OK On AI And VR?

Even as marketers are figuring out how to maximize mobile, here come more innovations speeding down the technology highway: artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). It seems business travelers think these innovations are generally positive.

According to the latest Egencia Business Travel and Technology Survey, more than half (55%) of U.S. business travelers believe AI advancements can improve their travel experiences, with 62% rejecting the belief that AI and VR could end mankind as we know it today, as thinkers like inventor Elon Musk believe. While U.S. business travelers are cautiously optimistic that emerging technologies can improve their business travel experiences, they recognize the need for balance between technology and human interaction. 

In fact, we are already used to encountering AI in daily life although we may not always think about it that way. As Michael Gulmann, chief product officer for Egencia, the business travel division of Expedia, Inc., said, “When I call my local pizza place and their computer tells them what I’ve ordered in the past, that’s AI.” He believes resistance to these tools is often cultural, including the way robots are depicted in movies. But Gulmann contended, “If your AI tells you that 27% of your coworkers book a certain hotel when they travel to your Paris offices, that’s the same as turning to your officemates and asking that question — except with more data.”



Gulmann said that, similar to disruptors in other technology-led industries, investments in new technologies that create simplicity and improvements in the experience “will ultimately win over business travelers and drive significant change in the overall industry.” He said there is already a fundamental shift happening in the traveler mindset, that companies need to anticipate travelers’ needs and simplify all aspects of business travel, regardless of how a traveler chooses to interact with travel companies. Said Gulmann, “There is a balancing act for travel companies to ensure they offer the latest technology, alongside the ability for travelers to connect with a live person anytime, anywhere."

Marketers are already competing on the efficacy of their AI vs. the other guys and, said Gulmann, “letting customers see who is making their experiences more personalized and who is making their trips simpler to deal with.” 

Wendy Olson Killion, global senior director for Expedia Media Solutions, the advertising arm of Expedia, Inc., said that when incorporating new technologies into the travel experience, “marketers need to ensure it’s fully integrated into the campaign and additive to the consumer experience throughout their purchase journey — from inspiration and planning to booking and in-trip.”

She said that if integrated “creatively and authentically” into campaigns, cutting-edge technologies — whether facial recognition, virtual reality, 360-degree video or gamification — “can give consumers a sense of experiencing a place or activity, and instill a curiosity that leads to booking.” She said her company is “always experimenting with new and innovative technologies to help marketers reach and engage travelers, and we see a future where new advances such as voice, augmented reality and virtual reality can create even more personalized and immersive experiences, which will be key to consumer adoption.”

Oh, no — more innovations. Voice, augmented reality … whatever comes next. Relax. They’re already here and you’re already using them. If the pizza store can do it, so can you.

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