Transforming Tourism Technologically: Tech Interventions & the Indian Travel Industry

Manoj Sharma, CTO, CleartripHeadquartered in Mumbai, Cleartrip is one of the world’s leading travel companies offering users a wide range of services that include Hotel Booking, Flight, Bus & Train Tickets Booking, Holiday Packages,and many others.

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Natural Language Processing are steadily transforming the travel industry, making it more personalized, practical, reasonable and user-friendly than ever. The advent of Information and Communication Technology(ICT)and other such interventions have brought forth a drastic change in the travel and tourism industry. With new technological innovations emerging every other day, the industry is revolutionizing never-endingly. With a steep rise in smartphone ownership globally, it has been predicted that around 70 percent of all the travel bookings will be made digitally by 2020.

Gone are the days when planning a vacation or a mere travel schedule was a tedious task prepared for extensively. Going through hordes of destinations and researching about each individually, calling up various travel agents and comparing each of their quotes to get the one that fits your budget criterion, negotiating for prices to be revised and finally booking the one offering the best value-for-money were some of the challenges faced barely two decades ago. Added to it was another task of collecting the confirmation slip and tickets from the agency’s physical address. And of course, the apprehensions of being duped with fake itineraries that would leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere making you regret the very idea of a vacation ensued.

As Online Travel Agencies(OTAs) came into the picture, the entire process that would take months of planning and execution could now be done in a matter of minutes with a few clicks or taps, from the palm of your hands. And with technological interventions such as Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning, Internet of Things(IoT) and multiple means of communication coming into play, there are no boundaries to the level of convenience that one can look forward to. The travel industry is going through a perpetual transformation,and these interventions have led to travel being more personalized, practical, reasonable and user-friendly than ever.

Traveling Smart with AI &Machine Learning
The application of AI and Machine Learning is now redefining the future of the travel industry, finding quick adopters amongst present as well as potential customers. AI plays a pivotal role in every aspect of the industry. An increase in digitization of all these tasks has augmented human labour,
as OTAs complemented call centres with chatbots that are programmed with Natural Language Processing(NLP) abilities. Chabot are assigned to provide solutions as initial point for customer support and for complex queries human interventions are provided. This helps in saving time and accuracy to serve the customer better. Not just that, chatbots can also perform tasks such as booking tickets, making reservations and listing out various hotel options seamlessly.

"In order to match developing industry standards, OTAs are employing ways to enhance existing technologies while simultaneously making room for new ones"

Apart from that,identification of your specific tastes and preferences based on your conversations with the chatbots would facilitate future bookings. For instance, by merely entering a text message like 'book me a flight to Bangalore for this Tuesday', the chatbot will not just book your tickets based on your oft-preferred airlines,seats and travel time,but will also provide you with the most suitable hotel options, making your entire journey simple and seamless.

Personalizing Experiences with Automation
With technologies such as Machine Learning surfacing, travelers are not just helped with what they want, but with what they precisely need as well. By understanding and learning their preferences, these technologies can generate customized and relevant recommendations. For instance, for families planning a vacation with children, OTA Machine Learning technologies can identify and provide the most affordable and kid-friendly packages. Thanks to automation, travelers can also opt to receive basic information and history of the location as well as recommendation of products and services based on their interests and preferences through notifications on their smartphone. By gaining a basic understanding of customer’s demographics, plans and preferences through automation and Machine Learning, OTAs can now curate customized itineraries, ensuring a pleasant and enjoyable experience for all.As service providers experience an increased traffic on their respective platforms by providing customers with personalized trip itineraries accompanied by seamless booking, this technological advancement has resulted in a profitable situation for both.

Helping OTAs Develop Through Value-driven Systems & Solutions
Not just on the customer forefront, these technological disruptions are also significantly helping OTAs evolve their businesses by offering value-driven systems, therefore helping them assemble data relevant to the current needs. For instance, an OTA can use AI-driven devices to create a 24/7 cloud-based telephonic system catering to and registering the queries of both present as well as potential customers, acquiring more customers that can contribute to the development of their business and profits by forming related metric-based solutions thus.

Retaining Customers Increasingly Through Improved UI/UX
Currently, OTAs allow customers to exercise complete control upon going through plenty of options available according to their preferences, satiating themselves by booking a trip within minutes. With AI, Machine Learning, Automation and a top-notch UI/UX designs, OTAs offer personalized services through a smooth functioning interface, ensuring high levels of customer services, eventually leading to repeated transactions. With enhanced designs, customers can smoothly scroll through a split-screen displaying options that suit their schedule and budget along with availing automated recommendations.

Clearly, these new-age technological interventions have found an early adopter in the travel industry, which has seen a rapid transformation. In order to match developing industry standards,OTAs are employing ways to enhance existing technologies while simultaneously making room for new ones. For example, while voice technology is still in its initial stages, it is also expected to reshape the travel industry further. With the breakthrough of such new innovations every other day, it is safe to say that the travel industry has a major scope to traverse through ahead and see a complete metamorphosis for the benefit of the players in the industry as well as the customers.