Complexity of online travel offers limitless opportunities

The world is more connected than ever, and our accessibility to travel content and booking is easier than ever before. 

There are approximately 2 million destinations around the world that people are actively looking to visit. There also are roughly 10 or more ways a traveler can describe their accommodation preference—from motel and hotel, to bed and breakfast, apartment, tent or even treehouse. Add in the qualifying terms of amenities that travelers typically search for, such as family-friendly, ocean view or buffet breakfast, and we end up with more than 2 billion search combinations. That only scratches the surface because there are even more combinations that aren’t explicitly known—yet. 

While I’m sure you’ve heard that technology is playing an increasingly significant role in how business is conducted, let’s give that some tangible context.

Artificial intelligence achieved a new milestone when it finally beat a human professional player at chess for the first time without a handicap. In other words, the intuition of AI reached the ability to outpace the human mind; and this was three and a half years ago.

So, when it comes to navigating a more connected, more technologically advanced, and therefore more complex ecosystem—is it overwhelming? Absolutely. But the opportunity for the tourism industry is limitless. And one of the keys to putting the industry in hyper drive is by leveraging data and technology. 

Of course, not everyone is going to have the resources to invest or the might to generate the millions and millions of data points that make this possible. We are now observing more than 2.3 billion interactions and exchanges of data between our suppliers and the Expedia Group marketplace every day. This represents 2.3 billion signals and feedback opportunities to learn from.

This is where we can work together—collaboratively. Rather than resisting new technology or platforms, I’d implore this great industry to be optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Imagine having the capabilities for a data-informed and action-driven bot that provides a hotelier with recommendations, for example, on how to optimize and address their reviews, such as poor breakfast ratings. Now imagine that instead of receiving insights on what to do in an email or online note, a human video bot is able to guide you through how to act on those insights, helping to further optimize company performance. This is something we can expect to see in the near future. 

As the online travel industry becomes more complex, it’s important to understand the various opportunities provided by data and technology to help industry players navigate these complexities moving forward. For example, machine learning, which is a powerful and positive disruptor within our industry, can help solve industry challenges and puts the power of global travel technology platforms into the hands of lodging players of all sizes. 

Machine learning enables lodging players to become better and smarter about how they interact with travelers and optimize their property’s performance. Through machine learning, we can better predict trends in the market and enable more precise personalization. From revenue management to helping hotels better understand their competitive market, machine learning is already helping our lodging partners reduce operational expenses and increase revenues by forecasting demand for their inventory. 

Looking forward, AI can take machine learning one step further and recommend to lodging partners the available tools and actionable insights that are going to best drive business results. The good news is that they won’t have to wait too long because these AI-driven solutions will be available soon, and also start coming to life via video bots.

In this world where technology is changing at lightning speed, it is no doubt becoming more and more challenging to optimize hotel distribution globally. The industry is rapidly evolving, but no one part of the travel ecosystem holds the answers or can kick our industry into hyper drive alone.

Rachel Bird is VP of market management for the Expedia Group.