Artificial intelligence and the travel industry - challenges and opportunities

26 January 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise - also in travel. We spoke with Manuel Hilty from about the possibilities of using AI today. Nezasa is a specialist for travel planning and was awarded "Best Tour Operating Platform 2020" by Travolution for its innovative products.

Grüezi Manuel! How do you use AI, what do you expect from it, and what are the biggest challenges in using AI?

More and more travel companies are using AI

AI is playing an increasingly important role in the travel industry. The variety of complex decisions that customers have to make in travel planning and booking demands the best possible technical assistance for these kinds of decision-making processes.

91% of customers prefer providers that offer relevant offers and recommendations, and 40% of customers leave websites because they are overwhelmed with the offerings. For this reason, many companies rely on AI, especially online shops. This way, customers are offered the right products (hotels, transportation, tours, excursions, etc.) at the right time (when their interest is at its highest). So personalization plays a very important role.

A lack of individual data significantly limits the possibilities

However, the use of AI in the travel industry also has its limitations. Unlike other industries such as retail, media or TV streaming, travel sellers have very few touchpoints with their customers. On average, customers travel only a few times a year and then in a different way - sometimes briefly and sometimes extensively, sometimes near and sometimes far, occasionally alone as well as with friends or family. Thus, the amount of data for AI is much narrower than for example in TV streaming - Netflix can monitor its customers watching series like all the time.

For this reason, it is very difficult for travel to make recommendations on an individual level - even with AI. 

A solution: Recommendation Engines

Something that works well is correlating behaviors of many customers with each other. For example, "those who have viewed the following trips are also interested in this product" or "those who visit places A and B should also consider adding C". Recommendations of this kind generate tremendous added value for the customers and therefore commercial advantages for the travel providers as well.

These types of recommendation engines are also a key focus for Nezasa as a provider of planning and booking software for the travel industry. Our vision is that our technology will help customers planning their perfect trip as easy as possible. They will be presented with the most relevant suggestions at every step of the planning process - from the best route to places to visit to the optimal products (in the sense of "personalized upselling") to support during the trip if something doesn't work out as planned (e.g. a change in flight times). We strongly believe in not taking travel planning completely off the customer's hands - because it's fun and inspiring - but in offering them the best possible support. 

Yes, we too would now like to design a trip with your solution - that sounds really exciting. Thanks for your insights, Manuel!