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AI in the travel industry: What’s hidden in the darker side?

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Over the years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has spread its wings in almost all sectors and travel is no longer an exception. In fact, it is one of the earliest sectors to integrate AI into the travel booking system. Its predictive models providing data-driven recommendations and smart pricing decisions have taken the industry by storm. It has proven to be highly successful that it has eaten away the jobs of humans.

The idea of implementing AI brings an element of ease and seamlessness to the travel experience. It has replaced humans, yet still lacks the human connection that is crucial in the travel and hospitality industry. AI is capable of completing the thought process for itself, eliminating human intervention or control. It can perform a myriad of tasks – ranging from communicating with the device and translating to making a decision – as per the bot’s recommendations.

Having said that, humans represent common sense which is developed with persistent mental representations but technology does not form such mental models. Instead, it relies on statistical relationships based on raw data to generate insights for humans. As a result, technology is gradually revealing its darker side in travel bookings due to the lack of human touch.

Undeniable truths of AI in the travel industry

AI is most popularly associated with virtual assistants or chatbots. These chatbots are designed for customer experience service, however, they possess significant limitations. The chatbots are programmed in a way they present information that is taught to them. It lacks the context which is the key to any interaction. While making a travel booking, whether exploring the options for flights, hotels or raising a concern, if a bot does not understand the human concern, the travel company can definitely lose a customer. The imperative is to understand that each customer has specific concerns that are not fitted in the memory of a bot’s brain.

Crafting holidays is a serious job and travel companies are integrating AI to provide more convenience to a travellers’ booking experience. Unfortunately, the AI-enabled voice assistants or platforms tend to confuse or irritate customers by repeating the information fed into their systems and not actually behaving like humans. Well! It is common to come across such cases as humans expect companies to behave like humans as they are good at adapting to changes in communication, making adjustments, language and overall presentation. Unlike a bot, human representatives can understand human emotions, tone of voice and severity of the concern. As a result, any delay in the response or misinterpret query leads to losing a customer. It is certain as the bot does not know when to seek help from a human agent for a query that is beyond its capability.

The bottom line

AI is the mimic of the human mind but in limited aspects. Humans can discover unknown problems and think of a solution. However, AI knows the solutions for problems it already knows and hence, cannot solve the complex issues of travel. Due to its algorithm-based rigidity, AI researchers are reconsidering the way AI is incorporated into the travel booking business. As technology is turning more ubiquitous, it might prove to be one of the most urgent technology problems travellers face today.

(The author is Mr. Ashish Sidhra, Co-founder, (Travel Tech Innovator). and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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