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Chatbot revolution set to transform travel planning

For business travellers on the go, chatbots linked to travel and accommodation providers are an increasingly valued tool, enabling them to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered voice chats or instant messages for an array of travel queries – such as checking the weather and seeking city-wide transportation options – as well as receiving quick customer support.

Gartner, a leading global research and advisory company, predicted as far back as 2011 that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will would take place via chatbot, and that by 2021, 50 percent of enterprises would spend more on bots than mobile apps. This means that the travel industry has to embrace this technology at a rapid pace in order to satisfy growing demand.  

Research shows that consumers have already warmed up to the idea. A recent Booking.com survey revealed that a large majority of travellers (80%) prefer to self-serve in order to get the information they need, and half (50%) don’t mind whether they deal with a real person or a computer as long as their questions are answered. For queries about travel plans made with Booking.com, this demand is being met by the AI-enabled Booking Assistant, to which travellers can ask post-accommodation booking questions on anything from payment to transportation, arrival and departure times, date changes and internet availability, all via their preferred device and platform. Booking Assistant is now able to handle almost 50% of these customer stay inquiries automatically. This means increased convenience, reliability and speed for business travellers, whose busy schedules require prompt and accurate business travel support.  

When planning a business trip in particular, travellers want to ensure that unknowns are kept to a minimum, so reassurance that any queries can be answered swiftly will bring peace of mind, and minimise any additional stress.  

Beyond their speed and simplicity, chatbots offer the continued opportunity to improve the customer experience with their ability to tap into vast amounts of information that it would take a human much longer to process. There is still a place for human interaction however – if the Booking Assistant has identified a question it can’t solve on its own, it enlists support from either its customer service team or the property, depending on which is most appropriate. AI is not about replacing human interaction, but is instead a vehicle to facilitate an even more personalised, instantaneously gratifying and frictionless travel experience for consumers. The winning combination of AI and human interaction is fuelling a more personalised, rewarding and frictionless travel experience.

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