AI is the Buzzword of the Moment: How can AI Enhance the Traveller Experience?

AI is the Buzzword of the Moment: How can AI Enhance the Traveller Experience?

AI is the Buzzword of the Moment: How can AI Enhance the Traveller Experience?
8th February 2024

The increasing demands of a globalised business environment are encouraging corporates to focus on the efficiency and practicality of their business travel and relocation programmes. 

The relationship between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the traveller experience has become a key discussion point within business travel, with organisations looking for innovative ways to improve their travel programmes. How can they make booking and managing a cohort of business travellers more efficient (and more financially prudent) while addressing key traveller experience considerations like traveller stress, safety, and individual preferences? 

For some, the answer is an especially short one: AI. 

But what is the relationship between business travel and AI? Does machine learning have practical applications in the corporate accommodation space? And, most pertinently, can AI tools provide a tangible benefit to businesses and their travellers? 

How can AI improve the Traveller Experience? 

Planning, booking, and checking in  

The key benefits of AI are its convenience and ability to save time and reduce labour. As such, AI automations are unquestionably well-suited to supporting the customer service aspects of planning business travel. Through ‘generative AI’ (AI capable of generating new content like text or other media), chatbots can instantly provide travellers with answers to general enquiries and journey specific information like weather forecasts and travel cancellations.  

Real-time updates and alerts are particularly useful during unexpected events like disruptions to flights, ground travel, or area-specific emergencies. AI can quickly analyse data and provide alternative travel options, minimising disruption and ensuring employees arrive at their destination on time.    

Integrating business travel and AI can speed up the arrival process, too. Checking in via a self-service kiosk or mobile app is increasingly prevalent in hotels and serviced apartments, affording staff more time to concentrate on quality service beyond the initial check-in. 

Personalisation 

AI can help to tailor the travel experience to meet the unique needs of every traveller, whether that be through recognising booking patterns and pre-filling booking fields, or multilingual customer service via chatbots. AI can streamline the booking and planning phases of the business travel process and simplify it based on traveller habits and preferences. 

In late 2023, Accenture launched ‘Cytric Easy’ – an email plugin which interprets email conversations and generates travel itineraries from them.  

Using Data to Tailor the Traveller Experience 

There are a wide range of applications for AI, and the traveller experience can greatly benefit from its ability to aggregate large amounts of data. Whether it’s live flight and hotel prices, rental car availability, or up-to-the-minute reviews, AI can keep business travellers informed, allowing them to make more informed decisions and secure the best deals for their companies. 

AI is also streamlining the expense management process for business travel. By automating expense reports and using AI-powered tools to track expenses, businesses can save time and money while ensuring accuracy and compliance with company policies. 

Is AI single-handedly revolutionising business travel? 

Unfortunately, the short answer is no. AI is an exceptionally useful tool with many applications, but it exists to support ‘human-delivered’ service and business practices. Professional expertise in the business travel and relocation supply chains remains the most important factor in any business journey.  

‘Impersonalisation’ 

The benefits of AI in business travel must, of course, be weighed against its respective weaknesses. Indeed, some say the ‘human vs AI’ discussion comes down to speed versus accuracy. AI has the power of processing vast amounts of data and performing complex calculations at incredible speeds, while also recognising patterns. Despite its impressive capabilities, AI has several limitations that distinguish it from human intelligence. As AI mimics the same creative process with every search and result, it lacks elements of accuracy and innovation as well as a key human factor, emotional intelligence.  

Security 

As business travel and AI have engaged a wider audience in recent years, various organisations work with companies to produce guidelines on the security risks of AI and how they can be prevented. But what are these cyber security risks?  

AI relies on its training data to deliver the correct outcome for corporate clients and business travellers, such as tracking travel data for risks, and informing travellers of these risks for safeguarding protection during their journey. If the data is modified or ‘poisoned’, AI can deliver incorrect results, potentially providing misleading information to business traveller. Preventions for this includes cutting edge encryption and backup technology to support any data being picked up from AI and misinforming clients due to the complexities of business travel from planning, to booking and checking in.

Research shows that almost a third of businesses believe AI is one of the greatest security threats they will face in the coming years.

Ethics 

While Artificial intelligence plays an ever-increasing role in our personal and work lives, there are a range of ethical concerns involved, with the most worrying being how AI could exploit customers.  Within business travel and AI, customers may, without their knowledge, share private personal data which could later be shared without their consent. Companies have come under tremendous scrutiny over this, resulting in the enforcement of stricter guidelines around the use of AI.  

One of the biggest risks with AI is the possibility for mistakes, which can cause damage to a company’s infrastructure and reputation if left unresolved. For instance, in early 2023 ChatGPT acknowledged that it didn't know about current events or information since its model’s training was stopped after 2021. Without important and relevant information, a user may be left with inaccurate answers, potentially leading to further mistakes in the future. This is where business travel and AI lack cohesion, leading to flaws within traveller experience programmes.  

How does the future of AI in business travel look? 

AI to augment human services

Indeed, as outlined last year by Forbes, ‘the likely scenario is that human labour will evolve to match the needs of emerging innovation just as it has in the past’. However how can we use AI to expand human intelligence, not replace it? 

AI now plays a key role in the way we as consumers use technology in our everyday lives, and the travel industry is not immune to this. Business travel and AI tend to go hand in hand right from the beginning of the customer journey to provide a more personalised travel experience, yet this still lacks a personal touch.  

AI technologies have demonstrated remarkable capabilities for the business traveller through customer service chatbots, self-service check in, and real time live travel updates. However, service providers are urged to incorporate AI technologies with caution and consideration – remembering that the core of exceptional service is not its speed but its quality.  

 


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