The Future is Now

Game-Changing technology is improving business travel

Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and other smart technologies are set to reshape the way we research, book and experience travel. As technology-infused services mature, and are increasingly integrated with human support, the user experience will only improve. Already, recent research conducted by Booking.com for Business has found that the majority of professionals (75%) agree that technology has made it easier to plan and book business travel and accommodation today versus using a traditional travel agent. While there is still room for increased speed, simplification and personalisation across every aspect of the user experience, there are also some game-changing technologies on the horizon that are set to transform the world of business travel. For example:

· The Ultimate Personal Assistants: Almost a third (29%) of global travellers say they are comfortable letting a computer plan an upcoming trip based on data from their previous travel history, and half (50%) don’t have a preference for a real person or computer, as long as their questions are answered. AI chat platforms or chat bots are becoming increasingly advanced – and the more they learn, the more they can do. These systems are capable of gathering information on what business travellers like and dislike, making tailored recommendations. Booking.com’s Booking Assistant, for example, employs mobile messaging and a conversational user interface to enable first-line support in an easy, familiar way. Using AI chat functionality, the Booking Assistant responds to queries and requests about existing reservations, property policies and common stay-related requests swiftly. If the Booking Assistant doesn’t know the answer, it redirects messages to property owners or to Booking.com’s Customer Service Team to ensure a response.

· Robots at Your Service: AI-infused robots are already handling simple face-to-face customer interactions and transactions. In Geneva airport for example, roaming self-service kiosks assist with check-ins and issuing boarding passes, so that airport staff are freed up to focus on more complex interactions and procedures. In the hotel industry, concierge and butler services are increasingly becoming automated so that some tasks are performed by robots instead. A robot named AURA (Automated Room-Service Associate) has become a stand-out feature at the M Social Hotel in Singapore, employed for room service and other deliveries to hotel guests. AURA has been designed to navigate corridors, avoid obstacles, effectively use elevators and even alert guests upon arrival to their rooms. These robot butlers can help business travellers use their time more constructively by having deliveries, special requests and personal touches brought straight to their door.

· Smartphone Tech – the gateway to experiences: Thanks to advances in mobile technology, business travel has become increasingly seamless and on-the-go – with nearly all research, bookings and changes to flights or hotels able to be made directly on a mobile device. But beyond that, smartphones are now becoming the gateway to personalised, curated experiences for travellers – helping them discover and explore the destinations they visit, in line with their personal – and professional – likes and preferences. According to research by Booking.com for Business, a quarter (24%) of professionals said that they often incorporate time for leisure and non-work activities into existing timeframes of business trips. For these business travellers looking to spend this time between commitments wisely, they can turn to Booking.com’s Booking Experiences – a pilot offering in select cities that enables travellers to search more intelligently for bookable tours and activities via their smartphone. Using the app helps travellers save time by eliminating the need to book many tours and experiences in advance or queue to buy tickets. Instead, travellers can book via the app, show up to the attraction, scan their smartphone code and they’re ready to go.

AI and human-machine interfaces are making significant advances towards transforming how business travellers search, book, manage and conduct business travel. Ultimately, these cutting-edge technologies have the potential to make travel, both business and leisure, much more efficient, smart and enjoyable.