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EXPERT SPEAK

Gaining travellers attention in the age of technology

By Anil Kaul, Co-Founder and CEO, Absolut Data

Tuesday, July 9, 2019, 15:08 Hrs  [IST]

With the extent to which competition is picking up in the hospitality sector today, brands need a robust strategy in place to stand out from the crowd and get a significant portion of travellers on board. Therefore, to stay ahead of the game, companies are implementing automation powered by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to complement the expertise of sales and marketing teams.

Streamlined operations and real-time insights:
The hospitality industry as a whole is moving away from traditional methods and implementing automation across processes and functions. Due to its customer-centric nature, any business in the industry is ridden with millions of travellers to deal with at a given point. This is where AI steps in, as its tools are highly customizable, enabling businesses to address several requests and queries instantly while gaining actionable insights at the same time. This is helping them to optimize operations and cut costs, eventually leading to scalable growth.

Additionally, it helps companies save on valuable time while cutting-down operational costs. According to a 2018 report by analytics and research firm Industry Arc, the global Travel and Hospitality AI Market is projected to grow at an estimated CAGR of over 38% over the next 5 years. This indicates the growth potential that technologies such as AI are steadily unlocking, by fostering innovations to eliminate the bottlenecks across the industry and its segments.

Automated targeting for better customer experience:
Apart from the lavish restaurants, facilities and the ambiance, hotels are using AI to take the customer experience to the next level from their first inquiry to the end of their stay or trip. They are doing this by automating a number of simpler, more repetitive tasks and collecting data at various touch-points.

Up until recently, human teams had to spend hours not only designing and planning strategies but while executing them too. By using AI, however, businesses are able to implement machine learning (ML) tools with natural language processing (NLP) by programming these based on data pertaining to their daily operations.

These tools work with predetermined data-sets based on past customer interactions and transactions. They are able to track keywords, clicks, feedback, and preferences of various customer segments. In this way, these tools are able to deliver important insights that can have a positive impact on processes to enhance future business initiatives.

By following this approach, hospitality businesses such as hotels and travel portals are able to target individual customers with offers, promotions, and recommendations customized according to their specific needs. For instance, the Taj Group of Hotels is one entity that has already begun implementing new technology by making use of mobility, big data, the Cloud, and robotics. This personalized interaction, in turn, helps create greater value for the end-user, thus enhancing the customer experience to a great extent.



Chatbots have emerged as the new front-liners in customer interaction:
One major development in the hospitality sector that is engaging customers like never before is the use of chatbots and voice assistants. From hotel bookings to experiences and flight schedules, chatbots are helping the industry streamline a number of processes, giving customer instant information at their fingertips.

As per a report by Gartner, customers will choose to interact with chatbots over other channels to resolve 85% of their immediate queries by 2020. Chatbots are available 24x7 and have the ability to hold human-like conversations with customers, addressing basic queries such as FAQs based on the data that they have been programmed with.

Additionally, chatbots are powered by ML which, using natural language processing, has the ability to become smarter with every interaction. They can, thus, also initiate conversations with customers based on previous exchanges, as well as follow-up with them when a sale has not been completed. This makes for higher conversion rates for businesses, thus increasing the probability of customer retention for the business in the long run.

Catering to the dynamic needs of customers is at the core of the hospitality business. Whether its hotels travel portals, tours, and experiences, today, personalizing the customer experience is taking center-stage. By smartly implementing emerging technologies into their daily operations, businesses in the hospitality sector are being able to address every single query while taking away valuable insights in real time.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

 
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