Those operating within the travel industry succeed or fail based on the experience they provide for customers and AI chatbots represent one of the most exciting new technologies that can help to improve this experience. In this article, you will find out more about AI chatbot technology and the specific ways it can benefit travel companies.

Quick menu:

What is an AI Chatbot?

An AI chatbot, or chat bot, is a software solution, which is powered by artificial intelligence technology and able to both understand and respond appropriately to human communication. Generally, chatbots of this kind are designed to convincingly replicate the kind of interactions a user might have with a real person.

In the travel industry, AI chatbots are usually deployed as digital customer service agents, acting as a first point of contact for users and providing useful information or intelligent answers to questions. The technology most commonly works through text-based chat communication, but may also work through voice recognition and speech.

Difference Between an AI Chatbot and a Rule-Based Chatbot

Chatbot technology works by understanding and interpreting user questions, commands or inputs, and then responding appropriately. However, it is important to understand that chatbot technology takes two main forms.

Rule-based chatbots are more simplistic in nature than their AI counterparts, relying on built-in logic patterns or rules, as the name suggests. Communication tends to be mapped out, so a chatbot could provide a “yes/no” question and then have two responses ready, displaying the relevant one for the response it receives.

By contrast, AI chatbots are more advanced. They are powered by artificial intelligence and this allows the bots to actually understand user communications and offer a relevant response. AI also allows the bot to continually improve and this results in interactions that seem much more natural and authentic.

Which Travel Industry Companies Benefit from AI Chatbots?

Within the travel industry, companies from almost all areas stand to benefit from AI chatbot technology. In particular, those in sectors like the hotel industry, airline industry and restaurant industry can capitalise on improvements to booking processes and faster customer service response times.

Of course, the list extends far beyond this. Vehicle hire companies can use chatbots to answer common questions or facilitate easy car, van or motorcycle rentals. Alternatively, those in the entertainment sector may use chatbots for marketing purposes, as they offer the ability to provide tailored recommendations, based on the way the chat develops.

10 Benefits of AI Chatbots for Travel Companies

Below, you will read more about the uses of AI chatbots for the travel industry, complete with 10 specific benefits.

1. 24/7 Customer Support

One of the biggest challenges facing the tourism industry in the modern age is the high expectations of customers when it comes to availability of customer support. With this in mind, a key advantage of an AI chatbot for hotels, airlines, restaurants and car rental services is the ability to provide 24/7 customer service.

An AI chatbot can easily cope with common questions and will be able to do so at all times of the day. Unlike employees, a chatbot will not require rest and will not need to be paid a wage. A hotel bot, for instance, can be continuously available at all times, even when reception staff are busy, or customer service staff are off-duty.

2. Encourage Direct Bookings

OTAs and price comparison websites offer businesses in the travel industry the opportunity to reach a wider number of people. However, these bookings require the company to pay a commission, which is why direct bookings are preferable. Crucially, an AI chatbot can help to encourage more direct bookings, improving financial results.

Chatbot technology can be used on a company website, on social media and on messenger platforms, presenting users with options to book directly and delivering these messages in the right moment, maximising the chances of success.

3. Support For the Full Booking Journey

Booking journeys within the travel industry can be complicated. For example, when booking flights, you need to consider your departure date and return date, but also your luggage allowance, whether you want a window or aisle seat, upgrades to first or business class, and airport transfers. A similar number of considerations apply to hotels too.

By deploying an AI chatbot, businesses can potentially increase the number of bookings and improve the customer experience, because the bot can support the customer along the way. The chatbot to clarify certain aspects of the products or services on offer, answer questions on pricing, and encourage the customer to continue.

4. Multilingual Functionality

Travel and tourism occurs on a global basis and this means people who speak a wide range of languages may wish to use the products or services that a travel industry company can offer. An AI chatbot can be invaluable, offering multilingual support, so that users or customers from all parts of the world can gain assistance.

AI-powered bots can allow for rapid language detection or translation, and can automatically respond in the same language the customer is using. Chatbots can also learn more languages than human staff.

5. Cross-Selling and Up-Selling

Both cross-selling and up-selling can play a significant part in attempts to optimise revenue within the travel industry. An AI chatbot can help by pushing cross-selling and up-selling messages during chat conversations and delivering these messages in a natural way, at the point where they are most likely to appeal to the user.

For instance, a hotel bot could offer to add breakfast to a standard room booking. Similarly, a customer booking a flight through an OTA could be presented with options to upgrade to first class, or could be offered additional options, potentially allowing them to book airport transfers or acquire car rental services.

