Artificial intelligence: The next frontier in corporate travel

By Mike Eggleton, Senior Manager Analytics & Research

It’s no secret that corporate travel can be stressful and corporate travelers are always keen to remove friction during a trip.  Artificial intelligence (AI), already familiar to most travelers in the form of digital assistants like Ok Google, Siri and Cortana, may provide an answer.

At its core, AI automates computer processes to understand and mimic the human brain. While there are many fields that comprise AI, two that are commonly used for everyday applications are Natural language processing (NLP), and Machine learning. NLP helps computers understand human speech or typing. Machine learning refers to computer programs that learn from new information or data without having to be explicitly programmed. Together, they enable computers to respond to specific questions or requests, and improve the relevance of responses over time.

Combining AI and Travel

The wealth of information that corporate travel companies possess, including traveler profiles, activity history and airline and hotel preferences make the travel industry well suited to AI. Many corporate travel companies are already using it to interact with travelers before, during and after their trips. Here are three companies using AI in different and creative ways.

  • Pana, which describes itself as an on-demand business travel agent, allows users to communicate using messages via an app, SMS or email. It combines natural language processing with data about traveler preferences, and uses artificial intelligence to prompt agents with relevant choices during the booking process.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines allows travelers to receive booking confirmations, check-in notifications, boarding passes and flight status updates via a Facebook Messenger bot. They can also contact KLM directly through Messenger 24/7.
  • Hilton is testing Connie, a robot concierge powered by IBM Watson and Wayblazer. It answers guests’ questions about amenities, services and local attractions. The more guests interact with Connie, the more it learns, adapts and improves its recommendations.

AI is still in its infancy, but it is in our future. Applying AI tools to travel data will open up an abundance of opportunities to improve the traveler experience. As it develops, AI will help simplify complex travel decisions, shorten the buying process and deliver a more personalized offering. And by automating lower priority tasks, it will free up human travel agents to add more value.

To read about AI and other emerging business travel trends in travel, download our 2017 Industry Forecast.