What is my favourite way to travel? Is breakfast included in my trip? What are the local sights?

Anyone who travels usually has many unanswered questions, both when planning the holiday and during the trip. Unfortunately, tourists often end up in a telephone waiting loop with many travel providers. Good customer service is a sensitive issue, especially in tourism. In our opinion, holidays should not be associated with unnecessary stress. This is exactly where the potential for chat- and voicebots in the tourism industry lies.

"56% of consumers globally have stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor due to a single bad customer service experience in the last 12 months." - Freshworks, 2019.

What chatbots can do and through which channels they are used

Chatbots and voice assistants can be used by companies not only to answer repetitive questions. Through the connection to a Conversational Middleware Platform the virtual assistants can easily be connected to other systems and also perform actions such as bookings.

They can be used not only on the company's own website, but also in other channels in which customers move and feel comfortable. For example, in messenger services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, via smart devices such as Google Home, or quite simply as a voicebot that can be called by phone or mobile phone.

The use of cross-media marketing leads to a higher contact rate and meets the needs of the customers. For example, 70% of customers prefer brands that can be reached via various channels such as e-mail, chat and social media (Freshworks, 2019).

Application areas of chatbots in the tourism industry

Research and book with Chatbot 

Chatbots can be used by customers before a trip to research and then book the right offers.

The Chatbot Thies of TUI Cruises helps users, for example, to find a suitable cruise that best suits the customer's needs. Thies first asks for the desired destination. The user is then asked to enter additional information, such as the travel period, the type of cabin desired and the number of passengers. After entering the information, the chatbot redirects the user to a page with suitable offers.

The Skyscanner Messenger Bot works similarly. Using Facebook and Skype, the Messenger Bot helps you find the best deal for a flight from over hundreds of flight sites. The bot asks for the desired airport, destination and what time period is available. This information is used to suggest different offers, which can be further filtered. If a suitable flight is available, you will be forwarded directly to the Skyscanner page for booking.

If these chatbots are now connected to the companies' booking systems, users can book the desired service directly via the virtual assistant. In e-commerce, this type of shopping, called conversational commerce, has already established itself: you can buy new shoes in a chatbot conversation.

It is only a matter of time before this trend has also taken hold in tourism. The chatbot then combines the entire booking process in one conversation: consultation, purchase and payment. Imagine it's like an app where you get information, buy products and pay for them directly in the app. As soon as it is not only about providing information but also about paying for products and services, customers expect high security standards. Biometric data (fingerprints), for example, are conceivable here as a security barrier when booking offers. Another possibility is the forwarding to a payment provider, as known from websites or apps.

Prepare comfortably for the journey

The application possibilities are far from being exhausted. TUI Cruises uses its Chatbot Thies also to provide customers with a comprehensive service from booking to travel and during the holiday. For example, guests can find out if there is a minibar in their cabin, if vegan food is offered or if they can borrow a large towel for the pool.

Chatbots as all-time ready digital companions during the holidays 

Chatbots can also help tourists to experience their dream vacation during their holidays. For example, cities can provide information on their tourist and cultural offers in a bundled form via a virtual assistant. This can be supplemented with other information, which can be helpful especially for tourists without knowledge of the local language. For example, in countries where English as a second language is not widespread, it would be helpful for tourists to know where to find an English-speaking doctor.

This can be a good opportunity for cities and tourism associations to make places and regions more attractive for tourists.

Fast communication in crisis situations

Another great advantage of chatbots has been shown in the Corona Pandemic. Due to the restrictions, flights were cancelled worldwide. This triggered a veritable flood of customer enquiries not only for airlines, but also for hotels and other providers in the industry. With the huge number of requests, it was not possible to process them promptly with normal customer service. Here, chat and voicebots can relieve the customer service with their automated answers enormously. If during the creation of the virtual assistant a software with a intent management has been selected, the quick and short-term input of content is also possible for customer service employees without programming knowledge. This reduces the burden on IT.

Chatbots make customers happy and relieve employees

Chatbots offer more comfort for customers: The system never sleeps - questions are answered even the night before departure In addition, there is no waiting time, because the chatbot answers in only a few seconds.

For companies, chatbots mean financial savings as well as relief for employees in repetitive and monotonous tasks. Employees only have to deal with complex requests. Furthermore, virtual assistants are a figurehead for modern travel companies: The bot signals to the outside world that a company is innovative and follows current trends.

If you want to learn more about chatbots in the tourism industry, you can download our case study from TUI Cruises. Learn more about the project approach and the general Conversational AI strategy.