Voice technology in the travel industry


Posted By Sam Cornick ⋅ June 29, 2018

While no commercial sector can get away with substandard customer service, the travel and tourism industry has to be among the most exacting. Many tourists wait all year for their annual holiday and, these days, they expect everything to be nothing less than perfect.

Travel and tourism businesses are always looking for ways to improve and differentiate their products and services, and voice technology offers fresh scope for innovation. Consumers have already embraced voice assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, with 51% already using them on a regular basis. Recent research shows that seeking information and answers to questions is by far the most popular function for voice assistants so, with the travel industry’s emphasis on customer service excellence, consumer uptake of conversational UI represents a huge opportunity.

Voice technology can help travel and tourism businesses provide information for consumers quickly and conveniently. What’s more, since 81% of consumers use voice assistants most often via their smartphones, travel businesses can capitalise on the fact that most consumers have a voice-enabled device on them throughout their holiday.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways tourism providers are leveraging voice technology to make accessing information easier and more engaging for travellers, both at home and on the move, as well as how businesses can optimise their marketing efforts for voice tech.

Live flight information at Heathrow Airport

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has its own app developer platform, known as Alexa skills. These downloadable ‘skills’ enable users to customise their versions of Alexa with new capabilities, just as apps do on a smartphone. Heathrow has now become the first airport in the UK to create its own Alexa skill, which consumers can download to their Echo devices free of charge for up-to-the-minute flight information, simply by asking out loud.

The Heathrow skill is trained to respond to flight numbers, giving travellers the latest live updates for their chosen flight. At an airport the size of Heathrow, a flight’s status can change constantly, so the skill is designed to relay information directly to consumers with a minimum amount of effort, and without having to manually search. If the skill proves popular, Heathrow may look to add the capacity to book flights and secondary services via voice in the future.

Voice-operated hotel rooms

The ease and convenience of voice assistants have made them an obvious addition to guest bedrooms for many leading hotel brands. Rather than phoning down to speak to a receptionist, many guests can now simply connect to an in-room voice assistant and state their request, whether it’s for local restaurant recommendations, what time breakfast is served from or for some relaxing music to be played, enabling them to personalise their experience without even leaving their room.

International hotel chain Marriott have partnered with Amazon to provide Alexa voice assistant devices in many rooms, citing improvements in guest experience and ease of translation as reasons to adopt the technology, although time and cost savings in terms of parrying guest queries must also be a benefit. But it’s not just information that guests can obtain through voice technology; Marriott have also developed a concept hotel room that can be completely controlled by voice commands, from the air conditioning to the changing the TV channel. Using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, virtually all of the customisable items in Marriott’s Guestroom Lab are connected to a network and voice-enabled. Although it’s currently just a demo, the IoT room shows what could be possible in terms of data-led guest personalisation, which would of course gather valuable guest habitual data too.

Language-responsive earphones

Language barriers can make travel tricky, but there are no shortage of apps and technology available to help consumers bridge the gap. The aim of many is instant spoken language translation; converting live speech in an unfamiliar language into one of your choice in real-time, and Google’s Pixel Buds are no different.

These clever earphones connect to a smartphone to enable you to carry out hands-free tasks like making calls and playing music, and also translate to and from 40 languages by listening to spoken words and playing a translation either to the wearer or out loud to the person they’re talking to.

What about optimising for voice search?

Of course, these advancements in voice technology are only one side of the coin; the growth of voice apps and tech also means that there’s a new marketing channel in which businesses need to make themselves known. In addition to thinking about how they may be able to use voice technology themselves, travel and tourism businesses should consider how easily they can be found through a voice search.

As it stands, voice search results are far more limited than search engine results pages (SERPs) – rather than reciting pages worth of hits, a voice assistant will only relay what’s top, meaning the vast majority will go undiscovered. To get around this, businesses can ensure their online content answers the specific questions that their target markets are asking, since research has found that, when using voice search, consumers tend to ask full questions rather than the few keywords they might type into a search engine. Using data gathered through CRM systems and customer surveys can enable businesses to pinpoint exactly what their consumers want to know, so that they can provide the answers.

For tourism-related businesses in particular, the fact that smartphone-enabled voice searches are three times more likely than text searches to be local in their focus should also be food for thought. We know that holidaymakers are rarely without their phones, and this shows they’re often voice searching for businesses around them. What’s more, Google has found that 85% of tourists choose activities for their holiday only after arriving at their destination, so there’s huge opportunity for leisure activity businesses to be found through voice search by tourists already in the local area.

Use data to inform your approach to voice technology

Whether your travel business could adapt voice technology for the benefit of your customers, or you want to give it the best chance of being found in a local voice search, you’ll need to rely on data. Understanding what consumers want from your business, whether in terms of customer service or key information, will enable you to fulfill a specific need or streamline a service, while also creating solutions that make the most of new technologies.

We can help you achieve this actionable level of data insight, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Categories: Chatbots, Seize the Data, Tech


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