A holiday can be a life-changing experience for a person. You plan a vacation well beforehand, researching locations, booking tickets, and then getting hyped with excitement. The travel agent has assured a memorable travel experience and has taken care of your itinerary.
The drama unrolls on the day of the travel. Minor irregularities turn into regular occasions of discrepancies like the hotel getting overbooked and a 3-star hotel being offered as an alternative to the 5-star hotel promised at the time of booking. The classy suite turns into a standard hotel room; the all-you-can-eat buffet is anything but that.
A disabled traveler from California was quoted an astronomical price for the only available resort by her travel agent. Some travel agents are all about making high margins and do so even at the customer’s cost.
A UK-based traveler had a harrowing experience when there was a miscommunication between the travel agent and her bank, and even though she had already booked the tickets, she did not get seats on the flight. While she eventually got the refund, she had to book new flight tickets spending thousands of pounds, which she luckily carried at the time. She said she never wants to go through such a pathetic experience ever again.
Most of you have been recipients of such experiences playing spoilsport in your most awaited and well-planned vacation, or at least know of someone who has endured such an experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of full-time travel companies has fallen from 124000 in 2000 to 81700 as of 2020–21. It will decline a further 12%, according to the government projections.
The state of the Travel and Tourism Industry
While the pandemic caused an abrupt halt and threw a screwdriver into the travel and tourism industry, it was a rubber band effect. The pent-up frustration created a trend of revenge travel which has reinvigorated the travel and tourism industry, albeit with a few complications.
While things looked gloomy in 2020 when the pandemic hit, it seems like the industry is picking up pace.
A report suggests that flight bookings and hotel reservations are seeing an upwards surge post-pandemic, which is favorable for the industry.
While things look positive for the tourism industry, will the travel agents share the same fate?
The traditional travel agent was a gateway for tourists to travel worldwide. A travel agent takes care of bookings and itineraries and is the sole touch-point throughout the trip.
With the evolution of the internet, things started changing slowly but surely. It has revolutionized our lives and businesses alike. On the one hand, there is the time-consuming, cumbersome process of a travel agent’s methods. On the other hand, with the internet, all information is at people’s disposal; a simple Google search will throw out results and how!
From educating themselves about locations and researching the options to booking flight and hotel tickets, the internet offers the entire process at their fingertips, bridging the gap between standing as a robust alternative to a travel agent.
The probability of the extinction of travel agents has been touted for a while after Expedia entered the industry. The number of travel agents has seen a drastic downward spiral since 2000, but 43% of people still use a travel agent to book flights.
Convenience. For one, many tourists do not want the hassle of researching, planning, and booking tickets in advance to save money. They would rather have a professional agent take
care of these technicalities than do it themselves and would prefer to look forward to enjoying their vacation peacefully.
Additionally, travel agents can get the best package deals owing to their expertise and valuable contacts across the verticals within the tourism industry. Some travelers are not money-conscious but would prefer a better overall deal.
But the travel industry is seeing many online players like Booking Holdings, TripAdvisor, and Travelocity, among many others, which raises the question- how do online players amp up their game and take the battle to the travel agents?
Because 43% is not a number to scoff at, and with the advanced technology and data available today, the market is up for the taking.
With the availability of data and a device agnostic online digital profile, can AI help online travel aggregators level the playing field in this game?
AI in travel and tourism
AI is making strides across various industries; such is its prowess when combined with quality data. For the tourism industry, there are multiple parameters at play and many areas could see a potential benefit from AI, reaping benefits for both businesses and customers
The cumbersome process of search and research
Even with all the information available at their fingertips, many tourists prefer to go through a travel agent instead of an online travel aggregator because of the better overall deal.
This is an area where online aggregators have much to gain, and AI-based solutions are at home with problem statements like these.
But there is a silver lining for the online travel aggregators here. 82% of all travel bookings worldwide were done with no human interaction, meaning there is enough demand but also scope to improve the process to enhance the experience.
Search, and Recommendation System is an AI solution developed by Affine that uses a recommendation engine to leverage customer behavior specific to engagement metrics in the travel and tourism industry. It uses critical metrics like product Click Count, Click Through Rate, Cart Count, and Book Count of various Customer funnels.
For online travel aggregators, this is highly beneficial as the solution leverages historical data from multiple search options to understand customer intentions and auto-complete suggestions that are most likely to drive bookings.
For customers, by leveraging historical consumer data, the recommendations are always spot on, and the suggestions are always the need-based ideal services. This could be an ace card to compete with the best package deals offered by travel agents.
Online travel aggregators can use this solution to optimize their marketing budget and improve overall ROI by reducing search times, increasing their search-to-book ratio, and increasing booking revenue.
Volatile ticket prices lead to toxic experiences
Ticket and hotel booking prices are always volatile. With multiple uncontrollable aspects at play, travelers, and travel businesses both endure most of the finicky prices.
This is an area of demand where online aggregators have the highest probability of making the most with an intelligent price management solution. This opens the door for repeat business and an excellent customer experience while also organically taking care of the branding through word of mouth.
Flight tickets are at an all-time high and up by 25%, which, when paired with inflation, is leaving travelers across the world in shambles. Inflation is pushing people towards saving more, but they are still booking tickets and traveling, which means the online aggregators are at an advantage. But what if both aggregators and travelers could meet halfway?
Price Freeze Technology solution is an AI solution with a strong potential to tackle the pricing issue of tickets.
The solution works on a simple yet robust method that leverages the historical pricing trends of flight tickets from up to 7 years. The agile and accurate predictive analytical framework helps the traveler lock-in a fixed price for up to seven days by paying a small token fee.
Once locked in, even if the prices increase, the traveler has to pay the lock-in price. However, in case of a price decrease, the traveler will pay the lower amount for the ticket!
These are some of the AI solutions that can help online travel aggregators in the upcoming years. There are many other AI-based solutions to help drive customer engagement, bookings, ad revenue, and overall revenue.
As the travel industry sees a boom again, instances of airports getting overcrowded and hotels getting overbooked are a regular occurrence across the world.
The sudden post-pandemic travel rage has surprised the travel industry with a shock and awe effect. The online travel aggregators have changed the game, but there’s still room for improvement, both- for businesses and travelers.
As people have embraced the internet culture and are co-dependent on it for their day-to-day lives, these AI solutions will immensely benefit travel aggregators and provide travelers with the best customer experiences by leveraging data and personalizing vacations down to the last detail as per the customer’s requirements. At the end of the day, an excellent experience and a good deal can keep the customer happy!
What does Affine bring to the table?
Affine is a pioneer and a veteran in the data analytics industry and has worked with space-defining logos like Expedia, HCOM, and Vrbo, to name a few. From travel andtourism to game analytics, & media, and entertainment, Affine has been instrumental in the success stories of many Fortune 500 global organizations; and is an expert in personalization science with its prowess in AI & ML.
Learn more about how Affine can revamp your Travel and Tourism business!