Suman De, Product Director, Cleartrip
Suman De, Product Director, Cleartrip (Photo: Nishant Ratnakar)

Travel, Tech and : To say the whole world is going digital would be making an incorrect statement. The world already has gone digital, traversing a path paved with rapid technological advancements. There is no greater testament to this transformation than India – a country which only got its first taste of public internet in 1996, but has since become home to the second-largest internet user base.

The speed at which Indians have adopted a tech-savvy lifestyle is remarkable. The extent of this digital penetration becomes all the more prominent when we factor in the sudden spurt in the number of homes that now have AI-enabled virtual assistants and smart devices. Everyday functions at these new-age living spaces are now being carried out by digital agents powered by cutting-edge technologies.

Given such rapid digital adoption, it would be naïve to limit the scope of what can constitute these ‘everyday functions’. Machines have already been carrying out complex operations since the past few decades. With each passing day, technology grows more sophisticated, ‘learning’ to conduct more complex functions like surgery, space exploration, enterprise management, and so on.

It isn’t surprising, therefore, that tech-led solutions such as virtual assistants are changing how we travel by making processes such as travel planning swifter and hassle-free.

Virtual assistants as travel planning managers

More often than not, the home is the place where all great trips begin. It is the social setting where destinations, accommodations, and activities are selected and planned with a common consensus. However, one thing that almost always accompanies travel planning is indecisiveness. Which flight to book? Which hotel would be better from all these amazing options? The questions just keep piling on, extending the planning process unnecessarily – sometimes even resulting in the ditching of the effort and, eventually, indefinite postponement of the plan.

Technology has been a great enabler in the making of travel itineraries.
Technology has been a great enabler in the making of travel itineraries. (Photo: Agency)

Technology has been a great enabler in the making of travel itineraries, with lists of countless possibilities available just a click or a tap away, and it comes to the rescue here as well. AI-enabled virtual assistants can act as proficient mediators, not just during the planning of a trip, but also for executing tasks like booking of a flight or a hotel.

Since these technologies mainly require voice inputs to work, they make the process more efficient. Prospective travellers no longer need to type out their queries, while the need to browse through mobile apps and sites – and more lists – to single out the perfect option is also eliminated. Virtual assistants streamline travel planning by producing immediate and precise results as per the requirement, having funnelled out the less relevant options that would otherwise merely add to the confusion.

On top of reducing the effort of dealing with multiplicity, virtual assistants also enable a person to see the process of travel planning through to its rewarding end by eliminating the risk of getting distracted while browsing. From tasks like booking or cancelling flight bookings and hotel reservations to changing the travel dates, users need only ask their virtual assistant to have all the relevant information delivered to their email for further action.

The merits of using such artificially intelligent software agents are not limited to end-users alone. With virtual assistants reducing the chance of a travel planning process being left incomplete, the customer bounce rate on OTA platforms can also decrease significantly.

Where are we headed?

While it is true that digital integration has affected our lives incredibly, there still a lot of scopes left for technology to develop further. AI is nascent, and evolving, technology. Although capable of solving complex problems, AI-based virtual assistants still struggle when it comes to identifying nuanced commands and executing them in a perfectly seamless manner. There is still some time before your virtual assistant will be able to assist you in planning a local trip from Andheri to Gurgaon. Nonetheless, seeing how relentlessly and rapidly digital technologies are evolving, that it will happen is not a question of possibility – but of time.

The author is Product Director,

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