In a relatively short period of time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become embedded in the fabric of society. AI already seems to power everything from how we read e-mails to how we shop.
Over a quarter of all Americans now own a smart speaker. That’s around 66.4 million people and an increase of 40% in just 12 months and 168% in the last two years. The impact of AI at home and work has been enormous, and business travel is already benefiting from the technology’s ability to perform computing tasks that previously required human assistance.
AI and business travel are a great match because of the volume and depth of information travel companies –TMCs in particular – hold on travelers, their travel patterns and preferences. The sheer volume of information available online makes AI the only resource capable of filtering that information, instantly, based on knowledge of the individual traveler and their personal preferences.
Today, it really is all about me – and in a good way. The value proposition of AI is convenience; creating the time for people to use on other activities more productive for their businesses. At a time when personalization, analytics and data science are hot topics in business travel, Artificial Intelligence is shaping how travel is sourced and consumed.
Chatbots have become a familiar feature of booking business travel. FCM’s travel app, Sam (Smart Assistant for Mobile) answers questions, makes recommendations and helps travelers with anything from itinerary management, bookings and updates to detailed destination information, security notifications, immigration advice and vaccination status.
AI will also make business travel easier by improving security, making analytics cheaper and making communications more effective. Some airlines now allow travelers to request boarding passes via Facebook Messenger. AI have made Automated Passport Control systems at American and other international airports more efficient. Travelers have not been put off; 65% of US airline passengers are prepared to share additional personal information to speed up their processing at the airport.
Scandinavian Airlines’ ‘Turi’ chat bot automatically sends you a boarding pass, notifies you when boarding starts and tells you at which carousel your checked luggage is located. Terminal 4 at Singapore's Changi Airport has fully automated its departure, check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding process using facial and thumbprint authentication.
The use of artificial intelligence in the global aviation sector is predicted to reach $152.4 million USD this year, and $2.2 billion USD by 2025. Meanwhile AI is predicted to increase hotel revenues by over 10% and reduce costs by more than 15% as 73% of the manual activities in the hospitality industry are automated.
In 2018, two Chinese Marriott hotels, Hangzhou Marriott Hotel Qianjiang and Sanya Marriott Hotel Dadonghai Bay, started using facial recognition technology to check guests in. Marriott’s ‘Cleo’ and ‘Leo’ robots manage guests; Hilton’s ‘Connie’ robot concierge and Yotel’s ‘Yobot’ are just three examples of hotel groups automating customer relations services. Up to 66,000 such ‘bots’ could be in service within 12 months.
The real impact of AI on business travel is on the traveler experience, making it infinitely more personal. During the booking process, if a traveler books a flight through the online booking tool without booking a hotel attached, a notification is sent a list of preferred hotels on the company programme, based on the traveler’s trip history.
AI can recommend where to go and what to do during a stay. Globally, more than 1 in 3 business travelers will add a leisure component to their business trip this year. Using a smartphone's virtual Bluetooth Low Energy beacon, AI-enabled tools will be able to make suggestions from the moment the traveler steps off the plane.
AI will shortly enable travelers to select their seat on the plane, choose a hotel room on a specific floor of the hotel, avoid time lost to delays and cancellations by receiving notifications and alternative travel options, to change and cancel bookings – all through their mobile devices and without human interaction.
For the travel manager, a big bonus is the way AI makes data analytics more accessible. Instead of having to plow through mountains of data, itineraries and expense claims to understand travel and spend[patterns within an organization, AI can deliver immediate insights, enabling travel managers to leverage better deals and focus their spend more effectively.
From centralized itineraries, third party content and service integration to streamlined expense management, smartphone alerts and facial-recognition enabled access to flights and hotels, AI is helping make it easier to manage every aspect of any business trip.
At the risk of going all George Jetson, let’s take a quick look at what business travel might look like the day after tomorrow, thanks to Artificial Intelligence. Electric vertical take-off and landing (evTOL) aircraft are being developed that will enable business travelers to hail electric flying taxis. Via its Uber Air and Elevate program, Uber is already working on an aerial ride-sharing network.
Strap yourselves in; the ride could be remarkably smooth.