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How OTAs Can Strategically Deploy AI To Enhance Experiences For Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), the volume of bookings is integral to generating revenue. Hence, to stay competitive, they need to adopt new technologies that can enhance customer experiences, drive bookings, and reduce operational costs. This is where Gen AI comes in as a game changer, transforming travel experiences for customers

By Rikant Pittie

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In today's digital-driven world, generative AI is bringing about a wave of change and innovation in the travel industry. It is reshaping the sector and reimaging the functioning of the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). For OTAs, the volume of bookings is integral to generating revenue. Hence, to stay competitive, they need to adopt new technologies that can enhance customer experiences, drive bookings, and reduce operational costs. This is where Gen AI comes in as a game changer, transforming travel experiences for customers.

THE RELEVANCE OF GENERATIVE AI FOR OTAS

Today, travellers expect seamless, convenient, and instant solutions. AI plays an integral role as it provides tailored services, resolves customer queries instantly, and improves overall customer experiences. Whether it is personalised recommendations, chatbots resolving customers' queries, automated communication, or fraud detection mechanisms, OTAs are already using AI in different ways. Today, even generative AI has forayed into the travel industry. The recent example of ChatGPT clearly depicts how new technology makes its inroads into the travel sector and improves customer engagement. The tool today has significantly eased out the travel planning and itinerary-building processes for customers.

In the highly dynamic and competitive OTA space, generative AI gives an edge to the players. They are leveraging the power of this newage technology to analyse extensive customer data, such as travel history and preferences, and provide personalised recommendations for destinations, activities, and even itineraries. Many OTAs are utilising Gen AI to predict the best results and provide options for fares and tickets, expenses, and hotels to customers by analysing enormous amounts of data.

Some of the industry players are already using it as their virtual travel assistant. Gen AI has the potential to remove friction, predict potential problems, and provide solutions in real-time if your travel plans are disrupted. While some of the OTAs have already integrated plug-ins to ChatGPT, the plan to incorporate chatbots and virtual agents on their websites for others is in the pipeline.

The two main use cases of Gen AI tools like ChatGPT in travel: planning travel experiences and customer service - prove the immense potential and relevance of technology. For OTAs, Gen AI is a tool to streamline the digital customer journey, reduce their planning to booking time, and provide swift yet efficient travel experiences.

THE FUTURE POSSIBILITIES

While the integration of generative AI is happening gradually, the possible applications of the technology in OTAs are many. Rapid technological advancements will further improve their search result algorithms, which will be beneficial in making intelligent recommendations that fit customers' bills. After-sales support is a crucial function, and consumers expect assistance if something goes wrong during their journey or if they wish to make changes to their plans. In situations like these, generative AI will be helpful in handling customer service issues, thereby eliminating the need for human intervention. Hence, in the future, tasks like making changes to a reservation, rebooking a flight, and offering standard refunds will happen quickly and efficiently.

It is expected that Gen AI can improve customer engagement, and make it more personalised, create exceptional digital offerings, customise experiences that suit diverse needs and preferences, and boost connectivity between all travel sectors. Moreover, we can also train generative AI to deliver tailored content as per individual needs, respond to and learn from customer inquiries, and create personalised marketing messages in the future. In fact, generative AI will aid in enhancing customer service and after-sales support, which the travel industry often misses out on.

TO SUM UP

The core foundation of Online Travel Agencies is their robust technological infrastructure, and adopting new-age solutions is their key to succeeding and catering to their customers. With technological advancements, they are now exploring the potential of generative AI to further enhance their services.

Rikant Pittie

Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip

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