As the global economy is being forced to fundamentally reassess its future, one of the hardest-hit sectors – namely travel and hospitality – is likely to look to AI-driven Voice Solutions as part of its roadmap in these uncertain and rapidly-evolving times. Travel and hospitality players wishing to survive the change will need to ensure that they provide services that address travellers’ needs while safeguarding them from health risks.

Indeed, the majority of the world’s population experienced travel restrictions over the past months and many stayed home in fear of the virus. The sector is now seeking to enhance traveller and workforce safety, and as a recently published report by the World Travel & Tourism Council states:

COVID-19 is proving to be an unexpected catalyst in the Travel & Tourism sector’s quest for innovation and the integration of new technologies. Amid stay-at-home orders, digital adoption and consumption are on the rise, with consumers now expecting contactless technologies, including biometrics among others, as a basic prerequisite for a safe and seamless travel experience. Cybersecurity is only becoming more important, particularly as remote work becomes the norm in the short to medium term and as identities are digitised. While digitisation offers tremendous opportunities, precautions are needed to make sure employees and local communities are not left behind. Interestingly, the acceleration of the digital agenda is one positive outcome of this crisis.

To Recovery and Beyond – The Future of Travel & Tourism In The Wake of COVID-19, World Travel & Tourism Council, Sep. 2020

A New Era for Social Interaction

The true legacy of the pandemic lies not only in the concessions and changes we have made in the short-term, but also in the ways that the world has changed very permanently. COVID-19 is not simply an episode from which we will recover and eventually return to normal – it is a fundamental shift, a game-changer.

Let’s look, for example, at how all of our daily lives have changed – notably in the most affected regions. Socializing and activities that required close social proximity – both of which we once considered a fundamental part of our lives – have become very much restricted. Taking a bus to work; going shopping; meeting friends at a bar or café; visiting a museum or library; going to school… all these activities and many more have changed fundamentally. Our habits, and the very way we interact, have shifted forever and it is becoming clear that AI-driven voice solutions that enable the fruition of touchless consumer services will play a significant part in how many companies will respond to the new era.

Travel and Leisure Looks to AI More Than Ever

Throughout the pandemic crisis, we have seen that some companies within the travel and leisure sector have fared better than others as a result of their adopting forward-looking technology.

Consider a recent article by Bruno Spada, Executive Vice President of Airport IT at Amadeus – published on the Airports Council International (ACI) website. ACI is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports.

In the article, Spada highlights not only the success of pre-emptive measures but also the importance of accepting that we now live in a new paradigm that calls us to re-think the way that we interact with our customers.

In recent years, some airports across the world have pursued digital transformation to overcome the constraints of their existing rigid systems. By moving to modern, flexible solutions they have gained the agility to rapidly scale to match demand. This allows them to efficiently manage operations and deliver the same excellent passenger experience during times of peak pressure, as well as during quieter periods.

These airports with modern flexible technology were uniquely positioned during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As airline fleets were grounded and passenger numbers fell, airports such as this were able to quickly scale back resources and roll-out capacity on-the-fly, to service essential flights and core operations. And now, as the industry adapts to the ‘next normal’ of post-pandemic travel, they can scale again and adapt operations to meet new requirements, whatever happens.

The full version of the article can be found on the Airports Council International (ACI) website here.

AI-Driven Voice Solutions – A Vital Element

Contactless interaction has become a key component in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 – and voice is at the very heart it. The following example shows just how rapidly the use of Voice Solutions is expanding.  

Maria wakes up and asks her smart home assistant to brief her about her day. The assistant reminds her that she needs to buy some supplies, and that transaction is completed in dialogue form. Maria talks to her smart coffee machine (or kitchen robot) grabs a customized hot drink and heads out because she has a plane to catch. Her method of transport might be a self-driving car with an exclusive branded voice assistant, or a new, Covid19-proof taxi with its own “experience assistant” in the sealed-off back.

Maria arrives at the airport, hungry, goes to a self-service shop, orders a croissant and another coffee, payment is contactless, and voice enabled. 
Maria receives an update on her flight, which is on time. She goes to the self-service check in kiosk, and the airline’s exclusive voice checks them in. The boarding pass is sent to her smartphone.  While she waits to board, Maria calls her bank and takes care of some admin, checks her latest account activity, and sends a wire transfer, interacting with the bank’s personal assistant by voice. Maria can listen to music and not worry about missing her flight, because when it’s time to board, she’ll get a voice update from the airline’s virtual assistant. Onboard, she can tune into the infotainment system, which reads the news to her, and gives real-time updates on the flight. At her destination, Maria checks into a hotel near the airport, interacting with a lifelike virtual concierge. She then goes for a run and her fitness assistant gives her encouraging feedback on the benefits of the exercise she has just done. Later on, her virtual personal assistant recommends a restaurant and books a table.

New Approaches to Customer Experience

Beyond the example of Maria’s travel experience, it is becoming clear that AI-driven voice services will power countless new use cases in an increasingly contactless world.

If you’re looking to roll out innovative solutions to assist travellers from home to destination, or building applications that combine state-of-the-art biometric technology with AI-driven voice user interface-based applications, you will want to ensure that your solutions stand out – both thanks to their outstanding performance and because of the type of experience they deliver. Find out more about delighting consumers with voice in our free e-book “Create memorable user experiences with exclusive branded voices.”

If you’d like to discuss how to choose the most engaging voice for your brand, please contact us today.