Retail

How AI Is Helping Hotel Apps Get Onto Travelers’ Radar Screens

Hotel Apps Book With Artificial Intelligence

With the help of travel experts, hotels can tap into a new channel to drive online bookings: Travelers can be inspired to book a reservation after seeing a photo or recommendation from a knowledgeable explorer. In that spirit, SIX Travel provides explorers with a curated list of hotels specifically handpicked by travelers, editors and publishers. The idea is to provide consumers with a simple way to discover and book hotels that is also hyper relevant to them.

“The more the user gets to use the app, the more it gets to know them using machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence],” SIX Travel Founder and CEO Khalid Meniri told PYMNTS.com in an interview.

For starters, Meniri’s app monitors implicit actions by the user, such as scrolling, tapping or viewing within the app, and then starts building patterns around that user. Secondly, the app looks at a user’s explicit actions, such as sharing, saving to lists or booking. In one interaction, for example, a consumer may find a property in a destination like Aspen and add it to their list.

In addition, the company uses Core ML to translate the images that users interact with and extracts tags from those images. If a customer is looking at an image of a mountain with snow, for instance, the app might discern that the traveler is looking at ski properties. Then, if a user looks at a few images of other hotels, the app can predict that the traveler is looking for a winter getaway. The idea is to use all of these implicit and explicit actions, along with the image tags, to recommend hotels to travelers.

As it can be hard to rely on a single app for customer acquisition, Meniri has turned to Instagram as another point of distribution. Through this platform, he is able to collaborate with content creators, allowing them to monetize their Instagram Stories as travelers make reservations with a swipe up and a tap. Alternatively, users can book a hotel through a link in the Instagram bio. 

The Personalized Travel Experience

In an effort to tailor the in-app experience to Instagram, Meniri said he rebuilt the native iOS experience for the social media platform’s browser. That way, when a customer swipes up on the Instagram app to interact with the SIX Travel platform, he or she sees a “book now” button, as well as the option to save to their list if they don’t want to immediately book a room.

The service also doesn’t require users to download an app or create an account, eliminating “any potential friction we took out from [the] Instagram experience.” With SIX, hotels can derive direct booking using an interface through the social media app. Travelers can pay by credit card, debit card or Apple Pay in advance or at the hotel after putting their payment details into the system.

One of the platform’s features is to offer tools to help hotels drive organic acquisition – such as through influencers – while also providing them with the data that they need to draw in customers. Hotels can then retarget users who engaged with them through comments, in one case, and provide them with an offer or a perk as a value-add. Incentives could be an early check-in, a late checkout, a free breakfast or a third night free, with the goal to potentially customize perks based on travelers’ needs.

If a traveler flies from London to New York on the night flight and arrives at 7 a.m., Meniri said, the perk of having a hotel room ready on arrival would make the most sense. But how can the app discern this need? For one, the user’s home city in the app account center gives the system a clue about the traveler’s starting point. From that point on, the app seeks to get as much data as possible, showing that personalization through data can be a key element of hotel booking platforms.

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