Riding the wave of possibility: AI in the Tourism Sector

By Altitude Advisory |

If you don’t think that artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a part in the Tourism industry, then you have taken your eye off the ball.

The rise of AI is real and impacts in ways you might not even realise. As a case in point, the recent Hays report ‘Upskilling for an AI Future’ identifies that of the 43% of people who use booking apps for accommodation, a whopping 73% are unaware that the booking technology uses AI.

So what is AI? Whilst in its relative infancy we are currently in the era of Narrow or Weak AI – it’s what most people currently use every day without realising – things like Google maps, search engines, Siri or Alexa, image recognition, fraud detection and even the spam filters in your email. Narrow AI is highly specialised, works within a limited context and does not possess general intelligence.

Into the future we will see General AI which is a system that mimics human intelligence and possesses the skill to problem solve, to learn and adapt to changing situations. At this stage this is not commercially available.

The tourism industry has seen a significant integration of AI applications in recent years, enhancing various aspects of the traveller experience, operational efficiency, and marketing strategies. AI is currently used in many ways, the most popular in the tourism industry include:

Personalised Recommendations I-powered recommendation systems analyse user preferences, past behaviours, and other data to provide personalized recommendations for accommodations, activities, restaurants, and attractions. These recommendations improve customer satisfaction and increase engagement on tourism platforms.

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants – Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by AI provide 24/7 customer support, answer inquiries, make bookings, and offer personalized suggestions. They can handle routine tasks, freeing up human staff for more complex interactions and enhancing customer service.

Dynamic Pricing – AI algorithms analyse demand patterns, market trends, competitor pricing, and other variables to optimize pricing strategies dynamically. This allows tourism businesses to adjust prices in real-time to maximize revenue and occupancy rates.

Predictive Analytics – Predictive analytics algorithms forecast future demand, traveller behaviour, and market trends based on historical data and current inputs. This helps tourism businesses anticipate fluctuations in demand, optimize inventory management, and tailor marketing campaigns effectively.

Image Recognition and Augmented Reality (AR) – Image recognition technology enables tourists to search and discover destinations, landmarks, and attractions by uploading or capturing images. AR applications enhance the tourism experience by overlaying digital information, such as historical facts or restaurant reviews, onto real-world environments through smartphone cameras.

Recommendation Engines for Itinerary Planning – AI-powered itinerary planning platforms utilize machine learning algorithms to suggest optimized travel itineraries based on factors such as destination preferences, budget constraints, time constraints, and personal interests.

Environmental Monitoring and Sustainable Tourism – AI-driven translation services facilitate communication between tourists and locals who speak different languages. These services can be integrated into mobile apps, websites, and in-person interactions to overcome language barriers and enhance the overall travel experience.

These AI applications demonstrate how technology is revolutionising the tourism industry, making travel more convenient, personalised, and sustainable for tourists while improving operational efficiency and decision-making for businesses.

Top tips for SME’s

  1. Be strategic in AI – pick and choose your selections and don’t invest in everything, its difficult to focus on too many things at once and do them well. Don’t forget there are lots of free tools out there.
  2. Prioritise learning & development – get the most out of the AI you do use by learning well the tools you have at your fingertips and appreciating that AI cannot apply a personal touch (yet).
  3. Focus on operational efficiency – ensure efficiency gains in process & systems but don’t forget the personal touch for people facing impacts. Tourism is about experience, and more than ever the personalised and boutique nature of your business is your biggest draw card.

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