Utrip applies AI to help TUI refine retailing for activities

TUI Destination Services has partnered with data-driven travel planning platform Utrip to introduce a new destination activities platform that allows travelers to rank and rate experiences based on their travel preferences.

The collaboration with Utrip resulted from a partnership between TUI Group and Californian accelerator Plug and Play.

The application uses artificial intelligence to sort destination activities on a new Trip Planner page offered on the TUI site for selecting destinations (New York City, Cancun, Tenerife and Punta Cana) based on the traveller’s rating of a selection of experiential metrics.

Travelers can adjust levers up or down at the top of the page which better define their “Travel Style” by ranking: Nature & Adventure, Shopping, Relaxation, History, Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, and Must Sees.

The results of these measurements defined by the traveller are enhanced by machine learning to reflect those experiences ranked best by travelers with similar priorities. The system then sorts inventory of all destination activities available so that those which are most relevant to the traveler appear at the top. Travelers can mark those activities they would want to see on their itinerary with a heart and those activities which are most often hearted help inform the learning algorithm of the popularity of a particular venue.

TUI hopes that this new travel customization feature will enhance its digital offering and help increase engagement and conversion on tours and activities.

David Schelp, managing director of TUI DS says:

“Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the travel industry today, yet consumers have come to expect a more personalized experience online. We’re excited to combine our own inventory of unique destination experiences with Utrip’s artificial intelligence solution to provide our guests with the most personalized travel planning experience available today.”

Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip, shares with tnooz why he believes that an AI interface will be critical to improved travel conversion in future:

“Artificial Intelligence is ultimately going to continue to become a bigger aspect of e-commerce in general. The travel industry can utilize this technology even more than others because of the fragmentation as well as the enormous amount and variety of inventory which makes it a very difficult experience for consumers to shop—because they have long, never ending lists of hotels in New York City or tours in Mexico or whatever it may be.

“The machine learning mechanism allows travelers to look through a whole universe of attractions and find the ones that match their destination better.”

Berenstein also explains that it’s important to feature all destination activities in a personally sorted list—rather than filter out potentially irrelevant activities—in order to address FOMO.

“Our psychology research shows that people have fear of missing out, so it’s very important that they see the whole inventory. From there, we sort the inventory based on preferences.”

He also says that he expects AI-sorted offers to replace blanket offers sent as enticements to book ancillaries sent via email, with algorithm-vetted personalized offerings—based on the traveller’s known similarities to other traveller types—selecting those activities and ancillary products that are more likely to convert.

“In the future it’s not going to be enough for an airline to have a long menu of irrelevant services on sale. The airlines already send you an email that says thank you for booking a flight and here’s some offers..most of them are not relevant and essentially people know they are being sent spam. But can you use AI so that there’s always cool stuff that we can enjoy reading about. If we can shape that experience, we ultimately actually strengthen the relationship that airlines have with their customers. Because they care about the same things that customers care about.”

Utrip also helped JetBlue Vacations offer more personalized travel activities as part of the airline’s smart travel planning platform.

He explains how Utrip has helped JetBlue ensure that JetBlue Vacations encourages bookings:

“If you look at our partnership with JetBlue, outside of airline service they don’t have their own inventory. They have to sell other peoples inventory. The first challenge is understanding it ,and making sure that the inventory you are recommending fits your brand, fits your customers, and then fits the dates and the seasons that your customers are traveling. Our machine learning mechanism allows travelers look through a whole universe of attractions and find the ones that match their destination better.”

Berenstein believes that AI and machine learning will soon be ubiquitous tools used to refine travel retail:

“For airlines and hotels that are really trying to get into the activity and event space they are going to use AI to develop this, as a way to generate additional revenue.”

Related reading:

Utrip raise $4 million to build out consumer and B2B trip planning service

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