Travel insights from Taylor Coulson, contributing editor of The Compass

Why You Should Not Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence

When was the last time you saw a traveler with an oversized map pointing them in the right (or left) direction? It’s probably been a while. That’s because almost everybody these days has a connection with Siri or a smartphone of some sort.

Whether you realize it or not, artificial intelligence, aka AI, is a resource you use daily. If you check-in on Facebook to share your location with your family and friends, or like a company’s page to get $5 off your purchase, AI is assisting you along the way. And, depending on the Wi-Fi speed, answers to “How far away is the nearest restaurant?” or exchange rates between euros and dollars are available within seconds because of AI. It also comes in the form of chatbots, allowing you to ask questions and receive immediate, personalized responses while shopping online, without having to wait on hold with customer service. Gmail even suggests responses to send during email conversations. AI is assisting you everywhere.

AI may appear as an invasion of privacy – a bit creepy, some might say – but within the travel industry, it’s widely used and quite beneficial. It’s attractive and reliable when used as a business solution for administrative and customer service related tasks, positioning it as a great resource for small business owners like travel agents. There are two main ways travel agents can use AI to your advantage: for customer service and marketing automation.

Face-to-Face Customer Service and Travel Assistance

AI is commonly used for chatbots, which are programs that simulate conversation with humans. Chatbots are designed to be as personalized as possible, featuring conversational tones often available in several languages. They allow companies to have customer service available 24/7 and are similar to messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger. Your agency can set up a chatbot on your website so interested clients can request additional information or local recommendations, ask questions about their destination or relay feedback or concerns to your agency through the chatbot. You can also design a chatbot to answer questions frequently asked by clients, like when they should check in for their Delta flight or what time your office closes on Fridays.

Connie, Hilton Hotels’ first robot concierge, uses AI and speech recognition to provide tourist information to those communicating with it. Each human interaction with Connie and other chatbots or robots teaches them, improving the quality of all future communication. AI meets clients’ needs in a more precise and punctual way so clients can enjoy their vacation and you can save yourself some time.

Marketing Automation Combined With Artificial Intelligence

Engaging with clients and creating meaningful brand-to-consumer relationships is what marketing automation is all about. Email marketing assists agents in managing more clients and sending a higher volume of emails compared to what agents could send on their own. According to John Koetsier of VB Insight, 77 percent of businesses have seen conversions dramatically increase since using marketing automation. Higher conversions occur from scheduling emails to send at specific times (like when your email reciepients are most likely to open your emails), creating and managing email templates, and sending personalized messaging to buckets of clients tailored from the insights AI has gathered about them.

AI gathers this information based on client behavior and prior purchases in order to create sufficient suggestions on vacations clients might purchase, or give you insight into what types of conversations you can start with your clients. If you send a marketing email with offers for Cancun and Alaska, follow up with the clients who clicked on the Cancun offer with a personalized email or a phone call. With A/B tested subject lines, visuals and calls to action, the best results can grasp your client’s attention and put you in-the-know for their next dream vacation.

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