The robots are coming – and they want to improve your business trip
From cheaper flights and more accurate information on travel disruption, to robot butlers who can find you the best sushi in town, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to make business travellers’ lives easier.
So let’s take an AI-powered journey through your next business trip, from booking your ticket to arriving at your hotel.
Book your ticket and pack your bags
Several booking sites and airlines are using AI to help tailor and cut costs on travel bookings.
Among them, the Hopper flight booking app claims to predict airfare prices with 95% accuracy up to one year in advance, creating savings of up to 40%.
Meanwhile, airline KLM has a chatbot called BB that can help you book your ticket, pack your bag or even find inspiration for your next trip - after asking questions about your budget, flight distance and other themes.
Onto accommodation. If you plan to stay at an Airbnb, your search will be tailored by AI, which ranks search results to show places where Airbnb thinks you’re most likely to stay. If you happen to exchange messages with a host who doesn’t speak your language, then you won’t even notice as an AI tool will automatically translate the messages before you even see them.
Schedule in some downtime
Some travel sites can now create full itineraries based on information about your trip, which could help if you want to make the most out of any spare time while overseas.
For example, last year TUI Group announced the launch of a personalized trip planning service, using an AI algorithm to provide a personalised day-by-day itinerary.
Ask Google Assistant, the search giant’s AI-powered virtual assistant, about an upcoming flight and it can tell you if it predicts flight delays – ahead of the airlines. Google says that by using a combination of historic flight status and sophisticated machine learning it is 85% confident in predicting flights that will eventually be delayed.
Perhaps you’re heading to the airport by train? Online rail booking service Trainline says it has built the world’s first personalised voice alerts for rail disruption. The AI analyses data collected from train operator Twitter feeds on rail disruption. Users simply give the app basic voice commands, such as ‘how is my commute doing?’ or ‘is this train running on time?’ to receive alerts.
Concerned about turbulence on your flight? AI could eventually help with that too. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says AI could help airlines develop the tools to avoid turbulence in future.
Your arrival at the airport could also become more efficient. Singapore Changi Airport is using AI to predict delays to flight arrival times. Understanding what time planes will land is essential for ground crews to service aircraft and quickly reunite passengers with their luggage.
Check into your hotel
Imagine if you could bypass the line at the hotel reception and ask a robot concierge about your checkout time, how to get to the gym or even for top local sushi recommendations? That’s hotel group Hilton’s vision with its ‘Connie’ robot concierge, which is enabled by IBM’s powerful Watson AI.
Another chatbot, HiJiffy, is used by hotels to answer guests’ questions about hotel services, and of course does so 24/7. If Hijiffy can’t answer a question, it transfers the guest to a member of the hotel staff.
Meanwhile, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has launched AI-powered ‘Smart Rooms’ in China. Using voice control technology, it says guests will be able to switch settings between work and leisure modes, and “enjoy a more convenient and seamless room service experience”.
Hotels are also working behind the scenes with AI. The Dorchester Collection, for instance, has used AI to sort through customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, in order to build a clearer picture of customer opinion and then make improvements for customers.
So, if you find your next business trip is that little bit less stressful, perhaps you’ll have the robots to thank.