How Google’s using AI and big data to make travel better
09/12/2018|10:45:13 AM|TNW

Since its acquisition of ITA Matrix Software eight years ago, Google has been quietly rolling out new tools for travelers. Its progress has been even more notable over the past months and weeks as it began unveiling tools to help predict flight delays, plan trips, and manage itineraries—among other things.

These changes have some wondering: Is Google making a run at total domination in the travel space? If it is, there’s a strong case to be made for its potential to disrupt the travel and hospitality sector with a similar approach to Amazon’s run at retail, and more recently grocery.

It even has flight and hotel reservations pouring in through Gmail. Leveraging its vast data network and app integrations, Google is uniquely poised to give consumers a seamless and tailored travel experience from the moment they decide to take a trip (and really, even before that), to the moment they return (and really, even after that).

So, disruption is coming. How can airlines and hospitality companies stay relevant without the massive data stores of a tech giant?

It all comes back to mastering data orchestration to create meaningful experiences for consumers across all channels. Even smaller data sets can have an outsized impact if leveraged properly across the organization and in real time. Travel companies can’t afford to miss crucial decision points and interactions along the customer journey.

This includes instances where they may be able to upsell (offer upgraded seats and rooms), improve service (provide bag tracking or easy access to concierge services) and personalize (empower service representatives on the front line to go above and beyond to make the customer feel special).

Airlines and hotels have begun dabbling in their data and deploying AI to make it actionable, but there’s plenty of ground left to cover. According to SITA, 52 percent of airlines are planning major AI programs over the next three years, but are particularly interested in leveraging AI for prediction and warning systems.

Still, there are numerous other ways airlines can leverage AI to improve the customer experience and differentiate themselves from competitors. Hotels are similarly beginning to embrace AI, enhancing the customer experience with chatbots, AI-based customer service and better understanding of customer behaviors, but advancing along this path will be even more vital with Google in the mix.

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