its carbon footprint.
Understanding the changing needs and preferences of travellers is essential. Redesigning customer journeys with technology and data-driven insights can provide better service and enhance the overall experience. Additionally, collaboration with governments and ecosystem partners on policy issues is crucial. This collaborative approach ensures that the industry operates efficiently and in compliance with regulations.
Challenges on the horizon?
While technology promises a brighter future for the travel industry, it also presents several challenges: As companies collect more data for personalisation, addressing privacy concerns becomes paramount. Striking the right balance between personalisation and privacy is a delicate task. On the other hand, navigating complex regulatory and policy issues related to data privacy, security, and cross-border travel is also a constant challenge.
Restoring traveller’s trust after the pandemic is a challenge. Travel companies must assure customers of their safety and well-being through transparent health and safety measures. The travel industry is also under scrutiny for its carbon footprint. According to industry voices, finding sustainable solutions and promoting eco-friendly travel practices are imperative.
Commenting on the bigger picture and the need to democratise technology, Himani Agrawal – Country Head, Azure, Microsoft India, said till the time AI and technology are democratised, it will not create that large-scale impact on society on the world.
“We are driven by our mission statement, which is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet. The only objective that we have, is that AI has to be democratised. Technology has to be democratised. AI is just one example. It has to be in the hands of the consumers. It has to be in the hands of the users. It has to be hands in the hands of the developers or people who are creating that are the businesses it has to be in the hands of the employees in the hands of the businesses,” she said.
Learning for other industries
According to a cross-industry blogs features views of experts from the digital travel industry, the travel industry can draw inspiration from other sectors that have successfully reinvented themselves during crises. For example, the healthcare and government services sectors offer insights into transforming processes to serve customers efficiently and empathetically.
AI-enabled virtual agents (VAs) have the potential to manage last-minute cancellations or changing schedules during travel disruptions. Healthcare providers used VAs to detect cases needing immediate attention and screen patients for Covid-19 symptoms. These innovations can be adapted for travel to enhance customer service.
To conclude, it is imperative to say that the travel industry’s future is intrinsically tied to technology. By embracing digitalisation, prioritising personalisation, and sustainability, and collaborating with ecosystem partners, the industry can emerge stronger and more resilient. Challenges abound, but with the right strategies and a commitment to innovation, the travel industry can look forward to a bright future where technology and travel seamlessly intersect.