On many fronts, artificial intelligence-powered smart speakers and apps seem poised to become the world’s virtual travel agents.
Virtual personal assistants like Alexa are moving rapidly from nifty gadgets for techies to household appliances and mobile devices ingrained in everyday life. The adoption of smart speakers is even outpacing that of smartphones a decade ago: An NPR-Edison Research study found that 18% of adults in the United States, or 43 million people, now own a smart speaker. Worldwide, ownership exceeds 100 million units and is projected to reach 225 million by 2020.
If consumers start turning regularly to smart speakers for their travel needs, they could end up interacting less and less with traditional airline, hotel, and even online travel agency brands. Or, if travel companies are paying attention, such voice-enabled devices could provide brands with a new front door to the customer. As happened with the rise of the internet and mobile apps, winners and losers in the age of conversational AI will be determined by whether companies recognize its potential early and act on it.
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