The Future of Asean Travel: Leveraging AI for Authentic and Personalised Experiences

As the travel industry continues to evolve, the integration of cutting-edge technology and the provision of authentic local experiences have become pivotal for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), particularly in the ASEAN region. Platforms like AirAsia MOVE, Capital A’s travel platform, are at the forefront of this transformation.

With travellers seeking more personalised, inclusive, and meaningful journeys, OTAs must continually adapt and innovate. Leveraging advanced technologies such as AI enables these agencies to deliver hyper-personalised recommendations through the sophisticated analysis of vast data sets.

This precise targeting of individual preferences and behaviours not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters loyalty in an increasingly competitive market.

The Transformative Power of AI in Travel

In the rapidly changing landscape of the travel industry, AI is revolutionising the way OTAs operate by enhancing customer personalization. According to Kong Siong Lin, Chief Data Officer at AirAsia MOVE, “AI-based personalisation enables us to offer highly personalised travel experiences by analysing vast amounts of data to understand individual preferences and behaviours.

This technology ensures that we can provide tailored recommendations and services, significantly improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

So why is this important? Because potential customers want ideas that are relevant to their past searches, which normally aligns with their general travelling preferences, budget expectations and so on. For example, if Aaron, a 30-year-old father of two is planning a trip for his family under a tighter budget, he would be searching for vacations at a lower cost.

As an OTA that uses state-of-the-art AI personalisation, instead of showing results for an expensive couples’ retreat in Bali or a diving trip in Cebu, the site would instead recommend a family trip to a domestic destination to Kota Kinabalu or Penang instead.

These recommendations are personalised to Aaron due to his previous searches and preferences, making them more likely to capture his interest. Additionally, they will dynamically update in real-time based on his ongoing search activities.

Apart from flight routes, OTAs nowadays also provide other offerings such as hotels and airport transport, which means that travellers get a personalised travel itinerary from air to ground. In Aaron’s case, hotel suggestions in a lesser AI model would show the best hotels available. However, a more sophisticated model would dial into his entire flight-searching process, including his price and date preference, to suggest hotels that suit his needs.

An OTA with ride-hailing services such as AirAsia MOVE’s AirAsia Ride would bring forward an even detailed itinerary that includes airport-to-hotel transfer service, and also tourist attraction suggestions based on the data retrieved from other traveller’s movement patterns. Combined with a rewards programme that allows users to immediately redeem vouchers to F&B outlets and entertainment spots and make the most of their trip.

AI has also allowed OTAs such as AirAsia MOVE to introduce a new feature: Trips, which works as a personal organiser for travellers. In its current phase, Trips allows travellers to add and name customised trips, manage trips, view flights itineraries, hotel bookings and other activities, while also recommending the best airport transfers.

“AI serves as a powerful ally for OTAs, unlocking a treasure trove of insights beyond personalization,” emphasised Siong Lin. “By dissecting user interaction data, we’re not only enhancing operational efficiency but also gaining a competitive edge through targeted marketing and staying ahead of evolving travel trends.”

The future of travel in the Asean region hinges on the ability of OTAs to embrace new technologies and provide authentic, meaningful experiences. By leveraging AI to offer a holiday experience with a personal touch, OTAs can meet the evolving needs of modern travellers. As Siong Lin aptly puts it, “In a competitive market, it’s not just about offering a service—it’s about creating an unforgettable experience.”

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