3 ways travel planning will continue to evolve in 2018

2018 will usher in an era where customers will move from interacting with a web page to interacting with an intelligent assistant who can actually give advice.

3 ways travel planning will continue to evolve in 2018

Are you looking to get away in 2018 – perhaps for a short cruise, a lengthy European excursion or a return to a favorite family-vacation destination?

Many Americans are. But more and more, how they plan those trips is evolving, with guidebooks giving way to the internet, which is now beginning to use artificial intelligence to help with discovery, research and planning.
“I think 2018 will usher in an era where customers will move from interacting with a web page to interacting with an intelligent assistant who can actually give advice,” says Terry Jones, Chairman of WayBlazer Inc., which provides machine-learning technologies to travel companies of all types.

“These conversations can start with a bot and be transferred to an agent at any time who will know what the customer searched for so they don’t have to start over.”

Jones, who also launched Travelocity and was Founding Chairman of Kayak.com, says that could take the online-travel search to a whole new level as more travelers realize they can type in complex questions and expect responses that are more detailed and more specific than ever before.

Here’s just a little bit of what travelers might expect in 2018:

• The rise of A.I. The use of artificial intelligence, which has already begun, will continue to grow, Jones says. Research commissioned by Booking.com found that 29 percent of travelers reported comfort with letting a computer plan an upcoming trip based on data from their previous travel history and 50 percent don’t mind if they deal with a real person or computer, so long as any questions are answered.

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• Direct brand-to-consumer communication. Hotel brands and airlines have begun allowing customers to ask pre-travel questions on Facebook Messenger and other messaging channels so that consumers can interact directly with the brand to get their questions answered, Jones says. “And some leading brands are using advanced ‘Conversational Commerce’ products that let the consumer use natural language to discuss their needs with a sophisticated bot who can help them determine the right property with the right amenities,” Jones says. “Look for more of that in 2018.”

• A generation gap may be narrowed. Will baby boomers make even greater use of online travel planning in 2018? AARP research from a year ago looked at 2017 travel trends and showed that boomers are not avid users of online resources for travel research and planning compared to younger travelers. Still, slightly more than one-third of boomers do use online resources for travel planning and Jones says there’s a good chance the percentage will grow in 2018 as A.I. makes the process even easier.

“How travelers plan trips, both for business and pleasure, is changing rapidly,” Jones says. “Hotels, airlines, cruise companies and others will need to stay on top of those changes to make sure they are providing consumers what they expect. If they don’t, you can be sure that their competitors will.”

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