The online travel industry is adopting an AI-first approach: Sanjay Mohan, CTO, MakeMyTrip
At MakeMyTrip, use of artificial intelligence (AI) has resulted in 15 to 20 per cent improvement in terms of reduced booking time
The online travel industry in India has witnessed a paradigm shift in the past few years. Travel and hospitality sector at large has been seen adopting newer technologies and digital platforms to improve customer experience. This growth in adopting newer technologies has become one of the prime reasons for impact in the sector. The dynamic pace of disruption across smartphone, social media, digital space and visual content creation has transformed the way consumers search, book, pay and even submit claims and reimbursements for travel. With an aim to unlock the potential of online travel and stays as well as improve adoption of online booking, MakeMyTrip and GoIbibo are leveraging technology to enhance user experience and reach – delivering highly relevant and more personalised content.
Sharing MakeMyTrip and GoIbibo’s story, Sanjay Mohan, Chief Technology Officer, MakeMyTrip, says, “We are increasingly embracing technology to provide best in class customer experience while automating operations. New digital mediums like chatbots have opened an advanced dimension, leveraging technology to take the customer experience to the next level. As these chatbots mature, they will provide the opportunity to simplify and personalise the user experience throughout the travel lifecycle. GoIbibo – through its chatbot GIA – handles some of the simpler customer transactions booking, boarding passes etc, so that human agents can focus on more complex interactions. The use of voice-activated assistants – like Amazon’s Alexa in GoIbibo’s case – to offer hotel search and book functions has also begun. Bots using Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be deployed to accomplish more complex personalisation using AI for context. NLP and AI have the potential to add considerable value to all types of travel-related activities, including allowing customers to perform travel search and booking, while talking in their native languages.”
Optimised operations, enhanced experience
With the growth in internet penetration and availability of smartphones, travel has become increasingly mobile-centric, making travel booking experience more customised and personalised. As Mohan states, the company now has one of the cleverest customer facing AI in the Indian online travel space called Gia and Myra – it is already doing over 200,000 weekly unique conversations not just on GI and MMT platform, but various chat apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa; and soon on Google Assistant.
“The use of AI is helping take care of post booking needs and is also helping us extract information from various data sets to become more and more accurate in predicting what a traveller’s preferences are and make most relevant offerings. As a result, we have seen a 15 to 20 per cent improvement in terms of reduced booking time. The company is also using AI to improve meta data on photo catalogues given how critical is rich visual data to hotel search and booking experience,” informs Mohan.
Big data as a concept has been around with regard to multiple industries. Within the global travel, tourism and hospitality industry, it is primarily the large OTAs, metasearch players and branded hotel chains that have managed to use data to bring out insights that can help improve customer experience, using a mix of segmentation, personalisation, and supply-side insights.
Mohan points out, “This data helps in better understanding a user’s intent of visit on the app or website – consequently preparing a customised user interface, sending relevant notifications and offers to convert ‘lookers’ into ‘buyers’. At the same time, supply-side insights help in surfacing the right product/inventory to the customer, thus increasing customer satisfaction and delight. Today, hospitality and travel companies are delivering real added value by integrating artificial intelligence into online search and booking. The industry is adopting an AI-first approach, focusing on ‘relevance’ to build powerful messaging and product bundling capabilities based on context and traveller propensity. Past behaviours can feed computers to analyse actions and predict future purchase. AI in travel and tourism is being used today to predict travel choices, personalised services, complete bookings and manage in-trip and post-trip needs. As chatbots mature, they will provide the opportunity to simplify and personalise the user experience throughout the travel lifecycle.”
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