Travel industry sees chatbot boom

Airlines, hotels and travel agents making use of tech trend
Without the fanfare often associated with new technological trends, chatbots have crept their way into social messaging applications and are being used by travel companies to engage with customers.
Skyscanner said recently that users can now search for flights or get destination inspiration conversationally via Facebook Messenger, the first metasearch engine to implement such technology.
The chatbot is powered by several internal components, such as its flights API data and machine learning of user search trends. For instance, users can simply type ‘not sure’ when the chatbot asks where they wish to go, and suggestions given will be tailored to each user based on what the bot knows about that person.
“The messaging economy and conversational search are areas we believe are incredibly important evolutionary features for the travel industry. It has been a top priority for us to take a pioneering approach when it comes to building a bot for Facebook Messenger,” said Filip Filipov, director of B2B at Skyscanner.
“We want to make travel search as easily accessible as possible and believe that the launch of our Messenger bot will allow more people to search for their travel in a fun and informative way.”
Explaining why this is taking off in the travel space, Fergal Kelly, chief commercial officer at Mobile Travel Technologies, told TTG Asia on the sidelines of Travelport LIVE APAC Customer Conference 2016: “The first instinct these days is to text. It’s how they interact with each other and it’s how they expect to manage and sort out their lives. What chatbots are simply doing is allow them to interact that way.”
He added: “People still want to be treated like a human, an individual customer. Chatbots come as an efficient way of servicing this need compared to [having someone] take a call, for example.”
Hotel operators such as Onyx Hospitality, with brands like Amari Hotels and Resorts and Ozo under their belt, have integrated chatbots with their property management systems, offering guests round-the-clock automated chat services with the hotel.
On the airline front KLM is a pioneer, offering real-time 24/7 social media interaction as a service with their customers since 2009. They don’t use chatbots at all however, preferring instead to hire a dedicated team of over 200 service agents.
TTG Asia

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