Katie King is the CEO of AI in Business, a company that provides training and consulting services in artificial intelligence. She has more than three decades of experience in the industry and has advised numerous well-known brands and executives, including Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
Katie is a regular keynote speaker at international conferences and has also given TEDx talks and spoken at World Travel Market. In 2022, her second book, AI Strategy for Sales and Marketing: Connecting Marketing, Sales, and Customer Experience, was published.
How can artificial intelligence benefit the travel industry?
One of the biggest challenges facing the travel industry and for the foreseeable future is staffing shortages. AI can help alleviate this by not only picking up some of the slack and helping to ease the burden on staff but also finding better ways to get things done.
Chatbots are an easy solution for customer inquiries, but many travel companies are also introducing physical service bots to improve the experience and efficiency. Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands is testing a baggage handling system that uses RFID and image recognition to streamline baggage handling.
Many airlines are turning to AI for fleet optimisation and maintenance too. Smart business intelligence tools are becoming better at forecasting demand and helping travel companies plan and allocate resources. These are just a handful of examples, but the bottom line is that AI can help travel companies reap maximum efficiency and experiential benefits with minimal effort and resources.
What are some notable AI trends?
Facial recognition has been controversial in recent years after several failed law enforcement attempts, but it has excellent potential in travel. Several airports in the U.S. and elsewhere are already successfully implementing this technology at security checkpoints and check-in kiosks. I expect this technology to be used in baggage claims and boarding in 2023 and beyond.
How will consumers benefit from AI?
The most significant benefit to consumers is convenience. It may seem like a small thing, but getting a quick answer to a question, having a smoother experience at airport security or baggage claim, or having a personal concierge in your hotel room can go a long way toward enhancing an experience or making a trip go more smoothly. In addition, consumers will benefit from experiences that are tailored to their wants and preferences. There will be clear incentives to remain loyal to certain companies, as these personalised experiences will be much more detailed and effective over time.
What does this mean for a traveller that is more comfortable dealing with a human?
There is a misconception that AI is very cold and impersonal, but this technology works so unobtrusively in the background that we will hardly ever notice it. Advances in natural language processing (NLP) and GPT-3 have made AI communication so human-like that the average person will not notice the difference.
What future disruption do you think the travel sector faces?
The global cost of living crisis and the worldwide recession will undoubtedly impact the travel sector. It could go either way. Either customers will have less money to spend on travel, or they will prefer to spend the extra budget on an experience like a trip rather than an item. Therefore, travel companies must provide experiences that make customers feel like their money is well spent.