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Now is a high time to start using bots/AI in a cruise industry or it will be too late

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These days, when Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg argue about the possible impact of AI on the future of the world, the cruise industry is сlearly missing digital tools (even not mentioning AI opportunities) to attracts the clients. Few companies have started embracing easy cruise planning automation on the companies’ websites. If you look at such big market players as MSC and Princess, or minor ones like Azamara, a user can get to all needed information about your upcoming cruise without leaving the website. But these companies do not make the majority of the whole market, which makes you think that the rest of the companies simply ignore the necessity of easy cruise planning process for the clients. And, clearly, the cruise industry hardly uses the magic power of artificial intelligence and chatbots!

Automatization via the algorithms that crawl through the large amounts of data and then provide the travel options we are most likely to choose will soon be replaced by AI. In fact, the so called generation Z will talk to the bots in order to book a cruise, for instance. They will not go to the travel agency or examine the booking website for hours. Why would they? An artificial bot who knows everything about their travel preferences will give them the best options and they won’t even need to search on their own. So, AI will already be able to guess the desires of the customers and fully adapt to their preferences while reducing the choices beforehand. For instance, the bot will know that I like to sit by the window while on a plane, my favorite cuisine is Japanese, and I never choose hotels that have less than 4 stars. Voila! The very moment the bot learns it, it will offer only those travel options/routes that will include my preferences. A chatbot can be several times faster than a travel agent while offering the best cruise itinerary options to a client.

Functionality

Here at CruiseBe, we have been thinking about expanding the ways of fast cruise itinerary building and decided that building a Facebook chatbot will be the best thing to engage the users. Hence, we have developed chatbot that serves as a virtual cruise itinerary aggregator. The potential cruiser just needs to message CruiseBe page on Facebook and he or she will instantly get a reply with a couple of options to choose.

Currently, our chatbot will offer you to plan a cruise via a cruise itinerary aggregator (our main product), or take a cruise quiz to decide which cruise decade fits you best, or read some real blog posts and reviews from real travelers who have visited the ports of call that the client is potentially interested in. Our Facebook chatbot will also offer you a couple of games, namely, guess a ship or a port of call. If you are not up for games, it will simply offer info about any ship you request. It will even offer you lots of cruise memes to bring your mood up! A chatbot becomes a tool for both entertaining and informing your client. Through this semi-real communication with the bot, the client will basically get directions to all the actions he might want to do before planning a day-by-day cruise itinerary without leaving Facebook.

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Benefits

Even though creating bots or AI is mostly considered as a very pricy investment in any company, creating such a virtual assistant can pay off your business in several ways in terms of the customer satisfaction, revenue raise, innovation level, and processes automation.

  • A chatbot speaks in a friendly manner as you program it to speak specifically what you want it to reply to people.
  • It replies instantly, so the user won’t have to wait neither for a week, or even 15 minutes for a reply.
  • Since you are the one who programs the bot, you get to control where you send the client in search of cruise options. The bot offers the client a straight path on where to go next to plan a cruise.
  • It is absolutely FREE! (For a client. For you, the pay hours of your team will be the cost)
  • It provides human cost-free 24/7 client support. Even if the bot drops you a line at 3AM in the morning, the bot will be right there for you.
  • The information a bot provides to the client will stay at clients disposal any time of the day and he won’t lost it (unless he deletes the chat on Facebook of course).

In the future, we definitely plan to use AI ​​to complete a full cruise planning cycle with flights, hotels, and transfers. The program will facilitate the planning of the cruise to the maximum, and help with the choice of better cruise leisure while memorizing the preferences of the travelers.

Drawbacks

It might come tricky to build a bot in terms of market research, risks evaluation, choosing a platform where to launch a bot, etc.

There are several ways to build a bot, sometimes you don’t need to do any research to create it. In this case, a chatbot will just replace customer support and become an independent tool for communication with clients. There is also another way around to use a chatbot — make it a marketing tool. However, this will definitely require lots of working hours of experienced consultants or researchers who will find out what your bot should be like, what competitors you have and which niche your bot can occupy. After the research is done, other specialists will have to develop an algorithm of client-bot communication cycle. A chatbot shouldn’t confuse users with the information it will be providing. Hence, there should be constant check-up of its performance. This process can be tricky sometimes. On one hand, a chatbot should have some “human” resemblance in a way it talks to a person, on the other hand, it shouldn’t be way too informal in its communication. Therefore, developing a really sophisticated chatbot can take much time and money which is a major drawback for many businesses.

It is also worth to mention that different online services might offer you to create a chatbot without any additional engineering work (sometimes even for free). But currently, most of these platforms have very limited functionality, hence the chatbot they might create for your business might not be able to do all the things that you would love it to do. This, however, doesn’t cancel the fact that such chatbot can make a good addition to your website, just like one page websites served to be sort of a “business card” for businesses once.

Risks

One of the key issues connected to launching a chatbot to help your business, might be the unwillingness of some people to talk to a “machine”. It’s not rare, despite the fact that we’re living in a 21st century now, that some people just cannot understand such such communication, hence, they prefer not to talk to the bot at all. In this case, a chatbot will not be able to replace a call-center or any other department.

Another issue might be that a bot can turn into a savage spammer. In order to make sure that it doesn’t happen, you should be careful while setting up subscription options of the bot.

Finally, if you decide to launch a real artificial intelligence algorithm, not just a regular bot that has a set of automatic replies to send out to clients, then you have to control its self-learning very often, even on hourly basis at first. Such chatbot shouldn’t harm your business or communication with the clients.

What opportunities will AI open to the cruise industry?

So we can all agree that a chatbot is not fully a piece of artificial intelligence since it cannot get into a spontaneous uncontrollable conversation with the client. However, it is a good instrument for the client service automation and the more we are moving into the future, the more we should expect the cases of AI technologies acquisition within the industry.

Let’s take the travel industry in a broader context, not just a cruise sector. What trends do we see here? In 2016, Tradeshift, acquired Hyper Travel and is now using its AI component in Tradeshift Go service that processes all the booking requests routine along with the conversational functions. It assists in the search for flights, vehicle rentals, and even group travel planning taking into account travel preferences, budget limits, etc. Also, 2016 has marked the launch of the Lola app that combines AI-based conversational abilities and a live staff of travel agents.

San Francisco-based Mezi, offers travels to communicate with a personal assistant through the mobile app. Mezi’s mobile assistant takes care of travel and shopping when you ask via a text message. As you text Mezi where you want to go, it helps you with the full-stack assistance in booking flights, accommodations, and restaurant reservations. It deals with real-time cancellations too.

The old-time companions of the travel industry like hotel or aircraft businesses are not slacking too. Hilton Worldwide has its “Connie” robot, and Leading Hotels uses IBM-powered Watson AI technology to match specific guest searches with individual hotels.

The less the cruise industry waits before it starts fully acquiring the power of innovations, the more revenue growth and clientele age drop, hence, growth, it will see in the nearest years.


Now is a high time to start using bots/AI in a cruise industry or it will be too late was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Chatbots Magazine

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