Just simply keeping up with the digital expectations of today’s tech-savvy consumer is no longer an option for the Thai and global travel industry. Exceeding those expectations is a travel industry imperative and an opportunity for hotels to focus on the only thing that truly matters to consumers: the end-to-end guest experience. One reason for the growing consumer adoption of new technologies is their growing digital impatience and expectation for instant responses, answers and solutions to their queries and purchasing requests. Underscoring this is the growing adoption of digital assistants. Today, 62 percent of global consumers are comfortable with an AI (artificial intelligence) application responding to their query, one which provides fast and efficient results. AI in Thailand is moving forward at full steam, many believes AI is one of the most exciting innovations that will affect their lives.
AI and Machine Learning: Chatbots become ubiquitous
2018 will be a year where AI, in the form of machine learning where computers learn without being explicitly programmed, becomes not just a futuristic technology, but an integrated and valuable everyday tool. Chatbots are already enabling deeper and easier traveler communication – and they are expanding constantly to different mediums: chat, social channels, voice assistants and more. In addition, new tools and technologies in this space will allow hoteliers to connect with consumers in deeper and more meaningful ways, all with increased personalization. “By better knowing each customer and intuitively providing them with the information they want, we’re freeing up time, and starting off their travel experience right with frictionless discovery, search and booking processes”, said Arthur Chapin, Senior Vice President – Global Product and Design, Expedia Group.
Raising our Voice: Siri and Google go Mainstream
Voice-enabled digital assistants are poised to not just change the travel industry, but nearly every industry we touch in our lives. By 2021, there will be 7.5 billion digital assistants in the world. Digital assistants today are giving us weather and traffic information, and entertainment content – but they are also enabling us to search hotels, check the status of flights, and more. “As an industry, we need to be at the forefront of testing voice skills, and aligning with the growing traveler adoption of this technology, to ensure we’re equipped and at full performance when it becomes ubiquitous”, Chapin continued.
- The number of virtual digital assistant users has increased over 40% from 2016 to 2017 with an estimate of 158% increase from 2017 to 2021 (Business Insider UK)
- Nearly half of global smartphone users, including Thai users will use voice technology by 2020 and 47% will use voice technology at least once a month (Speak Easy)
- 39 percent of global voice smartphone users state they are excited by the future where digital assistants anticipate their needs and take action (Speakeasy)
72 percent of consumers today seek experiences over things. Coined as the “experience economy,” this desire for collecting memories versus items continues to grow across all generations. For hoteliers in Thailand, this presents a great opportunity to target consumers who in addition to traveling to new locations, are attending events – concerts, sports and shows.
In 2018, consumers will not just book a hotel room, they will book the experience that happens during their time in the market – from dinner reservations, to tours and activities to entertainment. Chapin highlighted, “Given their position in the purchase funnel, hotels have the unique opportunity to make a guest’s stay – not just on property, but also off property – differentiated and memorable. Providing the guest with an insider’s guide to your city/location, along with top attractions and off-the-beaten-path suggestions, will build true loyalty and engagement, and help deliver on the experiences that today’s consumer craves.”
Marketplaces rule the world. Just look at Amazon, the one-stop shop now for nearly any consumer desire – practical or otherwise. Consumers expect a seamless, one-stop experience in nearly every area of their lives. A recent multi-generational study by Brand Expedia shows that 80 percent of travelers find it useful to book all their trip components together, and for Gen Z, that jumps to a massive 87 percent. Convenience is king. The upside for hotels is that offering rooms in “package bookings”, alongside flights and cars, typically means higher average daily rate, longer booking windows and fewer cancellations. Plus, consumers can streamline their research and booking into one seamless purchase. Package demand on Expedia generated nearly 1.4 times longer booking window when compared to standalone hotel bookings. For hoteliers, these longer stays and longer booking windows mean more opportunities for them to engage with and upsell consumers – both prior to check-in and on-property. Packages really are a win-win.