Imagine yourself planning a trip to Leh Ladakh for the first time! You’ll either engage with a travel agent or take the onus of research in your hands. This might involve understanding the map, going through dozens of travel blogs, watching travel vlogs, mapping out routes, checking the weather forecast, identifying things to do, sequencing your day-to-day activities, finding hotels that suit your budget and much more. After all this research, you might go to the OTAs, which offer cookie-cutter itineraries that appeal to the masses. Many times you might go after the reviews and recommendations from strangers only to realise that the place does not match the “vibe” that you wanted.
As travel has become more aspirational with the rise of social media, the time and effort between trip planning and booking has only expanded. With covid-induced trends such as flexible work policies, and increased emphasis on experiences, multiple new personas of travellers are emerging such as digital nomads, experientialists, solo travellers, etc. who prefer hyper-personalisation when it comes to travel.
Now imagine a world where just a few lines of prompt can help the AI genie grant all your travel wishes seamlessly. As Generative AI tech facilitates the creation of dynamic aesthetically pleasing interfaces and enables the achievement of a high signal-to-noise ratio, it holds the promise of shortening and improving the travel planning to booking experience. It can be a tour guide on steroids who understands travellers’ needs better than themselves. Recognising the transformative impact of Generative AI in the travel industry, incumbents like Expedia and Booking have already taken charge and incorporated Generative AI into their platforms. However, new-age startups have a real opportunity to build at the intersection of travel inspiration and booking to transform the whole experience from a supremely transactional one into a truly consumer-first social experience.
What changes with the advent of Generative AI?
We believe that by using Generative AI as a hook for customer acquisition and then layering it with an AI-native social app, upstarts have a real chance at taking over incumbents.
We envision an experience where, LLMs consolidate real-time data of flights, hotels, restaurants, and experiences, from various sources (Internet, APIs, databases) and help travellers visualise their trip with a complete map view and immersive imagery as per the time zone of a new destination. For today’s travellers who are inspired by Instagram and YouTube and have everything planned out to the most minute detail, such a platform could save hours of effort expended on extensive research. This captivating experience might not only enhance the pre-visit excitement and lead to higher conversions, but it might also help users in developing more personalised itineraries. Globally, companies such as Mindtrip, Atly, RoamAround, Wonderplan, Getaiway etc. are actively progressing towards the realm of visual-first interfaces, away from traditional text-forward interfaces.
Generative AI could allow travellers to personalise their travel exponentially by conversationally setting destinations, budgets, interests, work calendars, past travel experiences, weather, season, time constraints and many more considerations. Travellers would be able to do dynamic trip planning to the tee. This in turn could create huge opportunities for travel suppliers in rewards and loyalty programs. It could allow businesses to encourage the economic revitalisation of a particular destination, by suggesting unique destinations and hidden gems.
Building on the foundation of personalisation, the new-age startups would also have to ensure that they gain user trust and offer convenience to customers through innovative ways.
- By linking videos of our favourite travel influencers, which today we would normally find on Instagram or YouTube, such a platform could borrow the credibility and trust that influencers spend so much effort building, enhancing the customer experience even more.
- With real-time collaboration features and group chat elements, the conversational AI platform could even enable group travel planning so group members could easily suggest activities, make modifications, and finalize everything with chat.
- Furthermore, the platform could offer real-time updates and recommendations during the trip by analysing data from various sources, such as weather conditions, local events, and user reviews, enhancing customer experience.
- Customers looking for a highly premium experience could be offered unique experiences such as at-home check-ins, assistance in the visa application process, and lounge services among others.
With the thoughtful application of AI, platforms would be able to hone the power to recommend something that is aligned with the user’s needs but not something they would normally consider. With that backdrop, we're excited to connect with visionary founders redefining India's travel landscape altogether.
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