Checking travel info is already one of the top searches on Alexa Travel, which also hosts more than 170 travel and transportation skills.
Alexa, Book My Vacation
Whether you’re a small visitor’s center or an international travel brand, voice and the travel industry are a perfect pair.
Since time and convenience are essential for a memorable travel experience, voice-enabled tech is poised to remove friction on various points along the journey.
“Anything that closes the gap between a need and a service is going to be a plus when it comes to a consumer’s experience,” says Wendy Burk, industry expert and CEO of Cadence Travel, on voice’s potential in the travel industry, especially for those who use it to elevate, not substitute, personal service. “Faster, more efficient communication creates the perception of faster, more efficient service.”
“Imagine: the conversation starts in your living room, continues through the reminder process and travel itinerary process to your destination. You land. Via your phone, you grab an Uber and continue to your hotel, where the conversation continues, increasing the amenities you use and how you participate in your travel experience. There hasn’t been a media channel that creates opportunities like this to occur — it’s an ongoing user journey. Millennials and Gen Z are looking for someone who’s going to grow with them in every category, and voice as a platform is a mechanism to do that."
- Kenton Langstroth,
Voice Innovator + VP at Intersection
Travel & Tourism Implications
of 14- to 17-year-olds currently use or are interested in using the voice-enabled digital assistant in their smartphone. They’re the future, and they are already all-in.
“If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made our job of delivering a perfect experience to our guests easier and helped us get to another level, it’s Alexa,”
Chairman + CEO of Wynn Resorts
Case Study One
ALEXA, SERVE UP THE PERFECT GUEST EXPERIENCE
When the Wynn Las Vegas partnered with Amazon last summer to equip all 4,748 hotel rooms with Echo, Amazon’s hand-free, voice-controlled speaker, it was an industry-first in the world.
“If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made our job of delivering a perfect experience to our guests easier and helped us get to another level, it’s Alexa,” says Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts. Guests can ask Alexa to control lights, room temperature, draperies and the television, and also make requests of the front desk; soon the project will introduce personal assistant functions.
Expect to see industry-wide buy-in as chains like Marriott, Dream Hotels and Best Western are already following suit, bolstered by the newly announced division of Amazon, Alexa for Hospitality.
“We are going really long, so to speak, on voice.”
Kayak’s Chief Scientist
Case Study Two
After the head of Kayak’s analytics team fell in love with Alexa in 2016, the travel metasearch engine became the first in its industry to create a skill to search flights, hotels and car rentals. Recent updates now allow travelers to link accounts and ask custom questions like “When is my next trip?” and “Is my flight on time?” Want to explore but finances are tight? All you have to do is ask: “Alexa, where can I go for $300?”
“We are going really long, so to speak, on voice,” says Kayak’s chief scientist, Matthias Keller. He speculates it will soon generate as many queries as mobile/desktop search, especially once the e-commerce aspect of voice improves to remove friction from the purchase process.
Until then, the skill works best for corporate travelers with simple, repeatable travel needs, though it has promise for the average traveler as well: a 2.0 version of Kayak’s Alexa skill will be introduced any minute.
"The biggest lesson we learned is the value of listening to travelers — as all that really matters is whether they find our products useful or not.”
Director of Global Communications
Case Study Three
"OK, GOOGLE. LET ME TALK TO LONELY PLANET."
In 1973, Lonely Planet launched itself as a guidebook publisher and grew into the world’s best-loved travel authority for the wanderlust-seeking traveler. Through the decades, its communication strategy evolved into a multimedia content platform, from books and magazines to video, web, mobile — and now voice.
Laura Lindsay, director of global communications, says the travel media company decided to explore what’s possible with voice through collaboration with its community. "The biggest lesson we learned is the value of listening to travelers — as all that really matters is whether they find our products useful or not.”
From providing inspiring recommendations for a trip to one of tens of thousands of locations, or offering advice on what to pack and how to beat the crowds, Lonely Planet offers its award-winning travel content through Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Not surprisingly, Fast Company named Lonely Planet as one of 2018's Most Innovative Companies in Travel.
“We are wired to connect in authentic ways. That’s the beauty of travel. Make sure to keep a balance between personal connection and technology: there is no substitute for an actual human who cares about a consumer’s travel experience with genuine enthusiasm. The highest-rated brands put their customer service training before technology, and use it only to elevate their service offerings.”
