Where is the tourism business going?
While we are discussing the past, somewhere else in the world a fast electrical train is moving unstoppably towards the future. Jobs change, disappear, and everyone is trying to adapt to new technologies. This goes for the legal profession, medicine, and production where omniscient online services, apps and robots are replacing the traditional professions. Tourism is also expected to experience a revolution. The biggest global travel corporation is investing half a billion US dollars in the development of artificial intelligence in order to improve services.
Does Priceline ring a bell?
It should, because Priceline is the world’s largest travel corporation, with revenue in excess of 60 billion US dollars last year. A small share of it was also owing to many of us and our contributions. Namely, one of the companies owned by Priceline is the popular Booking.com, although it also owns many other well-known brands such as Rentalcars.com, Momondo, Kayak, Agoda, Cheapflights, OpenTable and Priceline.com. When you’re browsing the web, it might look like there is a lot of competition, but actually the majority of the biggest brands are owned by the three largest travel corporations. Besides Priceline, there is also Expedia and the Chinese Ctrip.
The company CEO, Glenn Fogel, said in a recent interview to Skift: “That new system will never forget what your preferences are. Once it gets to know you, AI will know everything about you.”
Fogel claims that AI (artificial intelligence) will be better than real live agents and travel consultants.
“If a flight is cancelled, the assistant will know this before the traveler, and will react immediately to possibly rebook. Then it might also contact the traveler’s car service, change the hotel booking and anything else that might be needed. AI will also know if the traveler should have a cold beer waiting in the hotel room, and of course, the check-in will be automatic, so the traveler can go directly to the room.”
Priceline controls and sells various segments of tourism related services, flights, hotels, restaurants, rent a car, and therefore has the advantage and financial means giving it quite a competitive edge compared to the others. Sounds appealing.
Still, travel agents are not expected to disappear completely, at least not for now. Many travelers still wish to communicate with real people who can convey the knowledge and emotions of a destination. Naturally, human labor has its price and such a service is always valued more. In some markets, like the UK and Scandinavia, there has been an increase in the number of agencies, which means that after the first wave of enchantment by the internet, travelers go back to the people they know and trust.