March 24th, 2020

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Blink, and you’ll miss it. That’s how fast artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) was transforming the travel industry. Even amidst one of the biggest downturns, the COVID-19 pandemic, AI helped companies cope with the demand from travellers’ disruption.

And no doubt as we move through it into recovery phase, it will be a resource which more of them rely on. Some may collaborate, whereby businesses spot advantages in sharing their AI with others.

Internet giants like Google already integrate AI into searches which funnels data to screens and devices to every corner of the planet.

With a few taps or clicks, we relied on websites, platforms and mobile applications to curate complex trips. One stop shops like Expedia gave customers access the best deals across millions of providers – flights, hotels and more – to create the perfect itinerary.

We may be grounded for now.  We’ll bounce back. Here’s a peek into how travel in 2020 will be transformed by AI. No virus is going to keep us from exploring our planet.

Personalisation – and Hyper-personalisation

Travel brands collect data from every customer touch point to make their products and content as relevant as possible. Engagement is the buzzword.

It’s sometimes spooky how they know what comes next. AI drives predictive function as we search and book. Airlines like Delta are investing heavily to stay ahead of the curve with more advanced digital tools, to usher in real time data.

Globetrotting corporates troubleshoot on a direct messaging platform, while flight attendants micro-tweak guests’ travel experience down to the micro, like airport gate information.

Luckily we’re not about to lose the personal touch. The smartest players are blending the latest AI with expert teams of concierges, to offer ‘hyperpersonalisation’.


They’ve been around for a while, but get ready for next gen in customer support. Around 40% of large business brands will adopt chatbots this year. They scurry through data and deliver rapid response to our trickiest problems – or rustle up itineraries. The more AI works, the smarter it is.

Some chatbots for example, are trained to cancel or make bookings, provide flight luggage information – in five different languages.

Robots have become the new normal. Pre-COVID-19, airports, hotels and stores across Asia meet and greet visitors, help with check ins or concierge services. Look forward to intelligent luggage cases which follow their masters. Still, there are many situations where they will fail to adapt, such as sympathy or emotions – not to mention the maintenance costs.

Mobile Applications

The new breed of apps – and travel assistants – are game changers on the go. The digital trend towards mobile booking– led by Asia – reveals over half of us book at hotel via smartphones (and control room appliances).

We can search, book and share our experiences with friends and colleagues. Get real time updates on flight delays. Manage costs of purchases in one place, while apps like Instalocate takes the stress out of flight compensation. Others like Caxton help juggle currency needs when flitting through borders.

Security issues will always loom large on the travellers’ list of concerns. Data hacking and confidentiality are never out of the news, so brands with robust IT will come out on top.

Recognition Technology

Fingerprint, facial, retina scanning and other biometric identification is already rolled out in major airports. We do hate a queue. While it’s proved reliable for security measures, it has unlimited potential for the travel industry.

Expect new services, like enhanced loyalty schemes or VIP lounge access for example. Conversely, facial ID can help staff remain alert to any negative profiles and ward off potential problems.

5G is in the house

Not exactly AI but the advent of this will have a huge impact on the travel experience, and undoubtedly how we interact in the next decade.

Right now, we’re wearing funny goggles. But at China’s soon to open airports, travellers can tap into 5G + VR live broadcasts for real time interactive images of scenic spots around the country.  Talking holograms, live gigs in your bedroom don’t seem too far off.