We recently launched a Skift Video in partnership with IBM, What The Rise of Cognitive Tech Means for Travelers, which explores the travel industry’s shift into this new era of machine-learning tech.
Traveling has clearly changed a lot over the past decade. We’ve replaced paper maps with apps, physical boarding passes with digital copies, and human travel booking agents with chatbots. The travel industry is not done evolving, though, and it’ll change even more in the next five years.
Thanks to cognitive computing, it’ll be easier to get from point A to point B with the help of chatbots that can assist us with basic questions 24/7 and speech recognition technology that can guide us at airports and hotels. Cognitive computing is improving travel experience—from the consumer’s end to streamlining operations for travel companies.
IBMs Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities are designed to grow smarter the more it engages with users. This is a process otherwise known as “machine learning.” This technology has been used to create solutions for airlines, railways, hotels, ships, casinos, and many other types of travel companies trying to improve customer experience, empower employees, and drive operational efficiencies.
Most travel companies have already started venturing into cognitive computing with chatbots and butler robots. According to a study from IBM Institute for Business Value, 25% of travel companies have already implemented a cognitive computing project and 27% are about to start one.
One example of cognitive computing would be the Watson Travel Advisor, which gives travelers personalized recommendations on trips by engaging in natural conversation, collecting profile preferences, and tracking transaction history. These types of chatbots can be seen on travel websites, individual apps, and even on popular instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger. They analyze how you communicate to learn what you like, so your recommendations are unique and accurate to your interests.
The Watson Travel Advisor learns the more you use it. Therefore, the more you engage in conversation, the better it’ll tailor its offers and brand experience at every step of the travel process. It could be anything from adding Wi-Fi to your flight or hotel room to finding discounts at nearby stores. In the end, if travelers feel like they’ve been given a unique experience, they’ll be more engaging, more loyal, and generally satisfied with the company that provided the service.
Through conversation, companies can also get better insights for their business. For example, Watson can gather data about individual customer budget elasticity and deliver personalized pricing, offers, and messaging to travelers.
WayBlazer is an industry startup which utilizes Watson APIs—application interface protocols—to help travelers get the most out of every trip. Wayblazer can take any personalized request, process it, and then offer travelers great recommendations similar to what they’re looking for. So if you were to input a request for a “kid-friendly hotel in Ireland with access to a great golf course,” the APIs will conjure up a list of hotels that fit that criteria.
Digital support is not the only place where cognitive computing lives, though. It also has a physical form. Hilton has developed a cognitive robot concierge named Connie that’s powered by IBM Watson. Connie speaks to guests and helps them learn about local tourist attractions, dining recommendations, and hotel features and amenities.
Connie, just like the Watson Travel Advisor, also learns from users’ experiences. That means the more guests interact with it, the more room it has to adapt and improve its recommendations. Hotels such as Hilton can then access Connie’s memory and see what type of questions are being frequently asked, so they can improve their services and make it easier for guests.
We’re at the dawn of the cognitive era for the travel industry, with adoption by global players across sectors well underway. To learn more about this transformation, visit IBM’s Travel & Transportation Hub, featuring case studies from airlines, airports, hotels, railways, and freight companies.
This content was created collaboratively by IBM and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.