Advanced AI is expected to allow travel companies to provide a higher level of personalization than ever, and there's big value in that.
AI has the potential to transform the ways travel companies offer hyper-personalized customer service, and the industry could make a notable shift in that direction as early as next year.
That’s according to executives from Amazon Web Services during a presentation Monday at the HITEC travel tech conference in Toronto.
They shared how they are working with major hotel brands, online travel agencies, and other companies as they move to implement advanced AI into their businesses.
While 86 percent of travel and hospitality executives believe AI will drive business value, only 15 percent of companies in that industry are using AI at an advanced level, according to AWS statistics. AWS announced a new $100 million program to help customers develop customer and internal applications around generative AI as a way to help speed that adoption.
The hospitality industry seems eager to learn about AI: The room at the AWS session was packed and attendees were snapping photos of every slide in the presentation.
As a senior technical product manager of AI Services for Amazon Personalize, Julia Clark works with AWS clients to help them deliver personalized experiences without requiring their staff to have a tech background.
Using the technology that was available a few years ago, AWS worked with Hyatt to help the hotel brand make personalized recommendations for customers, such as suggesting specific hotels that matched their interests or selling ad-ons like spa visits. Hyatt said it saw a $40 million increase in revenue within the first six months.
The industry is moving quickly. “A year from now, I think we’re going to see a few things,” Clark said. “First, I think we’re going to see a proliferation of hyper-personalized content.”
That means companies will be able to present images, text, and more based on detailed data customers provide. More relevant content drives sales, said Greg Land, the global head of accommodation, lodging, cruise, and casino for AWS.
Land said two of his online travel agency clients are already doing some of that work this year, particularly in the lodging space, to test how they can use customer data to create personalized images and property descriptions.
“I truly think by the end of this year, we’ll see a lot of that type of effort going on. And then going into next year, we’ll see the envelope being pushed a little bit more on that model,” Land said.
Clark also thinks more companies will be able to deliver more personalized search capabilities, meaning guests can find a short-term rental, for example, that meets specific needs they search for.
And she thinks travel companies can greatly increase customer loyalty using generative AI to personalize travel itineraries.
“You’re going to have data that allows you to deliver or make suggestions about what people can do with their time — where they’re going to feel understood, where they’re going to build trust and loyalty with that brand because they think the brand is looking out for them and wants to optimize their time and the way they spend their money,” Clark said.
The Important Next Step
AI can only function with a large amount of high-quality data. The problem right now is that many hospitality companies have inconsistent, unreliable data that is siloed among different parts of the same company.
“If you try to go too deep into a big personalization issue, and you don’t really understand who your best customers are, and you don’t have that level of detailed data and know that it’s accurate, you can make a big mistake, and you can try to do personalization and really push the wrong message,” Land said.
He said AWS is building a platform for data capture specifically for hospitality companies, meant to help them create that foundation more quickly and easily.
“That’s where the heavy lifting is right now, and we’ve got to get over this hurdle this year to really see the big advancement going into next year for AI and [machine learning], and then generative AI across the hospitality industry,” Land said.
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Photo credit: Leaders from Amazon Web Services presented at the HITEC travel tech conference in Toronto. Justin Dawes / Skift