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Hospitality in the Age of AI

Here's how personalization preserves the magic of experiences.
4/12/2024
woman in restaurant smiling holding a tablet
In this new era of digitally-driven travel and hospitality, personalization reigns supreme, says Amanda Cole.

Travel is at an all-time high. In a reversal from trends during the pandemic, we’re seeing record traveler numbers around the world predicted for 2024. What’s more — 80% of travelers feel it’s important to be able to book their trips entirely online, according to TravelPerk. 

With this rise in travelers also comes a rise in traveler expectations. And as so many seek to plan and book their trips online, those expectations are often centered around the digital experience.

In this new era of digitally-driven travel and hospitality, personalization reigns supreme. 

Whether embarking on a solo adventure, planning a romantic getaway, or organizing a family excursion, travelers crave tailored experiences that align with their unique preferences and desires. It's akin to shopping online for the perfect outfit — we expect brands to deliver seamless journeys and anticipate what we want, whether that be with relevant search results or personalized product recommendations. Now, we look to travel companies to offer the same.

 

Challenges of Personalization  

Despite the wealth of data available in the digital age, brands have historically grappled with truly understanding their customers. This is true of every industry, but is particularly relevant in travel and hospitality, where the customer journey isn’t so straightforward.

Executing exceptional travel and leisure experiences that cater to a customer’s every need, and offer the element of surprise and delight they crave, involves orchestrating data from so many different sources. If data sources and systems are siloed, it’s impossible to gain comprehensive insights into nuanced customer preferences, resulting in fragmented journeys.

Relying solely on historical data further exacerbates the issue, failing to account for real-time shifts in traveler behavior and expectations. Travel plans can evolve quickly, so businesses need to be able to provide content that’s relevant to guests in the moment.

Without all of this data unified in a single place, updating in real-time, personalization efforts will always be lacking. Because its data that trains AI — the true key to delivering personalization to every single consumer.
 

Transforming Travel Experiences 

How can brands offer the personalized travel and leisure experiences that customers are seeking? This is where AI, which can eliminate the guesswork and uncover the complexities of customer behavior, comes in.

By sifting through and analyzing vast amounts of data, AI can deliver tailored recommendations of flights, accommodations, and activities based on individual preferences, past behaviors, and real-time trends. Other practical and real-world AI applications that are transforming travel and leisure experiences include:

 

  • Dynamic pricing: AI algorithms adjust pricing in real time based on factors such as demand, seasonality, and competitor rates, ensuring travelers get the best value for their money.

  • Tailored customer service: Customer service is critical to travel and hospitality companies, an AI can ensure great service reaches customers beyond the in-person experience by automating concierge text messages or offering real-time notifications about wait time for an activity.
  • Predictive maintenance: In the realm of hospitality, AI-enabled predictive maintenance ensures seamless operations by forecasting equipment failures and scheduling preventative maintenance, minimizing downtime and guest disruptions.
  • Personalized marketing campaigns: AI enables highly customized marketing campaigns that cross every channel, from SMS to ads and every touchpoint in between. You can reach the right audience with the right message at the right time, thereby driving engagement and conversions.

What difference do these AI applications make to how we experience travel, hospitality, and leisure activities? It means that your plane arrives on time (and you know immediately when it’s delayed), you get the hotel room you paid for, and the overall experience aligns with the promises made by the digital ads you first saw before starting your buying journey.

But it doesn’t end there. It’s only now that the customer-facing applications of AI are really taking off.

The Rise of Conversational Commerce

We’re at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of personalization and AI in our experiences of travel and leisure. At the forefront of the AI revolution lies conversational commerce. Picture having a virtual travel agent at your fingertips, ready to tailor every aspect of your itinerary to perfection. From recommending the ideal hotel to arranging  bespoke excursions, conversational commerce bridges the gap between human interaction and online booking platforms. Travelers can articulate their preferences, ask questions, and make adjustments with ease, all while enjoying a deeply personalized experience. This human-centric approach, facilitated by AI, preserves the essence of traditional travel agency interactions in the digital era. human-centric approach, facilitated by AI, preserves the essence of traditional travel agency interactions in the digital era.

Thanks to generative AI and conversational commerce, travel in the future will be a lot more free-form, creating limitless experiences that go beyond customer expectations. In this landscape, the best AI applications will go largely unnoticed by the customer because they’ll be delivered in a human way and through channels that are preferred by the customer  the hotel front desk, travel agents, and onsite staff. In other words, through humans.

From the moment of inspiration to the final destination, AI facilitates seamless and innovative experiences that delight and exceed expectations. It's not merely about booking a trip; it's about the end-to-end experience and crafting memories that last a lifetime.

In short, make sure you make AI-enabled personalization a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. By championing this evolution, you can ensure that every traveler’s journey is as unique as they are.

 

About the Author

Amanda (Elam) Cole,  serves as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the execution of Bloomreach’s marketing strategy to drive further business demand and brand awareness. Cole is a passionate marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience in helping SaaS companies build impactful brands, communicate differentiated value, and grow high-performing marketing teams. She previously served as the company’s senior vice president of global marketing, having joined in January 2021 through the acquisition of Exponea. Prior to joining Exponea, Cole served as Vice President, Demand Generation at Blueshift, a Customer Data Platform, and before that served as Vice President of Marketing, Americas and Global Programs at Basware, a financial software company.

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