6. Tailored Recommendations

AI and machine learning mean that a chatbot can retain information about individual customers as a chat conversation progresses and then actually use this information to improve the quality of suggestions.

This can ultimately lead to the chatbot asking follow up questions, clarifying preferences and then providing tailored recommendations, either during the booking process, or during the travel experience itself. These recommendations could range from recommending a hotel, or promoting discounts, through to providing suggestions for things to do.

7. Smoother Arrivals and Departures

Various parts of the travel industry need to contend with customers arriving and leaving, and the smoother these processes are, the better. For example, hotel guests do not want to queue in order to check in or check out, and people in a restaurant may not want to wait for a staff member to calculate their bill, bring them it and collect the payment.

Using smartphone apps and AI chatbots, many arrivals and departures can be sped up. Hotels can now provide seamless check ins and check outs, without requiring human contact, while restaurants can sort billing via a chatbot too.

8. Rapid Customer Service Response

Aside from expecting responses to questions or queries on a 24/7 basis, modern customers also have high expectations related to response times. An AI chatbot can greatly improve customer satisfaction in this area by delivering swift, almost instantaneous responses, no matter what time of the day the customer makes contact.

Not only can this be beneficial for customers, it can also dramatically reduce the amount of work human customer service reps need to do, with chatbots handling simpler issues and humans focusing on more complicated ones.

9. Improved Marketing Potential

Although customer service is often the main motivation for using AI chatbot technology, the ability to improve marketing efforts should not be overlooked. In particular, a chatbot can help to make marketing efforts more specific to individual customers, communicating in the right language and focusing on the right products or services.

Moreover, chatbot messages can be less generic than email marketing templates, while the ability for customers to actually respond can also help to boost the chances of the target audience engaging with the marketing content.

10. Obtain Customer Feedback

All aspects of the travel industry rely on understanding the needs and expectations of travellers. Therefore, one of the single biggest advantages of using an AI chatbot is the ability to automatically follow up with customers.

Chatbot technology allows this follow up process to take place across various platforms, from email and mobile apps, to Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Furthermore, the chatbot can use data collected from the customer to make follow up communication as personalised as possible, increasing the likelihood of receiving a response.

Selecting the Right AI Chatbot for You

There are many different factors you need to consider when selecting the best AI chatbot for your specific needs. For example, you need to think about the nature of your business and the types of customer questions you most commonly receive. You also need to think about the ways in which your customers actually interact with your brand.

If you mainly deal with customers through your company website, you need to look for an AI chatbot that can be easily integrated with your website layout, whereas if your interactions are primarily through social media, you need a compatible solution. Of course, price is also an important consideration and you need to ensure you select a chatbot that meets your budget. You should also be aware of any on-going subscription fees or hidden costs.

AI Chatbots – What Does the Future Hold?

In the years ahead, it is likely that AI chatbot technology will continue to improve, both in terms of the customer experience on offer and the cost-efficiency for hotels, airlines, restaurants, OTAs and others in the travel industry. These improvements may eventually make rule-based chatbots obsolete.

As voice recognition and digital speech technology also improves, we may see a shift away from text-based chatbots, towards voice-based alternatives. One of the major future developments that could revolutionise the travel industry is related to this and involves instant language translation via voice recognition.

Which Features Within an AI Chatbot Are Important?

Given the numerous advantages associated with the use of chatbots, plenty of travel companies are keen to capitalise. However, there are many different chatbot solutions on the market and for those who are unfamiliar with the technology or experimenting with it for the first time, it can be difficult to compare and contrast these options.

In the article “AI Bot: Which Features Are Important for Travel Companies?” you will read more about the use of AI bots within the travel industry, with a particular focus on the key features to look out for.

Leaders in the travel industry are quickly realising the benefits associated with using an AI chatbot, especially when it comes to providing swift customer service response times, timely marketing messages and greater personalisation.

More Innovating Technologies Within Travel

With technology continuously evolving, it should come as little surprise that its applications within the travel industry evolve too. In the following articles we piled up some more innovating technologies in today’s travel and tourism industry.

More Tips to Grow Your Business is a knowledge platform for the hospitality & travel industry. Professionals use our insights, strategies and actionable tips to get inspired, optimise revenue, innovate processes and improve customer experience. You can find all travel industry tips in the categories Marketing & Distribution, Staffing & Career and Technology & Software.

Submit an Article