Hyper-personalisation: is 2024 the year it could finally happen? 

When it comes to personalisation in the sale of travel products there’s personalisation, and then there’s ‘hyper-personalisation’ – knowing and catering to the traveller’s specific likes and whims, from what temperature they like their hotel room to what seat they prefer on a plane.  

As hyper-personalisation goes beyond the standard strategies used for personalisation, it involves a whole new style of segmentation that relies on harnessing unseen-before amounts of data. Much of it in real-time.  

With recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, travel companies may finally be in a position to offer this kind of service to travellers. We spoke with some travel technology experts to find out whether this is likely to happen any time soon and what the industry needs to do to prepare.

So what’s the benefit for travel brands that manage to achieve this? Martin Eade from travel search and booking technology provider Vibe believes there’s a lot riding on this. “This is the holy grail of personalisation and the first company to get this right will have a real first mover advantage. After all, why would customers switch from a hotel or airline that can anticipate their needs before they even know them themselves?”.

Perhaps you are wondering though what kind of technology is needed to make this work? Rubén Sánchez, CEO from leading hotel revenue management platform BEONx explains that the more travel companies are able to improve their knowledge of their guests through data analysis, the easier it will be to design hyper-personalized experiences that are adapted to the specific needs of each guest. “The aim is to create strategies that make each guest feel special and unique, instead of feeling like a faceless member of a generic market segment. But before companies can achieve hyper-personalisation, they need to shift their focus from the product to the client, developing a customer-centric strategy. Harnessing data will help them to understand exactly who their clients are, how they behave, and what they expect when they come to stay at a hotel, or travel on a specific airline.”

Clearly this success depends on gaining access to data about your customer in order to anticipate their needs and one way to get closer to achieve that is via offering subscription services, thus obtaining more insight into the user. Janis Dzenis from travel price comparison website WayAway – which also offers a subscription service – points out that “getting consumers to share their data is often hard, but if they are a subscriber and therefore are  signed up and using search tools within your platform frequently, you learn more about their needs. This makes it that bit easier to curate travel experiences they are more likely to find appealing, and so book. And this is just the beginning, we’re excited about what the future holds”.

Another way artificial intelligence can enable hyper-personalisation is via automation. Adam Harris, Co-Founder and CEO of Cloudbeds, the hospitality tech platform powering more reservations and happier guests for independent lodging businesses around the globe, believes this to be the case in the hospitality space and points out that automation tools powered by artificial intelligence will unburden hoteliers in new and interesting ways.  “Valuable, quick ‘recipes’ for automation will allow hoteliers to create predictable, reliable processes so they take their hands off keyboards and create more unique human-to-human interactions. At Cloudbeds, we’re building toward a world where AI-powered automations check out guests, trigger emails for last-minute reservations, add notes for housekeeping when a VIP guest arrives, and create in-depth reports with insights that drive better decisions. When a hotelier’s days become less manual, their guests’ personalized experience will soar.”

Hyper-personalisation is likely to lead to increased accuracy and optimisation in areas such as pricing too.  Koert Grasveld, Vice President Payments at B2B travel payments company Terrapay says companies should prepare themselves with the right technologies when it comes to knock-on effect on their invoicing payments. “Smart payment solutions that can cope with real-time, complex and micro-level changes to pricing are what is required not just on the consumer side of things but also on the B2B settlements too. There’s a lot of tech out there now that can help you to automate and both save money and improve accuracy too.” 

But is this really going to happen in 2024? Or any time soon? Gareth Matthews, Chief Marketing Officer at global travel distribution provider Didatravel thinks the industry might finally be in a position to offer elements of this to travellers in 2024. “Thanks to the massive explosion in the capabilities of artificial intelligence, it’s now possible to analyse vast amounts of data instantly, including travel history, preferences, social media activity, and demographic information, to identify new patterns and understand individual travellers’ preferences better than we ever have before. The medium-term future for sure is very promising.”

As a final thought Craig Everett, Founder and CEO from Holibob, the experiences tech provider to tourism boards and online travel sellers, comments that hyper-personalisation might lead to a related new trend: hyper-localisation. “Not only do these new technologies empower travel companies to develop a more intricate knowledge of their traveller, they fast-track deeper contextual understanding of their interests in relation to their destination. This has the opportunity to unlock a level of hyper-local, hyper-relevant online recommendations that could finally push the experiences sector into the online realm – opening an enormous opportunity for every travel brand to capitalize on the $250B opportunity that is the experiences market by meeting travellers where they are, when they are ready to book.”

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Why would customers switch from a hotel or airline that can anticipate their needs before they even know them themselves?

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