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2023 in Review: The AI Transformation of Travel

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

Leverage lessons from the travel industry, including five key ways to enhance your product by incorporating AI.

Travel planning is a complex process that involves multiple variables, comparisons, and substantial deliberation. As consumers embark on the quest for seamless and personalized travel experiences, AI platforms shine for their ability to alleviate the complexities of travel planning. With AI's effectiveness for fast results and tailored recommendations, travelers see it not just as a tool but as a virtual travel companion, capable of understanding preferences, minimizing anxieties, and offering real-time insights.

By diving into user journeys that leverage AI for travel, we learn what resonates and can apply that to other industries. Check out other areas where AI wins over search.

AI Outranks Search for Travel Use Cases

When it comes to understanding large volumes of data, LLMs stand out as a game-changer, reshaping how users access information. In our analysis of Pulse Labs IQ surveys and videos from 227 users, a significant trend emerged: nearly 60% of participants prefer starting travel-related searches on AI platforms like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing over traditional search engines. This shift is largely due to superior efficiency and personalized responses offered by LLMs, fundamentally altering users' approach to gathering information for travel decisions.

In diving into user videos and narratives, we found that the enhanced user experience from LLMs is a primary reason people prefer using them for travel planning. Users were delighted by AI's personalization and simplification of their user journeys. They thoroughly enjoyed receiving detailed itineraries, tailored recommendations, and real-time updates on their trips or travel destinations. 

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Tip: We see trends indicating that users expect higher levels of personalization when using websites, apps, and other technologies. We recommend looking for ways to incorporate personalization into your products to stay ahead of the competition.

Users envision a future where LLMs are not merely search tools, but also intuitive companions capable of understanding preferences, alleviating anxiety, and delivering quick, precise results. This demonstrates the role AI plays in elevating the travel experience by meeting the evolving expectations of modern travelers who demand interactive and personalized solutions. Here are what a few users, who participated in our study, had to say:

“AI-powered travel apps can provide real-time updates on flight status, weather conditions, traffic, and other relevant information, ensuring a smoother journey and helping you adapt to any changes or unexpected events.”

—Maven, Gen X

“I think that it could really ease my anxiety. It can help me create an itinerary within a few minutes so I can save a lot of time doing research online.”

—Victoria, Gen Z



AI Platforms Are in Sync With Users' Needs

When we asked participants about their satisfaction with using AI platforms for questions related to travel and trip planning, users indicated a very high overall satisfaction rate of 88%. A significant portion, 61%, expressed being "very satisfied," and 27% report being "satisfied." Across the platforms tested, Bard had the highest satisfaction with 73% of users "very satisfied" with Bard's travel user experience. Users called out Bard's incorporation of videos and images into its responses, and felt it offered a more immersive and visually appealing experience.


Consumers expressed a high level of preference for AI platforms for travel planning for reasons that included: personalized recommendations, efficient itineraries, reduced anxiety, real-time updates, cost savings, local insights, honest reviews, off-the-beaten-track suggestions, and even virtual tours. 

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Tip: Generative AI creates a better user experience by helping users find precise information from multiple sources in one place, reducing cognitive load. Think of ways you can incorporate AI into your product flows to save your users time and reduce the number of decisions they need to make. 

In our research, user testimonials collected through video recordings emphasize the potential for AI to alleviate anxiety, save time, and act as a personalized travel agent. Typically, to get this level of tailored information using regular search and travel websites, it takes substantial time and effort.

“I like that it includes pictures, I am a very visual person.”

A user asks for travel recommendations with kids, and likes that Bard shows her images

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—Victoria, Gen Z, Bard

“I like that it picks up from my original prompt and gives specific recommendations!”

A user likes that Bing provides specific details and is conversational.

0:00
/1:56

—William, Gen X, Bing

Although most participants in our research are highly enthusiastic about AI for travel planning, some users expressed concerns about AI's ability to keep up with frequent changes in travel information, like flight changes, weather, and other urgent travel information.

Lessons from Travel: 5 Key Ways to Incorporate AI to Enhance Your Product

By diving into the travel use case, we see five ways businesses can leverage AI for better user experiences. When it comes to detailed decision making, AI can help your users sift through details faster and get more personally relevant information. AI-supported conversations also come across as more personal than typical searches, which provide companies with an opportunity to create a brand voice that speaks to each unique audience.

  1. Build AI integrations that leverage your user personas: Focus on building AI experiences that deeply understand user preferences, interests, and travel styles. This goes beyond basic demographics. Consider incorporating personality traits, past behaviors, and real-time context to curate truly personalized itineraries and recommendations.
  2. Leverage LLMs to give chatbots more natural, intuitive dialog: When looking for help, users want to feel like they're talking to a trusted friend, not a robotic assistant. Leveraging Generative AI in chatbots makes them conversational, informative, and capable of handling complex queries.
  3. Design your AI integrations for anxiety reduction and proactive support: AI should not just provide answers, but anticipate needs and offer solutions before users even ask. Real-time updates, alternative options, and proactive problem-solving can significantly enhance your user experience.
  4. Integrate AI across a variety of touchpoints: From initial searches to in-depth research and support chat, AI can be a constant companion, providing relevant information and support throughout the user journey.
  5. Embrace visual storytelling and immersive experiences: Users respond positively to Bard's incorporation of videos and images. Leverage photos and video in your AI integrations to engage users and bring your brand to life.

Want to learn more about the tools we use for our research and how they can help you power your product design and user experience?

Stay tuned for more insights from Pulse Labs IQ™ and sign up for our newsletter.

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