Industry Update
Opinion Article 9 May 2019

Unpacking AI’s Growing Role in Travel

By Rasmus Skjoldan, Chief Marketing Officer at Magnolia CMS

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Planning the perfect vacation isn't easy. From choosing a destination to weighing various resort benefits, the process becomes so overwhelming that even simple factors can sway potential visitors. Hotels and travel-related businesses know this - and they're turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to tip the scale in their favor.

For travel companies searching for a leg up in the competitive hospitality industry, AI presents a data-driven solution that doubles as a form of relief for busy marketing departments. Though these initiatives are in their early stages, AI stands out as a powerful tool for personalizing experiences that could dramatically alter the way your business interacts with consumers online.

AI-Curated Online Experiences

Selling travel is all about visuals. Photos of sweeping views, rolling tides and bustling cities plant vacation ideas in travelers' minds, guiding them toward one destination over others. Now, AI technology is able to help marketers analyze which images have the biggest payoff for individual visitors to their site - turning photo-induced trip aspirations into higher sales.

Most companies have a large library of images and content assets, but tasking marketers with searching databases to find the perfect visual jams another item into their crowded schedules. AI presents a faster way to make the most out of your content by scanning pictures and labeling them with relevant keywords. Thoroughly tagged images lead to improved personalization efforts, as you're able to match the profile of your users to corresponding pictures in real time. Similar to the "Because you watched" feature on Netflix, showing customized photos creates a more relevant and engaging digital experience for prospective customers.

Beyond the image displayed, marketers are also using site visitors' demographic information, such as age, gender and location, to tailor offers to each user. In rare cases, companies are also experimenting with more advanced AI for content creation, designing pages for one-to-one marketing through written and visual assets. Consumers travel for a long list of reasons, and AI-assisted marketing helps you address their unique situations and communicate in more meaningful ways.

Navigating Murky Waters

Customers respond well to (and expect) personalized content, but AI programs take some trial and error. Personalizing experiences for each visitor is challenging, and AI can mismatch content to the user. Whether it's showing irrelevant imagery or an incorrect offer, subpar data-driven online experiences confuse and frustrate potential customers. If your organization is looking to leverage this technology for improved sales, achieving consistent accuracy is crucial.

Collaboration between human and machine is key for businesses hoping to surmount the challenges of fledgling AI solutions. Fusing the skill sets of marketers and machine learning tools helps you capitalize on data-based insight, while implementing right-brained quality control. Processes that let automation inform the marketer allow them to parse this information to decide which offer to assemble. AI has proven useful in discovering audience segments and surfacing information, empowering marketers to make smarter messaging decisions for each group.

Emerging marketing technology enables hospitality companies to convert existing content into personalized offers and experiences. AI works with your pool of images and assets to repackage them in compelling ways, reducing your workload and maximizing your resources' value.

With cruises using IoT-enabled wearables and hotels reeling in guests through personalized offers, AI is already impacting the hospitality industry. The flashy benefits of personalization attract attention, but just like any other technology, it should be approached carefully and strategically. Still, smart AI approaches pay off for your marketing team, increasing site conversions while easing the workload of busy marketers.

Rasmus Skjoldan

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