Is data personalisation simply to improve the human touch?

Personalisation is the winning ingredient in travel and we have been seeing signs of it creep into more mainstream experiences. Whoever owns the traveller’s journey from end-to-end will win.

Thanks to the growing volume of data collected from travellers and advanced analytics, travel companies have all of the information and tools they need to personalise their products for each customer. Travel companies realised that personalising experiences is critical as it helps differentiate their brand from others, especially in travel, which is an aspirational product in increasingly competitive market.

Studies revealed that younger travellers expect their travel to be curated around their needs and preferences. In 2023, Millennials and Gen Z will comprise more than 60% of the workforce and what they say will be harder to ignore. These global travellers are setting the bar as they move into the primary travel demographic over the next 10 years.

Travel companies are chasing after Millennials for their generation will be the biggest in 2028. With their smartphone in hand, backed by their desire to explore the world, Millennials travel at least three to four times a year.

The power of data

Personalisation starts with good data. We are currently swimming in a sea of data and many are drowning in information overload. While there is an enormous quantity of data available about traveller preferences, accessing the right data for personalisation is still a challenge.

The emergence of companies like bd4travel proves that personalisation is a trend. On its website, it states, “bd4travel profiles every single user – so that you understand each users interest and intent in real-time. Then we instantly recommend the most relevant product, service or content for them from your portfolio.”

Personalisation delivers content and functions that match specific users with no effort from the targeted users. The system profiles the user and adjusts the interface according to that profile. The data from the user will either restrict or grant access to certain tools. Personalisation boosts user experience for it highlights content that you are most likely to consume.

Ultimately, all this data seems to be serving one main purpose: to assist employees of travel companies with their everyday tasks – so they can focus on delivering better human interaction and service.

With the aid of data, employees can provide the travellers with a deeper, more meaningful interaction with the destination they are in – a trend we are seeing throughout the industry. Indeed, even business travel is now an excuse to get underneath the skin of a city, as the bleisure trend sees us extending business trips to include leisure experiences or days of exploration.

Sanghamitra Bose, general manager of American Express Global Business Travel for Singapore & Thailand, shared at the ACTE Global Summit and Corporate Lodging Forum in Singapore that 78% of millennials would rather spend their money on desirable experiences than buying something. The younger generation is more willing to immerse themselves in another place and feel rejuvenated and inspired afterwards.

Global Distribution System companies like Sabre, Travelport, and Amadeus harness customers’ data to help travel agent companies to improve their services and maximize revenue. The companies are racing to create an all-in-one solution to search and book travel products and services thru mergers and acquisitions.

HRS Global Solutions also invests a lot in technology, especially in AI, to create a seamless platform for hotels that will take care of the end-to-end process – from booking to payment solutions. HRS’s AI learns all the data and information put by customers and curate the results based on the customers’ preferences.

The hospitality industry is one of the notorious users of data for the sake of customisation. Hotels redefine guests’ hotel experience with the help of artificial intelligence and other technologies such as robotics and Internet of Things (IoT).

IHG and Baidu will launch 100 AI-powered Club InterContinental suites in hotels in gateway cities and key destinations across China this year. The rooms will feature voice-controlled technologies for human-computer interactive experience. Marriott International is also developing the “Room of the Future” with Samsung combining AI and IoT in hotel rooms to augment customers’ stay in the hotel. These rooms will cater to your needs like automatically setting the temperature based on your past data.

Never lose human touch

Artificial intelligence plays a major role in the travel industry to carry out some functions that will potentially help companies save significant money, minimise human error, and deliver superior service. However, travel companies must not lose sight of the human touch. After all, travel is a service-based industry.

“Experience needs to be delivered by real people”

As Lilian Tomovich, chief marketing officer of MGM Resorts International, said: “Experience needs to be delivered by real people, and technology needs to be the enhancer.”

Luxury is no longer about products. It is about hyper-personalised experiences that have a very meaningful and memorable impact in guests’ minds. It is about creating and finding those moments of joy for the guest that helps us build that higher level of living.

One thing is clear: travellers, especially the younger generation, are increasingly demanding personalised experiences. Travel companies should adopt strategies that will provide tailored services across the entire customer journey. Personalisation can help brands to stand out among its competition. Travellers are happy to share their data as long as it is safe to do so and companies will use it to customize their travel.

Good data is the main driver of personalisation, but it should be balance with the human touch. Technology has the ability to augment the experience, but it will not replace human interaction.

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