msterdam-based Booking.com is betting big on digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to make travel more exciting and personalized for its customers.
A digital travel platform, Booking.com connects travellers with places to stay. Users can book on the website or mobile app that has more than 28 million total listings and covers more than 1,47,000 destinations in 228 countries. More than 1.5 million rooms are reserved on the platform every day.
“We are a technology company, but our product is travel. At our core is AI and ML, and we want to give the best experience to our customers through technology," Gillian Tans, chief executive officer of Booking.com, said recently.
Tans and her team leverage technology at every step of a booking, making informed decisions about customer behaviour and preferences, which makes the process seamless. “Balancing cutting edge technology with a human touch is key," says Ram Papatla, vice-president (experiences), Booking.com.
Besides booking accommodation that includes hotels, apartments, vacation homes, and family-run bed and breakfasts, the company is leveraging technology to build connected trips that include tourist attractions, food and shopping.
One service is enabling users to book an “experience". This is available on the Booking.com app and creates a curated experience by harnessing AI and ML to predict individual traveller intent and create a convenient, personalized experience.
All this has been possible because the company leverages insights from its huge database of travellers about what they liked and didn’t like about various destinations and the experiences they had there.
Combining this data with a customer’s previous travel preferences, as well as third-party data like the current waiting time at the most popular museum, the booking experiences technology provides a traveller with increasingly personalized, relevant and timely suggestions to personalize the in-destination experience.
AI and ML are also used for automatic detection of high demand properties, recommendations, rankings and content selection.
The company has also built an in-house support chatbot called Booking Assistant that leverages NLP technology to identify the most frequently asked questions from customers, including topics such as payment, transportation, arrival and departure times, date changes, cancellation requests, parking information, extra bed requests, pet policies and Wi-Fi and internet availability.
Technology remains a key driver for the company to grow its markets including India.
In India, Booking.com’s total listings are more than 8,80,000 of which 1,40,000 are in alternative accommodations such as homes and apartments.
With over 1,40,000 alternative accommodation listings in India alone, the market is one of the company’s top 20 fastest-growing markets in the alternative accommodation segment. Goa, Kerala, and Karnataka have the highest number of properties in the alternative accommodation segment in India, according to company data.
“In India, we have a lot of work to do and I recognise that. We have the supply, now we need to build the brand, and we are doing this by initiatives like influencer marketing," says Tans.
(The writer was in Amsterdam at the invitation of Booking.com)