by Bianca Ohannessian
From destination inspiration to more practical points including booking cheap flights and hotels, there’s a whole gaggle of chatbots out there just waiting to talk to you.
Why have a chinwag with a chatbot?
The summer season is about to begin, but you look outside and it’s raining. Again. You know you need a holiday but you’re not sure where you fancy going. Who could blame you on such a dreary day? You turn to social media for inspiration…
Now, thanks to the continual advances in technology, you can discuss your preferences directly with a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, a bit like texting a friend, and they’ll help you find and organise your dream holiday.
Over a third of Brits now prefer to book their travel through digital means, so chatbots are the next logical step in this travel trend.
What exactly is a travel chatbot?
Brands are using AI to get to know you and your preferences better and they’re using their findings to connect with users in a much more personal way. Whether it’s through Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or iMessage, on a basic level, a chatbot allows you to type questions and get an instant reply. The more advanced the bot technology, the more relevant and helpful the replies will be.
With more than 34,000 brands building chatbots in 2016, many are making sure they stand out by creating tailored experiences to both entertain users and provide a service.
Luxury brands have been leading the way in terms of innovation. For example, Burberry’s Messenger experience combines elements of brand storytelling, customer service and in-app shopping for their new collection launches.
This type of chatbot technology is now allowing travel brands to come up with new ways of helping customers get the most out of their trip and have some fun along the way.
How to plan your trip with a bot
There are now several travel chatbots that could help you plan your next great escape. If you haven’t messaged one already, this is how to get started in three easy steps:
- Just go to the Facebook Messenger app on your smartphone (download it first if you haven’t got it already)
- Type the name of the travel company of your choice in the search bar
- Send them a message. Any message. They’ll come back with prompts to help you get the most out of your conversation
Then, give these ones a go.
With chatbot services on Slack, Amazon Alexa and Messenger, Kayak is aiming to make it easier for you to plan trips and book everything right then and there within the platform. Just message Kayak with your travel plans, such as destination, flight dates, hotel dates and activities. After a few quick questions, they’ll come back to you with inspiration and personally tailored suggestions to help you find flights and the hotel of your dreams. You can also link your Kayak.com account to Facebook to get notifications and real-time updates on your flights.
Chat style: a good all-round to take care of your whole trip
2. British Airways
Photo: British Airways Media Centre
During this year’s January sale period, British Airways emojified their Messenger chatbot. Dubbed the ‘Emojibot’, it’s based on their findings that 61% of people prefer to communicate with emojis than words. You’ll be asked a few questions about your ideal trip with a selection of emojis to choose from before they suggest destinations and cheap flights for you. If you’re planning to travel to London, they also have a ‘BOTler’ function. The chatbot butler has the skinny on all the top attractions, plus gigs and other events around the capital.
Chat style: find discount flights and London activities
Photo: YouTube KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
The Dutch airline KLM is known as an industry leader when it comes to innovative social campaigns, always with a personal touch. Such as KLM Must See Maps which shows you handy recommendations from your own social media friends on an interactive map. After sending you your flight details via Messenger (if you opt in via your web booking) the KLM chatbot is here to help you with any questions. All you have to do is ask. With a 24/7 customer service team on hand, you can even change your seat number just by messaging the chatbot.
Chat style: portable travel buddy for a smooth flying experience
Photo: YouTube Expedia
The Expedia Messenger bot is a hotel expert in your pocket. You can type your destination into your smartphone Messenger app for hotel suggestions. Or be more specific if you’ve already got your eye on a particular hotel, just tell the bot the hotel name and it’ll serve up possible dates that are available for you to book. You can browse other options too. It’s a great way to narrow down your search however you’ll be directed back to the Expedia webpage in order to place your booking.
Chat style: unite you with your ideal hotel
Photo: YouTube Lufthansa
Meet Mildred, Lufthansa’s pleasant, purple-haired chatbot on Messenger. She speaks English and German and aims to help you find your perfect match in terms of low cost flights. Narrow down your search by giving her an indication of your desired destination and rough dates. You don’t even need to select the airport – just mention an area or landmark and through the genius of Google Geolocation, she’ll find and suggest the nearest airport for you.
Chat style: help choose your airport and get a good deal on flights
This playful bot launched during the festive period connects you with the character Captain Obvious. He won’t help you book your flights and accommodation, but he will challenge you to play a game of charades, Obvious Charades to be exact, in exchange for a chance to win up to £500 in vouchers for Hotels.com. This game-focussed bot is a fun way to interact with the brand and hopefully win vouchers to spend on your future trips.
Chat style: just a bit of fun with the incentive of winning vouchers
So next time you’re looking for deals on flights, want to find a hotel without all the leg work or just have a question about a trip, then why not give a travel chatbot a try?
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Read more: 4 Travel Tech Trends for 2018