Virtual travel assistants: Redefining the travel experience in the age of AI

Join us as we look at the transformative potential of virtual assistants in the travel industry, including the use cases that they are ideal for, and how they can help to scale any travel business, boost revenue, and provide superior service to more customers.

These days, embarking on a journey has never been easier. However, businesses in the travel industry are facing unprecedented challenges related to customer service. With a myriad of destinations to explore and countless resources at travelers’ fingertips, businesses must navigate a complex environment to meet the needs and high expectations of their customers.

As revealed by Expedia Group’s Path to Purchase research, travelers now invest over 5 hours on average researching trips. The information gathering process is complex, with people using multiple web resources including online travel agencies (OTAs), search engines, social media platforms, airline websites, and travel metasearch websites.

What’s particularly intriguing is that nearly three in five leisure travelers start this process without a specific destination in mind, highlighting the importance of finding inspiration during the planning process.

So, what’s the solution? In the modern era where information overload is the norm, travelers seek efficient and personalized solutions to simplify their trip planning. Not surprisingly, the travel industry is among the top five industries utilizing travel chatbots, recognizing how a solution that is easy to set-up and implement has such potential to streamline processes and enhance customer experiences.

The growing market for travel chatbots

According to Expedia, 37% of users prefer smart chatbots for comparing booking options or arranging travel plans, while 33% use them to make reservations at hotels or restaurants.

Offering a seamless and intuitive interface, travel chatbots have revolutionized the way travelers discover, plan, and book their adventures. More and more businesses in the travel industry are adopting this technology.

Currently valued at over USD 632 million, the Gen AI market in hospitality is projected to expand to an impressive USD 3,582 million by 2032. In addition, there is a projected spend of $3.69 billion USD by 2027 for the airports and aviation industries in AI-related services.

In this rapidly evolving environment, failing to invest in chatbot technology could mean falling behind competitors and missing out on substantial growth opportunities. It’s evident that chatbots are not just a passing trend – they are here to stay.

Why you need a virtual travel assistant: Practical applications

Conversational AI has the potential to revolutionize the decision-making and booking process by providing personalized recommendations, streamlining bookings, and offering inspiration tailored to individual preferences, thus reducing the time and effort spent on trip planning.

A virtual travel assistant can be available 24/7 providing tailored recommendations and assistance at every step of the journey.

  • Assisting users in navigating the complexities of booking.
  • Providing instant booking confirmations and necessary travel documents, eliminating wait times.
  • Providing live updates on fare trends, helping clients secure the best deals.
  • Integrating secure payment gateways for quick and safe transactions.
  • Accessible on various messaging platforms, eliminating the need for additional apps.
  • Allowing travelers to easily adjust bookings, from changing dates to updating passenger information.

This approach enhances not only the flexibility and convenience for users but also translates into tangible business benefits for travel companies and agencies. By providing personalized and seamless experiences, travel companies can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, leading to higher retention rates and positive word-of-mouth referrals. Additionally, the streamlined booking process can result in higher conversion rates and increased direct bookings, ultimately boosting revenue and profitability for the business.

Incorporating virtual travel assistants and travel chatbots into the travel ecosystem offers a win-win situation, where travelers enjoy a hassle-free booking experience while companies benefit from enhanced customer engagement and improved operational efficiency.

AI-powered travel planning

When one is presented with numerous options, travel planning virtual assistants can steer customers in making decisions and suggest destinations tailored to their needs. By analyzing factors like preferences, budget, travel dates, and past behavior, travel chatbots can offer personalized recommendations that align with the traveler’s interests and practical needs.

Whether planning a romantic honeymoon or a family adventure, from bustling city escapes to secluded beach resorts, chatbots leverage advanced algorithms and real-time data to provide timely suggestions based on factors such as weather forecasts, flight availability, and hotel prices.

How virtual travel assistants work

These types of assistants can be trained using Infobip’s AI capabilities to understand various user intents. Through a combination of training pipelines and large datasets, the model is fine-tuned to comprehend user queries and provide relevant responses.

Customers can interact with the assistant through the chat interface, leveraging Infobip’s versatile communication channels. Whether it’s through WhatsApp, Messenger, web, or SMS, customers have the flexibility to engage with the assistant on their preferred platform.

For example, when a customer requests to book a flight, the assistant understands the intent, extracts necessary details like origin, destination, and dates, and proceeds to check flight availability and book the flight.

This simpler way to search for and book trips can help boost reservations and sales, as well as retarget with actual and upcoming similar deals. With only a few interactions, virtual travel assistants can predict users’ ideal travel preferences, by analyzing their behavior and experience patterns. From there, travel chatbots are trained to retarget engaged users with similar deals that align with their interests.

