From Travel Agency to Travel Buddy

April 19, 2023

Here’s How to Make Your Journey Personal and Your Customers Loyal

Since the digitalization of the travel industry, a lot has changed. Long ago, consumers visited their local travel agent for inspiration and advice, but nowadays, they arrange almost everything online. While hundreds of providers and comparison platforms fight for attention on the web, the modern traveler has high expectations. They are less willing to put in effort, yet they still want to make the best choices. Or rather, they want the best choices presented to them. They expect a personalized approach before, during, and after the trip. To meet these expectations, as a provider, you need to transform from a facilitator to a travel buddy. This article explains how to make that transformation a reality.

Personalization in Travel: An Extra Dimension

We have known for a long time that organizations that prioritize personalization perform better in multiple areas. Communication and content tailored to individual needs improve the customer experience and level of loyalty. It also stimulates positive word-of-mouth and can result in a significant increase in sales.

The challenge of personalization within travel is that it requires more than aligning content with individual preferences. You want travelers to consider you as an indispensable ally in finding the ideal vacation, always. Personal guidance, timely information sharing, and smart decision-making support are essential. Only then you can establish a preferred position as a travel buddy with a loyal customer base.

The Role of Artificial Intelligence

A decisioning engine powered by AI can help broaden your position from facilitator to travel buddy. The algorithm, based on Artificial Intelligence, enables you to recognize when someone is in the market and in which of the 7 phases of the customer journey they are in. Based on that, it creates touchpoints for data collection, shares relevant content, and provides personalized communication. This happens objectively, fully automated, and at scale.

Starting with the first two phases, where the consumer is in the research phase and performing the first concrete search queries. By using AI, you can create inspiring content and relevant recommendations that truly match the preferences of the individual traveler. For example, an email with the 5 best hotels at a destination someone has searched for, including relevant arguments why these are the best choices. Such as their proximity to the beach, highly rated spa, or child-friendliness.

AI also ensures increased relevance with the application of gallery personalization. This automatically adjusts the order and type of images for accommodations or destinations based on the individual’s travel preferences. For example, a family traveling with children will first see a photo of the swimming pool, while a culture lover will be shown photos of the sights in the old city center.

The Benefits of Data-Driven Peace of Mind

Even after the booking, an AI-driven decisioning engine creates touchpoints to offer customers a helping hand. Think of information about the route to the destination, required travel documents, vaccinations, or tips for parking spaces at the airport. This proactive sharing of information has multiple benefits. Firstly, it ensures that customers are well-informed and travel without vacation stress. This reduces uncertainties and lessens the need for customer service. Secondly, every touchpoint generates additional data, which further enriches the customer profile. The more complete the profile, the better you can serve your customers. Win-win!”

Limiting the Impact of External Factors

While you can guide the customer journey to a large extent, there are always external factors that can impact the customer experience and your reputation. An AI decisioning engine can help mitigate any negative effects. For example, by automatically sharing tips on indoor activities such as museums and other attractions when rain is predicted or when a sightseeing spot is closed.

To maximize the relevance of information, the algorithm in this phase takes into account timing and channel selection. Sharing tips for indoor activities via email just before the end of the vacation is unlikely to be useful. The same applies to information on vaccinations, which you usually need to get a few weeks in advance. If the data also shows that the traveler hardly opens emails, switching to WhatsApp or SMS may be more relevant.

Loyalty Begins Where the Vacation Ends

The role of a travel buddy doesn’t end when the vacation is over. The end of the vacation is the perfect time to build on the customer relationship and boost engagement. You can do this by asking for feedback and providing inspiration for the next trip, possibly combined with incentives such as discount vouchers or other rewards for loyalty. This keeps you top-of-mind and increases the likelihood that the consumer will think of you for their next vacation.

Building Sustainable Customer Relationships With AI

These examples demonstrate that a decisioning engine is an indispensable tool for transforming from facilitator to reliable travel buddy. AI helps you translate the unique contributions of a physical travel agent into your online strategy and personalize the customer journey on an individual level. This keeps you ahead of the competition and helps you build sustainable customer relationships that benefit you in the short and long term.

Inspired and want to start with an AI decisioning engine?

Are you also curious about how your data can be used for a personalized customer journey? Find out more in our product guide. Prefer to get in touch with one of our experts immediately to see what the possibilities are for your organization? Request a no-obligation demo.