The Future of Travel Chatbots

#AI #machinelearning #relationships

Travel apps to chatbots

Move over apps, and say hello to travel chatbots. Travel agents, airlines, and hotels are all introducing chatbots who are knowledgeable, accurate and have a vast amount of information, while having a good conversation with you. They can plan trips within your budget and also use NLP (natural language processing) to recognize your specific query "weekend getaway from London" or “music festival in Ibiza.” The feeling of having a virtual assistant, who really cares about modifying your budget and itinerary and giving you the best deals, is only possible because we are moving from apps to conversational products.

Travel Bot Identities

Whether you're chatting with Mildred on Lufthansa or Carla on Avianca, you’re talking to a persona of a chatbot that is going to help you with your travel on an airline. Although several of these are female names, there are also male chatbots such as Edward, from the Edwardian hotels, who is your hotel agent and guide. Messenger bots such as Skyscanner and Kayak still reside on Facebook messenger and therefore limited by its capabilities. However, they make life faster and more convenient with quick comparisons and recommendations for you.

Travel Bots Absorbed by Mother Bots

With the travel chatbot boom, what would happen when a travel chatbot's skill can be learned by your own personal bot assistant? For example, Amazon's Alexa is intelligent enough to learn Expedia as a skill. Alexa can access Expedia and pull up your upcoming itineraries and also get you the best deals on local travel apps like Uber. In the future, there might be more bots that have superior machine learning capabilities, for example, Alexa could become a mother bot, that talks to several other bots, putting together the pieces of data they generate and connecting the dots for you.

Bot Identities Become More Memorable than Humans

As with Edward, who now chats with you, answering all hotel-related queries like "is breakfast included?" “can I book a foot spa today?” and so on, a relationship with the hotel guest and Edward is bound to become strong. So much so that during checkout, guests have started to leave notes for the bot, really thinking of him as someone who served them. Where does that leave the human staff in the hotel? Less memorable to the guests, only because they might not have had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the guests, in the privacy of a messenger, the way the chatbot could? The future holds this question around not only the machines taking over service roles, but also bots getting all the credit, even when humans might be working alongside in the same hotel.

Travel with Your ChatBot

Finally, it might not be surprising if a traveler chooses an airline because he had a good relationship with "her." Perhaps because he was most intimate with the airline bot, and would like to keep talking to her even on a holiday with him. Similarly, what would stop a guest from chatting with Edward, even after they are checked out of the hotel, if a friendship has formed? At what point will the relationships with the bots' end, or perhaps not end? And where will these conversations go in the future? We cannot wait to find out.

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