The travel industry has constantly evolved, leading changes in technology, society and consumer tastes. Travel was the domain of the wealthy until technology and leading travel companies rapidly changed this in the latter part of the 20th century. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that there were 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950, today we see 1.4 billion.
Travellers of the 21st century are tech savvy consumers. They’re not wandering into their local high street travel agency to seek out the best deals for their next holiday. They are getting both advice and inspiration online, as well as of course booking their perfect travel experience online. Social media platforms play a central role in this, showing organic posts and paid for promotions enticing people to book that next trip to their dream destination.
Crucially though travellers continue to seek advice from travel professionals for expert advice. While there are many ways in which travel companies can meet these consumer needs, AI driven chatbots are playing an important role in an age of instant access.
AI-powered chatbots can make or break the difference between a good and bad customer journey on your website. Many chatbots are rudimentary, but the companies at the leading edge are pioneering the way forward with high levels of customer satisfaction. Their use is only expected to increase in the coming years too, with Sales Force’s research State of Service projecting that their use in the travel industry will nearly double by mid-2020 to 29%.
While chatbots first came about in the 1960s, so might not be considered cutting edge innovation, it is the machine learning innovation behind them that is constantly evolving and critical to ensuring people receive the efficient advice and level of customer service they are expecting. Recent improvements in AI are making it such that companies who invest significantly in this and leverage their data correctly, can provide meaningful customer experiences while managing costs more effectively.
We are operating in a world where people expect robust answers and they expect them fast; the advent of mobile phones paved the way for this and apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat ensured this. As such, a business’ technological capabilities are having to constantly evolve to deliver: AI driven chatbots are just one example of the way to meet these needs.
As we increasingly carry out our lives online, digital and mobile is changing the face of the high street. In Britain during the first six months of 2019 16 stores closed every day, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 shops. The travel industry is not immune to these shifts in consumer habits as highlighted by the recent collapse of Thomas Cook, which has impacted the livelihoods of thousands.
This recent failure is reflective of a wider trend which has seen the number of travel agents in the U.S. decrease by 45,200 between 2000 and 2018. Digital transformation is constant, and businesses need to be awake to the changing impact on their employees. It is predicted that by 2023 companies will have to retrain or replace a quarter of their staff in response to technological change.
Training programms and a focus on upskilling are essential cornerstones of a successful 21st century business. To stay at the forefront of technological advances and to support day to day operations e-commerce businesses require hundreds of employees and we need to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge to succeed.
Technology puts the world at your fingertips and for travel–the largest e-commerce sector in the world–that saying is quite literal. People tap into their phones, launch apps and manage their lives. In Q2 2019, mobile broke records with consumers downloading more apps and spending more money in app stores than ever before.
Apps streamline customers’ journeys, increase customer loyalty and create regular touchpoints with the customer. 80% of us use our mobile phones to search for information online, 27% then go onto download an app related to our searches–a business without an accessible and appealing app will be cast aside for their competition. According to the latest research on the travel industry by Euromonitor International, online travel sales will account for the largest share of travel bookings by 2024 and a quarter of all bookings will be made via mobile.
Travelling habits have changed significantly over the last 80 years and they will change again over the next 80. It is anticipating how it will change and how consumers will travel in the future that is essential for a business to not just survive but establish itself as a sector leader.