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Are chats and bots going to take over the travel industry?

May 27, 2016 — by Richard
Screenshot from 2016-05-26 16-50-33

2016 is, without a doubt, the year of the chatbots. Communicating with an Artificial intelligence (AI) has never been this accessible before – Facebook has launched the Messenger Platform last month, Slack prides itself with an extensive bot directory, and even Microsoft has joined the game with a bot platform for Skype.

As companies in every possible industry explore ways to serve and interact with their customers through chat bots, we’ve looked at chat bots used in hospitality industry. While there are already some interesting bots available, the market is still in a very early stage with different use cases being formed.

Chat bots for casual travel planning

In most cases you might only make use of a bot that provides you with a simple overview of flights and hotels available based on your criteria and a booking option.

If this is what you need, look no further than Lola and GoHero – free solutions that get the job done and are available on your phone 24/7. You can use the chat to find a nearby restaurant, hotel, book a flight, or even cab.

NomadList.com, a website focusing on so-called digital nomads (people who work remotely and travel often) chose a different approach with releasing a bot called Taylor for the messenger Telegram. While other bots help you to book flight to specific destinations, Taylor helps you to determine where to travel next by asking you questions about your budget and preferences.

SkyScanNKLMbots
For the purpose of searching flights, Skyscanner has become the go-to website for 50 million travelers monthly, and the number has the potential to increase with the company recently launching a Messenger bot. The bot gives the users the ability to search for flights from and to destinations of their preference, responding with the “cheapest prices available at the time”.

Have you booked a flight with KLM? If that’s the case, your flying experience has the potential to be quite positive thanks to their Messenger bot, packed with interesting functionalities including check-in reminders, flight status updates, booking info and the boarding pass itself.

Travel concierges with human support

While the technology has progressed enough to let an AI provide us with information about flights and hotels, in some cases our demands may be a little too complex to communicate to a chat bot. For these purposes, you can make use of advanced commercial solutions – often hybrids of bots and actual people. This combo opens the door to many new possibilities, albeit at a certain price.

Two such solutions are Pana and Claire. With their paid versions, both of them promise to reduce travel expenses and save time, specifically through their ability to monitor flight prices and notify you when they are cheapest. If you have a certain customer service request that the app is not able to fulfill, the apps are able to involve an actual human.

What comes next

One thing is for sure: People love the simplicity of chat as a form of communication. Now that the impact of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Slack in the interpersonal sphere has become clear, chatting is going to change how humans and computers interact. 

The first steps are going to be challenging, because of the complexity of the travel ecosystem, but there is great potential for disruption once all the pieces come together.