Intelligence Human-tech hybrid approach key to sell travel in the Covid era: Amadeus By TTG Asia / Posted on 1 July, 2020 16:52 While technology has infiltrated the tourism industry, human interaction remains equally crucial to attract and retain travellers, according to a new report by Amadeus. The report, titled From Human Touch to Human Tech, showed that more than 40 per cent of the travel sellers surveyed ranked human interaction as a top factor for success. The figure is higher for agencies specialising in business travel, where deep knowledge of customer preferences and strong relationships are key. While AI-powered technologies like chatbots can enhance the customer experience, human touch remains crucial in travel marketing Amadeus has outlined four key pointers from the study to aid travel sellers in the path to recovery: 1. Human interaction is key to a great customer experience In a highly competitive and often commoditised environment such as travel, human touch can be a powerful differentiator. People are the face of an organisation and this can be even more important in times of crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Travellers demand a higher level of personalisation, reassurance and empathy, and expect their agents to solve their problems. The guidance, information and support that agents can provide during these times will have lasting impact on a traveller’s trust and loyalty. Travel sellers need to communicate the most updated information to travellers, including the health status at their destination, travel rules or conditions, and key information on hygiene standards at their hotel. This will be important to reassure them that travel is safe and help them navigate the new world of travel. 2. The future of travel is AI-powered Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to infiltrate and influence the traveller journey. From simple chatbots that support customers with basic service queries, to more sophisticated and complex machine learning technologies that deliver highly personalised content – the technological developments in this field are evolving quickly. The research indicates that travel agencies want to be at the forefront of this change – automation and dynamic pricing are key areas of investment for the companies. AI is inextricably linked to these areas and travel agencies are planning to invest in it. Many travel agencies have described it as the foundation for all their future technological advancements. AI-powered solutions can help manage spikes in demand, deliver smooth and best-in-class service and also be used to compile data from multiple sources and provide the most updated information to help ease uncertainties in challenging times. 3. What does human touch mean? Travel agencies often think of human interaction as crucial to attract and retain travellers. However, data from Amadeus’ survey suggests that human contact in and of itself might not be as important as travel agents think. Friendliness, availability, and accessibility over the phone were all more important to travellers than in-person relationships. This stood in contrast with what most travel agents believed their customers valued. The importance of phone contact is not reserved for the older generation, with 63 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials surveyed saying that they place value in a phone call, especially in times of disruption, like Covid-19. Travellers are increasingly seeking “humanness” in the delivery of the customer experience; and the ability for travel agents to communicate in a friendly manner tops the list of traveller priorities. 4. Covid-19 is changing the behaviour of both travellers and travel sellers As travellers become increasingly conscious about health risks, they will seek travel sellers who can ensure that proper sanitation measures and health services will be provided during their journey. To inspire traveller confidence, travel sellers will need to provide the very latest health and hygiene information, health guarantees, or a commitment to respond to unpredictable situations with excellent customer service. As a result, travel agencies that can combine human interaction with technology to deliver high quality and timely customer service will have a competitive advantage in gaining traveller confidence. AI will radically alter how work is done, but it won’t replace humans. Success lies in understanding how humans can most effectively augment technology, how technology can enhance what humans do, and in designing business processes that support both. Of course, there are still challenges in pursuing a hybrid approach. The research shows that AI can deter some travellers. When presented with a scenario in which AI would be providing customer support or that a hotel may predict what kind of drinks they may like in the minibar, a third of travellers reacted negatively. Some were worried about job security for humans and others expressed concern of their data privacy being at risk. There may always be outright rejecters, so businesses will need to position its usage carefully. But a business that can use people’s skills and technology in harmony will be more prepared to play in this new world of travel. From Human Touch to Human Tech is Amadeus’s first report of the series called Insights for the New World of Travel. The findings come from a combination of desk research and interviews, surveys and focus groups discussions with both travel sellers and travellers, prior to and during Covid-19.