AI/Watson

Cognitive + Travel: Unpacking Millennial travel expectations

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Cognitive + travel

WayBlazer is a startup company that answers the question “What can cognitive computing do for the travel industry?”

The WayBlazer Travel Artificial Intelligence Engine takes traveler requests like “I want a kid-friendly hotel in Ireland with access to a great golf course,” then blends a custom cocktail of weighted hotel recommendations from custom client data or a hosted platform with access to over a million hotels and relevant details from online images, social media and thousands of review sites.

Travel companies or related clients can use the WayBlazer API or hosted site on their websites, to compile tailored experiences for travel shoppers and boost bookings. Beyond the bookings, though, WayBlazer and cognitive technology help travel companies reach a new generation of customers. WayBlazer Vice President Scott Goldberg and IBM NextGen Specialist Samantha Klein chat about why.

Creating a Millennial travel experience

Goldberg explains the trends he’s seeing from WayBlazer clients. “One of the global hotel chains has a core strategy where they ask: How do we appeal to Millennials?” he shares. “I mean, this is clearly a different generation, especially in the way they travel. All the data says they value the experience—the whole experience. So how does a major hotel chain become the center of the Millennial travel experience—not just the place you put your head at night?

“One of the themes in the travel industry, but particularly for hotels right now is personalization,” Goldberg continues. “We see all kinds of personalization, but really I think for a hotel it means better interaction with the guests.”

Klein agrees: “You cannot reach the most diverse generation in history, Millennials, with generic content or experiences. Brands must learn what their customers care about and create content, craft messages and develop experiences that truly connect with the individual customer’s unique preferences.”

Goldberg adds, “And one of the ways they will want to do that is through data and analytics to have a better picture of their guests. The information that’s in their loyalty programs—it’s really, really basic stuff today. It’s just name, phone number, email address, you know, physical address.

“With our WayBlazer technology, you could learn, for instance, that I searched most recently for a family trip to Austin. And now instead of me just being a name, phone number, email address and physical address, I now have interests and trip types attached to my profile.

“And travel companies are able to take a trip type, and they’re able to say, ‘Okay. We’ve got this loyalty member who’s taking a family vacation. Let’s address his needs as a family throughout the trip, from pre-arrival at the hotel through to departure. Can we offer him amenities or information on-site to make his stay even better; cookies and milk at turn-down, kids activities, nearby museums? Can we continue to let him know about other family friendly vacations?’ That’s going to resonate. That’s the future of travel,” shares Goldberg.

The power of personalization

Klein sees a strong need for personalization, across industries, to reach a younger market. “People, especially Millennials, want to be appreciated,” she shares, “and if they feel that someone, or a brand, actually took the time and effort to value them through personalized content and experiences, they are more likely to give an encore performance and rave reviews.”

Goldberg agrees. “I think personalization makes the interaction between the brand and the customer—the guest—so much more meaningful… I think that’s something that all brands really need to make a lot of gains in.”

Klein continues in the same vein: “A lot of companies fail to realize the importance that personalization can have in building a brand relationship with Millennial and Gen Z customers. Personalization is rare in today’s wired world of auto-responses, endless aisles and mass messaging, and consequently it is more treasured than ever.”

Check out the press release to learn more about how WayBlazer is revolutionizing the industry with the power of cognitive travel.

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IBM Cognitive Computing Writer

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