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How Chatbot, AI and Mobile Internet are Giving Travellers an Uber Cool Experience An unprecedented use of artificial intelligence and integration of different platforms will ensure a smoother travel experience in the future

By Baishali Mukherjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Technology has introduced convenience and simplified travel in many ways. One of the key factors is the rise of digital travel players. Earlier, local travel agencies were the only resort to plan one's travel, but with the advent of digital players, the end user can customize his travel itinerary as per his/ her needs. It gave them flexibility, convenience to plan, compare prices, and gather more information, thereby simplifying travel.

For, Prachi Garg, Founder, Ghoomophiro, a travel planning service that specializes in organizing corporate tours, technology plays a great role in the day-to-day aspects of travel. "Travel industry has been transformed drastically. Tech innovations have not only helped in disseminating the travel info to far-off places but over the period, customer expectations have been changed too. Over the last decade we have seen a great shift from tourists to travellers," she notified.

Virtual Reality/AI is another tech innovation which is helping brands to engage prospective travellers and in promoting destinations. They create a 360 view, live stream the destination and highlight them too. The audio-visuals help immensely in taking decisions during planning travels.

"With digital agencies targeting audience via cookies, it is easy for the brands to target tailor-made packages for their custom audience. This has increased the overall travel spend of families as they get tempted to purchase when items resonate with their needs," enthused Garg.

Social media and content marketing can't also be neglected while we talk about the shifting trends. Pictures, videos, blogs being posted by peers encourage and inspire travelling, while mobile applications give enormous ease to travellers.

Michael Lyngdoh, co-founder, Tripoto, a global community of travellers and a single destination for all travel needs, remembered going on a holiday with his family 15 years ago.

"We would typically make the plan 3-4 months in advance, reach out to friends and family asking for destinations that would fit our budget and interests. After a great debate, we would single out city/cities and then came the toughest part. We would go buy a guidebook and read it cover to cover to decide on the hotels, sights, restaurants etc. The booking process used to be even more arduous. We would call a few travel agents for flight bookings and call the hotels individually to figure out how to get the best rates. Payments would typically be made in full using cash/Cheque and we would have to go do it in person. Basically, it would take close to 4 weeks just to plan a 10 Day vacation."

Cut to last month-

Lyngdoh and his wife decided at the very last minute to go on a holiday during Christmas. His wife logged onto her app, asked the Chatbot for the best active holidays to do in December which doesn't need visas in advance. The app suggested a great place in Phuket which their friends had been to. She checked the itinerary that the friends used and their hotels and reviews. With one click, she was redirected to where she booked the hotel with zero cancellation fees using her credit card that was saved in the app. Then she went on MakeMyTrip and bought tickets to fly within 6 hours. The couple checked in online, got an Uber to the airport and were on their way to a great two week holiday that took less than 20 minutes to plan. Once there, the duo downloaded an app for taxis, used Tripoto restaurant/sightseeing suggestions and Google maps to go around on foot.

The advancement in technology has immensely helped companies connect to a huge customer base in a cost-effective manner. Mobile internet penetration has connected geographically and to all stratum of travellers. It has also helped travel firms obtain a much more in-depth data about their customers and learn well about their travel behaviour. This has also helped to serve customers better and on a personalized level. The new and emerging technologies are also allowing businesses to scale at unprecedented levels by driving a higher order of efficiency.

Varun Gupta, CEO, Goomo, India's leading omnichannel, travel tech platform, believes there will be an unprecedented use of artificial intelligence and integration of different platforms for an even smoother travel experience in the future.

"Artificial Intelligence and its applications will play a major role in the travel industry in 2018. AI has redefined travel service expectations by helping consumers personalize their destination discovery and make purchases with tailored and contextual insights. In the years to come, there will be a rise in personalized services. Offers/ discounts would be more customised and driven by traveller interests rather than a generic commoditized offer," he opined.

The other trend to look forward to in the travel tech space is chatbots. Chatbots help to plan trips by conversing with people on topics related to hotels, places to visit, transport facilities and tourist spots. "They will not only help a person with travel queries but will also cut down the long hours of indecisive search," shared Gupta.

As we get into the intricacies of the technological advancements, it will be interesting to see how travel brands take advantage of these trends, thereby boosting the overall industry, as tech definitely harbours a lot of potential to make travelling effortless and thrilling.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

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