HOW TRAVEL AGENTS CAN SURVIVE AND THRIVE
AI has been disrupting various industries, and the travel industry is no exception. How do you, who has spent years building your travel business, keep up with or even continue to do business with the onslaught of AI technologies?
Massive changes to any industry will create massive stress, which can then lead to indecision, even stagnation. In the fast-moving travel industry, going stagnant is simply not an option.
Popping up all around us are ai-driven site planning apps, itinerary planners, even smart luggage. Competitive obstacles are emerging at every level, mostly spurred by new technologies. Dodging and lunging through these obstacles is wearing us down.
EVADING THE COMPETITIVE TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY OBSTACLES
The ability to blow through the obstacles is definitely possible as long as our businesses (and us!) remain agile. Consider these as your superpowers to this agilty:
RELATIONSHIPS: Many of us are travel specialists that have become really great within our niche. Over the years we have formed numerous relationships with other people and businesses that support us and our clients, ensuringthe very best experiences time after time. This is something that even AI will find difficult to compete with. AI apps can recommend all kinds of things, but they will never know how well their clients are being treated out there. The apps can only just throw consumers around the world undiscerningly.
FORESIGHT: Understanding that change ALWAYS brings forth new opportunities is what separates the survivors from the drifters. Knowing how to identify your strengths then using them to fill newly-forming gaps is another industry superpower. Take a look at the list below and consider each one carefully. Which of these, if any, might be good candidates for you to easily fit your strengths into?
Here are 25 ways AI could create new gaps throughout the travel industry:
- Personalized Travel Recommendations: AI can analyze user preferences and behavior to provide very personalized travel ideas and suggestions, creating a gap between tailored and generic recommendations. Consider receiving affiliate royalties from some of these products.
- AI-Driven Trip Planning: Advanced AI algorithms can plan entire trips based on individual preferences, creating a gap between traditional travel agencies and automated planning platforms. This might work best in the mass consumer or lower budget markets, but our middle and high end clients can often be too discerning to simply accept being algorithmically thrown about.
- Real-Time Language Translation: AI-powered language translation tools can bridge communication gaps between travelers and locals, potentially reducing the demand for human translators. This might actually take some of the language-related pressures off of our shoulders. Perhaps embracing one of these might be a new product offering for us. Consider receiving affiliate royalties from such a product.
- Virtual Reality (VR) Tours: AI-driven VR experiences can give travelers a taste of destinations without physically having to be there, potentially reducing demand for real-life visits. But perhaps these aren't our clients anyway?
- Autonomous Transportation: AI-driven self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles could disrupt traditional transportation services and create a gap in the market. Once again, depending on your market, this may be an opportunity to collect affiliate royalties.
- Smart Luggage Solutions: AI-integrated luggage can offer features like self-weighing, location tracking, and auto-locking, setting them apart from conventional luggage. No real negative impact to agencies here.
- AI-Enhanced Customer Service: AI chatbots and virtual assistants can handle customer inquiries, leaving a gap in the market for traditional customer service agents. These have been around for 10 years and still have a long way to go before being broad enough and deep enough to replace humans. 🙃
- Predictive Pricing: AI can predict future flight and accommodation prices, creating a gap between traditional booking methods and dynamic pricing models. Another affiliate royalty opportunity here.
- AI-Generated Travel Content: AI can produce articles, videos, and social media posts about travel, potentially replacing some travel content created by human writers. Consider this free marketing that can send us new clients. As a travel author, I still only want what will give the traveler the best options and experiences.
- Facial Recognition for Boarding: AI-powered facial recognition systems can streamline boarding processes, creating a gap for traditional ticket checks. A welcome convenience for the airlines, the travelers and the travel agents. I'm in!
- AI-Optimized Revenue Management: AI algorithms can optimize hotel and airline revenue management, potentially outperforming manual strategies. Another affiliate royalty opportunity.
- AI-Powered Safety and Security: AI systems can enhance travel safety by monitoring and identifying potential risks, creating a gap for conventional security measures. A welcome service for agencies but perhaps more daunting for the insurance industry.
- AI-Driven Destination Marketing: AI can identify target audiences and personalize marketing efforts, outperforming generic destination promotions. These seem to be about dumping massive amounts of tourists into already over-crowded sites. Your ability to spread people into deeper local cultural experiences can win here.
- AI-Enabled In-Flight Services: AI can predict passenger needs and preferences during flights, leading to more personalized in-flight services. I can't wait for this one!
- Smart Hotel Rooms: AI-powered hotel rooms can adjust lighting, temperature, and ambiance based on guest preferences, creating a gap for traditional hotel rooms. This will always be cost-driven, raising the price of some properties.
- AI-Powered Attractions and Experiences: AI can enhance visitor experiences at tourist attractions through interactive and personalized elements. Site-by-site basis.
- AI-Based Travel Insurance: AI can streamline the insurance claims process and create personalized insurance plans, challenging traditional insurance providers. I don't think the insurance industry will like this one very much. 😉
- AI-Enhanced Loyalty Programs: AI can analyze customer behavior to offer tailored rewards, creating a competitive advantage for loyalty programs. If you're company has the technical ability to handle it, this could enhance your offerings greatly.
- AI-Driven Transportation Optimization: AI algorithms can optimize travel routes and schedules for airlines and other transportation providers, creating a gap for manually planned itineraries. Hmmm, this could get interesting.
- AI-Integrated Travel Apps: AI can power travel apps that offer real-time information, recommendations, and interactive features, making them stand out from conventional apps. Another affiliate royalty opportunity.
- AI-Driven Weather Forecasting: AI-powered weather prediction models can offer more accurate forecasts for travelers, creating a gap for traditional weather services. I'm all in for this one. But perhaps offering tiny lightweight and branded umbrellas, rain covers and gloves could become an extra revenue stream.
- AI-Powered Food and Restaurant Recommendations: AI can suggest personalized dining options, creating a competitive edge for food-related businesses. This is where your own local relationships will separate you from the masses.
- AI-Enhanced Travel Photography: AI algorithms can enhance and beautify travel photos, potentially reducing the need for professional photographers. As a professionally trained photographer, I am always seeking new ways to shoot the same old places. My concern about this technology is that many places can be easily misrepresented visually thereby reducing consumer trust in images as a whole. This is where your personal advice will serve the traveler well.
- AI-Based Travel Compliance: AI can ensure travelers meet all visa and immigration requirements, streamlining the compliance process. Yay - sign me up!
- AI-Driven Sustainability Solutions: AI can help identify and promote eco-friendly travel options, creating a gap for businesses that lack such initiatives. However, this could present many new product offerings with varying degrees of implementation challenges - or even not so many, depending on the opportunity.
Keep in mind that while AI has the potential to create gaps in the travel industry, it will definitely lead to new opportunities and improvements for travelers and businesses alike.
And as you can see, travel is changing quickly. Your ability to pivot is more essential now than ever before. But then, you didn't enter this business to stay in one spot anyway, right?
***Note: the main image above was created using AI-driven image generating software. The amount of time it took me to think up and write the command prompts for it was approximately 45 seconds.
Patty Civalleri is an award-winning travel book author specializing in Italy travel.