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How AI Is Altering Your Travel Experience

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© Photo courtesy of Ashim D’Silva/StockSnap Airlines have started to use AI for objectives like tracking weather patterns and airport crowds.

AFAR
Artificial intelligence—the technology that powers Siri and Alexa, guides self-driving cars, and helps Netflix and Amazon tailor your search results—is already embedded in our lives. Here’s how it will help you maximize your travels in the coming years.

A Bot Will Plan Your Trip

The next stage of AI online is hyperpersonalization: Websites and search engines will use data about you—or a group of people similar to you—to make recommendations for how and where to travel.

“Nuance is going to refine the experience,” says Gilad Berenstein, CEO of UTrip, a company that builds AI recommendation engines for the travel industry. Say you want to go to New York City. In the past, you might have first gone to a hotel booking site or app, plugged in your dates, and gotten 1,000 results. Search engines powered by the new generation of AI, however, will use—with your permission—your data (places you’ve been, restaurants you’ve booked, products you’ve bought) to create recommendations. So instead of 1,000 hotels, your search will return 15 possible itineraries that include not only hotels, but also local restaurants, car services, and activities. No two searches will look alike, because no two people are exactly the same.

Search engines powered by the new generation of AI will use—with your permission—your data.


AI will also help you discover parts of the world you didn’t know you were missing. Don’t have a particular destination in mind? Simply plug your interests and preferences into a travel search engine or an airline website, and AI will surface relevant, potentially surprising destinations. You’re an art lover interested in Chicago, but you’re not sure your budget would allow it. A more advanced search engine would suggest less-expensive Milwaukee instead, and show you an itinerary that would ensure you have a satisfying trip.

Your Hotel Will Truly Feel Like Home

Hyperpersonalization will follow you into your hotel room. Hotels are embracing technologies such as voice command and facial recognition—both forms of AI—to help you feel more at home. In China, the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts group is teaming up with Chinese search engine Baidu to create Smart Rooms that allow residents to control lighting and operate curtains via voice command. And Marriott has launched a pilot program at two Chinese hotels that uses facial recognition for room check-in.

Hotels are embracing technologies such as voice command and facial recognition—both forms of AI.

Hotels are also partnering with other travel-related companies to offer more personalized service. “Advanced technologies will take these personalized experiences further,” says Nancy Hang, a vice president at Concur, which owns the travel-planning apps TripIt and Hipmunk. Concur has discussed with hotel partners the possibility of offering preprogrammed rooms based on your profile. You’ll plug your preferences into an app such as TripIt, and once you get to your hotel, your room will already be set to your perfect lighting scheme and temperature—you’ll even be logged in to your personal Netflix or Hulu account.

You’ll Fly Through the Airport

Airlines have started to use AI to track weather patterns and airport crowds. They can then predict when more people will fly, or when weather might create more traffic to the airport, and warn travelers accordingly. Some airlines have also instituted biometrics (using AI to identify you based on biological identifiers such as a fingerprint or your face). British Airways, for example, is testing biometric boarding gates at LAX and Orlando International Airport. You simply look into a camera as you board, and a computer matches your face with the photo on your passport or driver’s license. The airline says the system has allowed it to board 240 passengers in just 10 minutes, little more than half the time it would take gate agents to board the same number of people.

Even the airplanes you fly on use AI. General Electric now outfits each jet engine it makes with at least 100 sensors that constantly monitor the machine’s health and collect data to predict necessary maintenance or repairs. Allegiant Air uses Skywise, an AI system created by the aerospace company Airbus. The system is “constantly sending back data that ensure [components are] operating effectively. Or it gives us a heads-up they need to be replaced,” says Allegiant Air’s chief marketing officer, Scott DeAngelo. What does this mean for you? Ultimately, those systems help prevent delays and make airplanes—and flights—more efficient and safer. After all, the goal of AI is to make travel as smooth as can be.

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