Imagine a conference room filled with delegates from all over the world listening with spellbound attention to the leading expert in their field of practice.
Imagine that you pat yourself on the back for pulling off this hugely successful event … without having booked a single flight or hotel room, without having negotiated and managed a heavy venue contract, without having briefed any AV providers, without any registration tables or nametags, and without having ever met any of the speakers and delegates in person.
While the scale of this imaginary meeting is not yet a reality, elements of it are rapidly becoming mainstream.
The adoption of technology and innovative processes are threatening the traditional role of travel agent and meeting buyer as middleman. These professionals now have to redesign the role they can play as client expectations shift to hyper-personalised, dynamically changing experiences that are devoid of any painpoints door-to-door.
With machine-learning, booking systems are able to not only anticipate a traveller’s needs, but create on-the-spot suggestions to make the experience perfectly enjoyable. These suggestions can range from the type of entertainment available in flight, to customised dining options, to the type of pillows preferred.
Due to its nature, artificial intelligence is great at matching historical booking and preference data of clients and matching it to offers and options available.
Frantically searching for an internet connection in a strange airport to rebook a flight or arrange unplanned ground transport because of unforseen changes to travel plans is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.
With a rise in Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, the latest travel systems can seamlessly amend connecting flights and other related bookings based on where a traveller is and is predicted to be at during their journey. These rebookings require no human insight or interference and is completed in mere seconds.
Devoid of painpoints door-to-door
As artificial intelligence receives data on a traveller based on booking patterns and preference requests, it builds a hyper-personalised customer profile that can enable travel and meeting buyers to – within split seconds – view options that extends right across their client’s entire trip. This will reduce the amount of time spent on searching for and creating options that has to go back and forth via email numerous times before being able to clinch the deal.
With the rise in biometric access and digitally enabled travel documentation, clients will also soon have more access to an entirely humanless travel experience. This is already made possible in part by online bookings that can be completed with a smart phone or tablet at any time of the day.
Adding to this humanless experience are pop-up hologram customer service agents in airports and info kiosks present only in projected hologram form activated only when requested by a traveller, self-driving cabs e-hailed by the traveller, and self-check in capabilities offered by accommodation providers.
Holding on tightly to the belief that people will always want to involve other people in their travel process won’t extend the existence of the world as you know it. All industries that have resisted change based on “this is the way it’s always been” have found themselves obsolete as clients build ways around the obstacle these industries have inadvertently become.
Only when travel and meeting professionals accept the notion that their future isn’t secure or predictable, can they start playing a part in designing it.