- Wendy Burk,
Travel Industry Guru +
CEO of Cadence Travel
A Word of Caution
of attendees at the 2017 EyeforTravel Summits in San Francisco and London found machine learning and artificial intelligence by far the most emerging technologies impacting the travel industry.
FINDING YOUR BRAND’S VOICE
We’ve reviewed the facts, taken a tour of the technoscape, and examined what’s coming in terms of conversational commerce. Platforms are exploding at remarkable rates, and consumer adoption is keeping pace with these developments. As it goes with most changes in the modern market, pioneers will prosper.
Keep your user top-of-mind to unlock new insights, better predict customers’ needs, and deliver more relevant experiences at scale. The time is now to experiment — the future of your brand’s voice strategy starts right here.
“Humans are so innately hardwired for language that they can no more suppress their ability to learn and use language than they can suppress the instinct to pull a hand back from a hot surface.”
- Steven Pinker,
+ Visionary Linguist
FROM OUR INTERVIEWS AND EXPERTS, HERE ARE FEW PREDICTIONS WE HAVE FOR THE FUTURE OF VOICE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR BRANDS AND MARKETERS IN THE TRAVEL AND TOURISM SPACE.
Natural language processing will progress to the point that scripter and formulaic conversations are distant memories.
Expect voice to offer more exploratory interactions, providing users with information like vacation destinations. The assistants’ contextual intelligence will improve through back-and-forth questioning, enabling them to move beyond task execution toward providing inspiration or recommendations.
Search engines will optimize the results they produce verbally against those that would appear on screen, though travel content providers will begin organizing search results optimized for conversation.
Brands that build their own voice technology products and content will win back control of how they engage with consumers because they will not have to rely on voice gatekeepers to deliver results for them.
Algorithm optimization will replace SEO as assistants rely on it to provide content.
“Specialization is important because consumers do not buy hardware, they buy delightful experiences.”
- The 2017 Voice Report
The tech may be new, but in many ways, it still comes down to your customer’s journey. Think about what they need and where they experience friction in their lives. Better yet, ask them. Then try to solve for that. Your first venture into voice doesn’t have to be a game-changer. Be brave. Know everyone is experimenting before anyone really wins.
And ask yourself a few questions when you think you’re ready.
Where can you simplify any part of the travel experience in a creative way or drive new behaviors where there is no screen?
In what area can you use voice to be first in your industry?
Can you simplify part of the travel experience in a creative way?
How can voice deliver memorable experiences for your customers?
How can you bring content to new users through voice?
Olmstead, Kenneth. Pew Research: Nearly half of Americans use digital voice assistants, mostly on their smartphones. December, 2017.
Pinker, Steven. “The Language Instinct.” William Morrow: 1994.
Tache, Nicole. How AI is used to infer human emotion, May, 2017.
Ting, Deanna. “Amazon Wades Into Travel As Hotels Turn To Alexa in Rooms,” Skift: June 2018.
Sorrell, Mitra. “Voice Tech in Travel: Brand Adoption,” Phocus Wire: March 5 2018.
Boztas, Senay. “Are Bots Worth the Bother? How conversational commerce can help the travel industry,” EyeForTravel: 2017.
Burk, Wendy. CEO of Cadence Travel: Original Interview, July 2018.
Charriez, Andrea. Amazon Alexa + Kayak: The Story Behind the Skill.
Colburn, Collin. Forrester: Voice Search Will Change Customer Discover Forever—How to prepare for the coming search revolution. September, 2017.
Enberg, Jasmine. Hey Alexa, Who’s Using Smart Speakers? eMarketers Forecast for 2018.
gartner.com June 2017
Iconoculture: The Halls Have Eyes and the Walls Have Ears: Iconoculture, July 2018.
Iconoculture: Smart(er) Home Marketing, Needs Trump Novelty,” July 2018.
Juniper Research, August 2017.
Kinsella, Brett. “Smart Speakers to Reach 100 Million Installed Base Worldwide in 2018, Google to Catch Amazon by 2022,” Voicebot.ai, July 2018.
Langstroth, Kenneth. Voice innovator and vice-president, Innovations. Original Interview, July 2018.
Loo, Jaclyn. The future of travel: New consumer behavior and the technology giving it flight. Think with Google, November 2017.