With my colleague, Andrea Wood, The State of the American Traveler – Technology Edition webinar on June 1, 2017, also featured a deeper dive into the trends and practical takeaways in four areas of innovation: VR/AR, artificial intelligence (AI), Google’s Quick Answers and Google’s evolution of destination and travel content.
In this blog we summarize the first two technologies we covered – and in a future blog will cover Google’s innovation in depth.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Trends: Innovation in VR and AR continues apace with recent major launches in VR from Facebook – the social empowered Facebook Spaces, the immersive properties of VR “Room Scaling” (supported now by several headsets) plus the new Google Daydream VR platform (offering improved quality vs. the Google Cardboard at a still reasonable rate) and Google Lens – a major AR announcement.
Practical Takeaways on VR/AR:
1. Look for low-cost opportunities to test the solutions. For example, the expanding range of filters now available from both Snapchat and Facebook (see below) or using Facebook Live or Periscope to run virtual FAM trips of your conference center or other facilities.
2. Observe and monitor. Keep abreast of these technologies and judge when they are moving from bleeding edge to leading edge – offering real and practical promise and benefits.
3. Test and refine. Once you do invest, make sure you have clear ways to measure success and be prepared to continually review and refine.
Rise of Artificial Intelligence
Trends: The rapid advances in machine learning and AI is empowering a whole new class of intelligent assistants including voice-activated assistants such a Alexa, Siri and Google Now. Chatbots (powered by voice or text) have emerged as increasingly sophisticated platforms to answer questions and complete (relatively simple) bookings, etc. Watch for the range and quality of these solutions to rapidly advance in the coming years.
Practical Takeaways on AI and Customer Service:
1. High tech and high touch. Research, monitor and identify opportunities to test new AI-driven customer service solutions. For example, Facebook offers an open API to develop a Chatbot using Facebook Messenger. However, focus on combining high tech and high touch: great person to person customer service supported by technology.
2. Use technology to extend your service. Opportunities including leveraging social media- or AI-driven platforms to reach guests in new places or at new times, e.g. out of hours or extending the reach of your visitor center into the online space (“Virtual Visitor Center”).
3. High touch will always be critical. Even as AI solutions improve greatly in reliability and sophistication, travelers are also likely to value even more the opportunity to connect with in-person customer service. People are at the center of most remarkable travel experiences – and the blend of both high touch with high tech will always be central to great customer service in travel.
Future blog post on Google Curated Content: Look for a future blog post where will be covering in-depth the two other trends we highlighted in the webinar: Google Quick Answers and their New Destination and Travel Content, including opportunities for DMOs to help review, add and update this content.
Download The State of the American Traveler – Technology Edition reserach report
More from our research partner in this report, Destination Analysts