Travel Industry – The Journey to the Next Phase of Digital

From using websites as marketing channels to enabling online reservations, the travel industry is an early adopter of digital technologies. As the business environment becomes more competitive, customer expectations are increasing, and with Horizon two and Horizon three technologies maturing, the time is ripe to implement novel strategies and provide exceptional travel experiences to customers.

The travel industry includes various providers of the travel experience, including airlines, hotels, and rental car services, to name a few. Across the board, customers today expect hyper-personal experiences that are relevant and contextual. Given the explosion of mobile devices and associated technologies, the travel industry is looking for ways to improve the digital experience for its customers.

The use of technology in the travel industry too has evolved considerably in the last few years. Organizations now have access to real-time data from multiple sources to help them improve demand forecasting, guest profiling and resource planning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), Data Analytics etc., have reached an advanced level of sophistication and have several proven use cases across industries. These technologies have the potential to disrupt traditional approaches to marketing, customer insights and engagement, as well as to increase profitability.

Advanced Data Analytics and Big Data

In the digital age, most customers leave behind a considerable amount of data at each stage of their travel journey, be it planning, research, reservation, stay, or post-travel review of their experiences. This includes a rich mix of structured and unstructured data gathered from a variety of sources including front desks, contact centers, mobile apps, social media, and other guest service channels. Using insights from this data, advanced analytics helps service providers bring a high degree of personalization to the travel experience. With better targeting and customized offerings, there is an opportunity to build customer loyalty.

Infosys offers the Customer genome solution that uses information to build a digital and virtual profile of the client and then works with Airline Passenger Service Systems (PSS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems, Hotel Property Management Systems (PMS) and Point of Sale (POS) systems to guide the providers to offer rich customer experiences in travel. Example - The needs of senior citizen hotel guests, such as first floor rooms, shorter wait times to check-in, and concierge support, are vastly different from those of millennial travelers who are comfortable using a mobile key and voice activated elevators. Our genome solution generates these profiles and sends recommendations to the hospitality staff.

The below graphic shows the various digital experience opportunities that an airline company must tap to be competitive in the travel industry.

Digital provides a personalized experience, frictionless journey and differentiated services

Curbside and gate-side software modernization for a large airline company based in the U.S., that is designed to vastly improve passenger experience at airports, reduce agent time at the gates for operations such as re-boarding, re-booking, confirmations, bag tag generation, seat assignment, and baggage check-ins. The new solution is implemented in 5 major hubs of the airline and rolled out to 40,000 agents, terminals worldwide.

Dynamic pricing and revenue management strategies can be based on real-time data from competitor rates, local events, weather, and seasonal patterns. We can provide fare managers and revenue managers unprecedented insights into pricing for airlines and hotels. While there are several commercial products that offer point solutions in this space, we believe that an overarching mechanism that takes insights from customer behavior and classic revenue management tools to then help build predictive models and extend them to offer customized campaigns and offerings is the next big frontier. Our Infosys Analytics workbench is helping our clients stitch an end to end solution by providing data scientists, operations research personnel, revenue managers and campaign generators with a single platform that is empowered with self-service analytics.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI can potentially transform and enhance every aspect of travel significantly. The effectiveness of AI/ML hinges on the quality of data available, and the travel industry has traditionally been good at collecting data. AI offerings from Infosys use the rich data that is accessible today, with consent, to provide bundled deals and offerings to every segment of the targeted clientele. Machine Learning combined with Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be used to build chatbots that can mimic human behavior to a large extent, making interactions as smooth as possible for end users. Cognitive chatbots can assist travelers at every stage of travel, providing advice on picking a destination, suggestions on where to eat and visit or deals on spa offerings based on their personal preferences. Hotel operators can use AI to improve operational efficiency by monitoring IOT based sensors in hotel premises to detect faults and anomalies and fix them before they cause disturbance to guests, thereby preventing calls to the service desk or worse, a negative review in social media. The business cases are endless given the significant reduction in the capital cost of such solutions and greater standardization of devices, technology, and adoption.

We are helping a large airline Network Operations Center (NOC) in the U.S. by automating several routine processes using the AssistEdge RPA suite. It helps the dispatcher to focus on more strategic work, while RPA automation helps with specific scenarios such as initial login, screen orientation, re-running flight planning, fuel planning, or re-computing weight and balance automatically if there is a flight delay.

Travel data is dynamic and constantly changing with weather, traffic and other conditions that are beyond the organization’s control. Therefore, it is better suited for use with Machine Learning to optimize operations than with rule-based probabilistic models. ML can help decide allocation of rooms for hotel guests to drive maximum profitability or determine flight takeoff and landing sequences to optimize fuel consumption.

AI and cognitive capabilities can play a big role in meeting and exceeding customer expectations in utilitarian needs during air travel. Using AI and data science, airlines can predict, reduce and optimize the entire baggage handling supply chain by modeling optimized routes for bag trolleys, providing intelligent inputs to bag loaders and sending continuous updates to travelers and gate agents on missed bag situations. Infosys has considerable experience in delivering ‘Under the Wing’ solutions to airline clients.

End to end baggage handling, monitoring, tracking, and reporting for a large Airline in the U.S. The Infosys Digital practice worked closely with the client to map out the entire business process and assess current MBR (Missed Bag Rates), and then complied with new IATA norms to bring in new technology to reduce the MBR to under 2 missed bags / 1000. The solution takes flight planning and network operations data, and integrates with airport and airline systems to provide real-time tracking of all checked bags from check-in to retrieval across interline transfers. Infosys also developed technology that runs on ruggedized devices for scanning and confirmation. This solution won an IATA award in 2017 in Barcelona.

Another area of interest to airline and airport operators is using location-based sensor (LBS) networks, beacons, and geo-location services to improve security and efficiency of movable assets in airside and landside services, be it fuel trucks route monitoring or wheelchair demand forecasting and tracking at the airport gates. Infosys has helped a large airline carrier with a Personalized Offers Solution to automate and optimize wheelchair assistance services to eliminate waiting time for passengers and advise wheelchair agents about which gate to go to and where the guests have to be transferred, with all the information made available on mobile devices. We have also developed a solution for POS payments using voice and sound technology that may help airport concessionaires and hotels to provide innovative frictionless experiences as part of their payment channel.

Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality

Given that travel is all about enjoyable experiences, there is tremendous scope for AR/VR technologies to make an impact. They can enable rich, immersive experiences for potential travelers, while allowing them to make the right travel decisions. As a marketing tool, they can drive travel inspiration in ways that standard channels such as video or printed collateral simply can’t match.

The impact of technology on travel has been seen for a while now, but there is an opportunity to leverage new and exciting advances to add to the organization’s effectiveness.

Infosys has deep expertise in several new technologies like Blockchain, AR/VR, IoT, API, and microservices, which we stitch together to bring compelling solutions to our clients. Our strength lies in our deep domain understanding of the travel and hospitality business, and connections with public figures in the industry and policy making alliance groups such as HFTP, FocusWright, HSMAI, and IATA. These experiences help us incubate ideas, offerings, and platforms that deliver tangible topline and bottom line transformation and other digital benefits to our travel industry clients.