Image credit – Vulcanpost
Introduction to Mobile Travel Chat (MTC) Applications:
We all know the future of travel is personalization. Consumers hate getting bombarded with deals and offers. Instead, what they are looking for is a neat and interactive experience to search and book their next travel. It is only since a couple of years that hotels and travel giants have understood the importance of going mobile. Companies are now investing in creating intuitive mobile applications for their customers. However, very few have taken advantage of the mobile chatting platform. Although online travel agents ease the hassle involved in booking trips by searching and finding deals themselves, people are looking for a simpler and faster way to book their trip. This need is fulfilled by Mobile Travel Chat (MTC), also known as Mobile Travel Concierge, Mobile Travel Agent, Artificial Travel Intelligence and Travel AI. It is a new travel application that is making waves in the travel industry. It harnesses the power of machine learning and natural language recognition to offer personal and hassle-free experience to book travel, compared to OTAs, because of the way it interacts with the users.
How Mobile Travel Chat (MTC) apps work:
Mobile Travel Chat apps such as HYPER, Lola, ETA, HelloGbye, 30secondstofly, GoHereGo, Pana and Hello Scout use mobile and desktop apps that work with SMS and other messaging services to offer users a direct line of communication with the travel agent.
The three versions of MTC are –
- An AI/bot that replies back with travel data/content based on the user’s query.
- A human travel agent, and
- A combination of AI + human travel agent.
The majority of the above start-ups are running on hybrid chat communication service. AI runs on the front end while a human travel agent filters queries in the middle. The human travel agent only comes in action when the query is complex and requires clarification on its context or when a transaction needs to be closed. The involvement of human travel agent will slowly decrease as AI matures.
MTCs learn user preferences and remember them to make suggestions for the next booking thereby increasing the probability of users booking through them by using natural language processing, so instead of filling in blank boxes, users can now answer natural questions like “Where would you like to fly?”. These apps also support sending direct requests using natural language like “Need to fly to Dubai on 17th April for two days with five-star accommodation” or “Need three-star accommodation in Brazil for two days” and so on.
Advantages of MTC:
Personalization – MTC offers very personalized services. The application learns user behaviour and preferences in the background on an individual basis. It offers a more natural and free-flowing experience than the structured and defined steps of an OTA. It not only remembers your preferences but also learns from your behaviour and hobbies and recommends vacations and destinations for scuba diving, skiing, etc.
Accessibility – While an online travel agent is available only during its working hours, an MTC can be used at any time of the day and night. This also means you can do basic to slightly advanced level searches without having to dial a phone or browse through a website.
Drawbacks of MTC:
There are some drawbacks to these apps, at least as of now. The voice recognition is not advanced enough to clearly understand a customer like a human would and is prone to mistakes and misunderstandings. Although the current voice recognition capability of such apps is good, it still has a large room for improvement. These new MTC start-ups are not yet fully automated and human interaction is still necessary to handle complex queries. The old menus and blank boxes might have become outdated but that’s what we all are used to and often prefer until the AI and voice recognition systems become advanced enough to handle our queries just as a human would! Computer systems are advanced to show personalized deals but again not advanced enough to understand a customer and his requirements as a human would. As mentioned above, the personalization still has room for improvement, however, the good news is, given the involvement of researcher and development companies and capital investors, this all is going to change soon and we will see MTCs replacing online travel agents in a couple of years.
We have a very positive feeling about Mobile Travel Chat applications and we believe they will soon reach a point where they will fill the gap between a computer and a human and allows us to quit the traditional way of booking. What do you think about MTC? Let us know your thoughts and opinions by commenting in the comment section below and get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin. We would love to hear from you.