The rise of intelligent travel assistants: Mobile Travel Trends 2017 series

Posted by Neil Laidler - Regional Director on Jan 05, 2017


There is a new breed of travel assistant on the way as travellers expect better communication and interaction with digital devices. 

Over the next 1 to 3 years, I believe the old worlds of push and pull interactions will come together as one and we’ll witness a dramatic change in the way that we communicate and interact with digital devices (and brands on those devices). As the saying goes “If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get”. When we want something in life, we normally have to request it (the “pull”). When doing this digitally in travel today, we have to ‘ask / pull’ through processes of having to find menu options followed by entering scripted and tightly-defined paths based on what we want (e.g. “enter online check-in”), and then we move through the traditional pain of data entry around forms and fields. While we have seen some recent reducers of friction in this space (e.g. passport and credit scanning), we are still living in a world of flows, forms, fields and “next” and “back” buttons in order to ‘ask / pull’.

When we communicate with friends and family, we don’t fill in forms or follow defined paths, we provide enough information we deem to be pertinent and expect our audience to fill in the gaps through context, relationship and intelligence. Very soon we are going to see that same humanist dynamic enter into our digital interactions with travel brands.

Imagine being able to use whichever communication method you wish (speaking out loud or typing a one-line message) to retrieve, rebook or cancel a trip, without worrying about the format, grammar or style (or accent) you are using, with the intelligent travel assistant being able to read sentiment and act accordingly.

We’re seeing the start of this today, with Amazon Echo / Alexa, Google Home and Siri and messaging bots in semantic text input but these are just the beginning. What about the “push” interactions I mentioned? The phrase “If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get” could be made obsolete in the world of travel interactions, you may not need to ask at all as we are looking at a very near future of proactively “pushing” interactions to travellers. Imagine providing a digital travel assistant
that knows the location, trip context, trip history, agenda
and profile of the traveller, as well as behavioural analytics collected across the globe from travellers ‘like you’.