Car rental sector gets the message more clearly than hotels, OTAs and airlines

Welcome to the world of bots and messaging – such a familiar refrain in the travel sector of late.

Our own coverage ranges from the first incarnations from KLM, or Skyscanner and others to some of the wider-ranging pieces about where it all leads to down the road.

Like any emerging technology, there is a serious case to be made for simply trying out the various tools.

But there also needs to be a reality check in terms of where things are, the challenges and the genuine opportunities.

Speaking at the ITB convention in Berlin this week, Travelaer‘s chief experience officer, Mike Slone, shared the results of a state of the nation-type summary of not only where airlines currently are but also their ambitions for messenger-type services and bots.

An earlier study by the London School of Economics showed that bots and mobile messaging services are certainly front of mind for airlines.

In fact, such tools were seen as the leading technology consideration for carriers, ahead of apps, big data analysis, websites and, tellingly, leaps ahead of virtual reality.

So, during February and early-March this year, Travelaer studied the services of 200 airlines, 16 car rental companies, 46 hotel chains and 18 online travel agencies.

The results are very interesting.

Some 149 carriers had a Facebook Messenger link but when engaged, only 42 responded within a week.

Of those that did respond, two-thirds offered some advice through Messenger, whilst the others directed the user back to a website or call centre.

Only five airlines were using a chatbot.

In the world of OTAs, only seven responded on Facebook Messenger and just four are using chatbots.

Hotels followed a similar road, with 32 of the 45 chains not bothering to respond on the same platform.

Interestingly, car rental companies appear to have grasped the Messenger movement fully, as each brand responded to a query.

Slone says, in short, travel companies are “not taking Facebook Messenger seriously”, and when they do it is more often than not to just send customers on to other services.

This is a missed opportunity, not least because travellers are interacting with their devices constantly throughout the travel experiences.

Messaging, in particular, will become (or already is for many) the primary way that consumers communicate with brands.

He says:

“Messaging will kill a large percentage of apps because of the simplicity that bots and conversational interfaces can bring to the travel process.”

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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