Five key use cases for virtual travel assistants

1. Streamlining the booking and reservation process

No longer do you need to jump between multiple websites to book flights, accommodation, and activities. Chatbots can enable customers to make bookings directly from a single platform, within the chat interface. It searches for options, compares prices, and even handles payment processing, all in real-time.

This seamless booking process not only saves time but also increases the likelihood of direct bookings for travel companies. Additionally, they provide secure payment options, guaranteeing the safety and reliability of your transactions.

From the business’ perspective, this translates to more efficient operations and higher conversion rates. Hospitality providers can precisely align their offerings with customer demands, leading to higher occupancy rates and more effective pricing strategies. Additionally, the predictive capabilities of AI assist in anticipating future booking trends, enabling businesses to adjust their services in advance. This not only maximizes revenue but also ensures a consistently high level of customer service and loyalty.

2. Enhanced personalization and traveler safety

Travel chatbots are elevating itinerary management to unprecedented levels. By integrating real-time data from different sources, chatbots have the capability to optimize routes, suggest attractions and make restaurant reservations.

As a real-life example, TripAdvisor had introduced an AI-powered itinerary generator as part of their core trip-planning product, Trip. The latest feature creates personalized itineraries by analyzing over a billion reviews and opinions from the platform’s vast database.

Furthermore, safety remains a top priority, with AI continuously monitoring weather conditions and travel advisories for consumers’ convenience. This comprehensive approach transforms a trip into a meticulously planned, deeply personalized, and inherently secure adventure.

3. Breaking down language barriers

Another crucial factor for complete personalization is eliminating traditional language barriers. Multilingual chatbots can automatically detect user’s browser language preferences or offer language selection menus. The language translation functionality ensures that all guests receive the support they need, in their native language.

This not only makes international travel more accessible and enjoyable for customers but also increases the potential pool of chatbot users. Adopting sophisticated AI-powered translation tools is a strategic move for hospitality companies. It enables them to effectively serve a diverse, international customer base, expanding their reach and inclusivity while streamlining guest interactions.

4. Customer service

Generative AI-powered chatbots are revolutionizing customer service in the industry. With advanced natural language processing and machine learning capabilities, these bots understand and respond to user inquiries with exceptional accuracy. Operating 24/7, they provide travelers with immediate assistance, eliminating the need for long waits for human representatives.

Moreover, they excel in addressing a wide range of travel-related questions, from simple flight status inquiries and weather conditions to complex issues such as itinerary changes or accommodation recommendations. Travelers can receive real-time updates directly on their mobile devices, aiding in better journey planning.

5. Virtual concierge service

Chatbots are also reshaping the guest experience within hotels, offering travelers easy management of room features and amenities. According to Oracle, these innovations are particularly appealing to the 73% of customers who prefer self-service options to minimize staff interaction.

Additionally, these digital assistants simplify the process of ordering room service, with nearly 39% of guests opting to order meals via phone or chatbot. This trend indicates a move towards seamless, autonomous dining experiences, aligning with modern hospitality expectations. As a result, chatbots not only enhance comfort but also meet the evolving demands of the hospitality industry.

What kind of travel companies benefit from travel chatbots?

Travel companies of all sizes can gain advantages from integrating a chatbot into their services. Whether you’re an online travel agent (OTA), an airline, a tour operator, a car rental agency, a public transportation system, or a hotel, chances are you encounter a high volume of repetitive requests, diverse language needs, a demand for 24/7 support, and fluctuations in customer inquiries. By automating your customer service, you can ensure travelers receive the necessary information while keeping your team satisfied.

Getting started with your own travel chatbot

Now that we’ve covered the transformative potential of chatbots in the travel industry, you might be wondering about implementation. Fortunately, getting a chatbot up and running is easier than you might think.

Infobip offers a comprehensive chatbot building platform with powerful features and easy integration options specifically designed to meet the needs of the travel industry.

We support the widest range of channels including SMS, all popular chat apps, and RCS through our partnership with Google which enables our customers to access the power of their Vertex AI product to create unique conversational experiences.

Whatever the channel, your chatbots can be customized to align with your brand identity and business objectives.

Here are some helpful resources to get you started:

Our documentation also contains detailed step by step instructions, for example how to set up a chatbot for airline customer support.

By leveraging Infobip’s powerful chatbot platform, you can revolutionize the way your customers discover, plan, and book their adventures, ultimately driving revenue growth and fostering long-term customer loyalty. As the demand for seamless and personalized travel experiences continues to rise, embracing chatbot technology is not just a strategic choice – it’s a necessity for staying ahead in the digital age of travel.

Talk to us about creating your own virtual travel assistant.

Speak to an expert
Jun 19th, 2024
8 min read
Associate Product Marketing Manager

Petra Šašić

Associate Product Marketing Manager