NATIONAL REPORT—What does the future hold for the travel industry? For starters, technology will continue to shape the guest experience as hotel brands make this a vital point of focus. Whether it’s through in-room technology, service-oriented robots or the seamless integration of a new process or service, change is coming.
Alex Kaluzny, SVP and chief product and technology officer at Egencia, the business travel arm of Expedia, has outlined some predictions for 2020:
Predictive Personalization Begins
“Personalization has begun to take off thanks to artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology. But, to date, the impact of personalization has been largely contained to rates and hotel options in the travel industry,” said Kaluzny. “In 2020, the predictive analytics we have seen in consumer apps like Netflix that give you personalized recommendations on entertainment choice begin to show signs of progress in business travel. In 2020, we may start to see the seeds of innovation planted with companies that have the right mix of data to integrate.”
- Thirty-three percent of millennial travelers would allow a computer to plan a whole trip based on data from their travel history.
- Ninety percent of travelers worldwide say they expect a personalized experience when they book their travel.
- Fifty percent of travel and hospitality companies today are gathering and using real-time data; 47% are using automated personalization.
- Eighty-three percent of millennials said they would let travel brands track their digital patterns if this would provide them with a more personalized experience.
AI/ML Ushers in Global Negotiations
“AI/ML began to offer new savings in 2019 as features like automatic reticketing when prices drop, and hotel and air choice optimization by policy, hit traveler screens,” he said. “This year, the technology goes from early savings to global contract shifts as travel managers see AI and ML imbedded—even deeper—into travel management platforms. Expect contract renegotiations to become more sophisticated as the technology uncovers and recommends new areas to optimize by region, and at global back-end scale.”
More Channels Emerge, Without Significant Consolidation
“Travel booking has evolved from phone calls, to websites, mobile and apps, all the while no channel has fully disappeared,” he said. “This year will be no different. Communication channels will continue to increase, with bots and voice AI increasing in adoption and consumers expecting the ability to adjust travel and communicate needs in real time—in whatever channel they prefer—without skipping a beat. Information will need to carry over; a traveler will expect to be able to start on the phone, hop on online to a website and pick a flight, then adjust a booking through a voice-enabled app—minus the friction. End-to-end will be the end all, be all, this year.”
- Sixty-six percent of consumers have used three or more communications channels to contact a brand’s customer service, according to Microsoft.
- By 2022, Gartner predicts that 72% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as messaging, mobile applications and chatbots, up from 11% in 2017. It also predicts that, by that time, phone conversations will make up merely 12% of customer service interactions—vs. 41% in 2017.
- Fifteen percent of all customer service interactions will be handled solely by AI in 2021, a 400% increase from 2017, according to Gartner.
- Two-thirds of all customer experience initiatives will use IT by 2022, a jump from half in 2017, according to Gartner.
- Nine out of 10 consumers want an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication methods, according to UC Today.
5G Opens Up the Global Talent Pool for Business Expansion
“With 5G, data and devices will be able to do more advanced work remotely. Image recognition, video streaming, voice-based execution—collaboration at a global level will accelerate across industries,” he said. “But don’t be fooled, technology will not isolate human-to-human interactions, rather create the opportunity to connect to new cultures, partners and, as a result, talent operating in untapped regions. Because of talent operating and being discovered in more geographies, the need for business travel and face-to-face interactions will increase as 5G rollout comes to fruition.”
According to a Forbes Insights study titled “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workspace,” diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.
Among companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenues, 56% strongly agreed that diversity helps drive innovation.
Technological advancements over the past decade brought an influx of telecommunicating abilities, making remote work the new norm for businesses, according to a report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. The number of Americans participating in remote work has jumped by 159% between 2005 and 2017, the report found.
By 2035, more than one billion people will be working remotely, according to a recent study by The Economist, which is underlined by the increasing amount of companies hiring remote staff.
Spending on 5G mobile infrastructure for 2021 is forecast to be at around $2.3 billion, meaning more support for remote workers to have faster access to information.