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Providing a Sky-High Travel Experience — Before, During, and After — with AI Machine Translations

After two years of lockdowns, leisure travel has returned in a big way with vacationers all over the world exploring new destinations via plane, train, and automobile. International tourism rocketed 182% year-on-year in January-March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals, compared to 41 million in Q1 2021. 

Travel industry trends reveal that demand continues to surge, which isn’t all good news for the leisure and hospitality industry. Unfortunately, a sizable number of the travel workers (pilots, flight attendants, customer service reps) laid off during pandemic lockdowns have not returned to work, leading to chaos brought on by staff shortages. In times like these, how do brands provide a superior customer experience to frustrated travelers? It starts with speaking their language — quite literally.

In our most recent report, The Tour & Travel (Industry) Guide to Translating the Customer Journey, we detail the opportunities at every stage of the traveler’s journey for brands to create better customer experiences with the use of  AI-powered Machine Translation (MT).

Enjoy some key takeaways. 

Before the journey begins

The traveler customer journey begins in the awareness stage when they search vacation destinations, how to get there, and what to do when they arrive — or the targeted ad finds them first. If you’re a hotel, carrier, rental car agency, or even a restaurant or excursion provider, this is your opportunity to establish competitive differentiation and entice customers to select your offering by localizing your website and the customer reviews you feature on it into multiple languages. 

Think about it: Glowing customer reviews written in Japanese aren’t super helpful for anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese. The same is true for other marketing assets found across your website, such as landing pages and helpful resources.

But keeping this content up to date in a variety of languages can be costly and impractical. Traditionally, this work would entail hiring a cadre of human translators to provide high-quality translations. Not only is this a slow process, it doesn’t scale well. 

On the other hand, basic AI machine translations provide the speed and scalability needed to disseminate a rapid influx of messaging across multiple languages. But the translations using generic AI leaves something to be desired, often resulting in typos and mistranslated idioms. Poor translations can easily fail in providing the intended communication, and, in the worst cases, they can accidentally be offensive, leaving your brand memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Setbacks and delays

The day of the trip has arrived! In an ideal world, everything would go smoothly, from departure to check-in. But unanticipated bumps in the road are bound to arise. When this happens, it’s nice to be able to reach out to a friendly face, and intelligible voice, at the other end of customer support. 

If you’re, say, a Swiss traveler receiving important information about your flights to Mumbai, getting the notification in your native language is good, but an end-to-end, localized customer experience is better. In fact, 69% of global consumers believe it’s very or extremely important to deliver end-to-end localized experience.

AI-powered machine translations can help travel brands send out alerts and notifications in the customer’s language so they can easily read that email, text, or app message, and respond accordingly. The technology can also be leveraged with chatbots so that when a traveler needs to connect with customer support while in transit, they can simply communicate via a multilingual chat without the hurdles of language barriers.

Do more with digital displays 

Throughout their journey, travelers are likely going to encounter a digital display or two. At the airport, it could be the self-check-in kiosk. On a flight, it’s the digital display on their seatback containing information about entertainment, meals, WiFi, and even duty-free items. Even hotels have check-in kiosks where guests can check into the room without having to speak with a staff member. But language barriers and cultural preferences can introduce friction into digital display scenarios — from design layout for dates and currency to dietary requirements and service preferences — aggravating travelers. 

To ensure your customers have delightful, stress-free interactions with digital displays, localize the words, images, and layout so they land well in their native language. Of course, that’s easier said than done. After all, menus, in-flight entertainment, and the duty-free catalog can change frequently and need continuous localization to stay current. 

Good news: Enhanced AI machine-learning translations make updating content easy. Simply, the AI can detect the content changes from the original language, and ensures the right content is processed for translation with high accuracy so they are more than just grammatically correct; the translation is delivered with native fluency.

The home stretch

The traveler’s journey ends when they return home or their final destination, but the job of travel brands continues long after. 

Now it’s time to solicit feedback from customers that can be used to improve products, services, and processes. It’s common for a travel brand to send an email or text message asking customers to participate in a survey. But if the customer can’t easily interpret the questions, then they’ll probably just ignore the message and carry on with their day.

This is another instance where leveraging the capabilities of AI machine translations can help and encourage customers to fill out a survey. These translations can ensure that the requests and the surveys themselves are written in the customer's native language so they can easily provide useful feedback. It also translates the feedback itself — helping your customer support teams feed useful suggestions up through the business for continual improvement. 

Numerous touchpoints ripe for AI machine translations

From the initial marketing intended to attract customers to alerts sent during their trip to feedback surveys at the end of a vacation, the traveler’s journey contains numerous touchpoints where brands can leverage AI machine translations and localization to present content in multiple languages. 

Modern human-in-the-loop, AI-powered machine translations combine the best of both worlds. Human-in-the-loop refers to human editors who perform quality checks of machine translations so that they really capture the way people actually speak a given language. 

Human feedback allows software engineers to refine the AI so that it gets smarter and more fluent over time. Plus, the translation engine can be localized to reflect the cultural nuances of a particular market, and can be customized to fit the voice and terminology of a specific brand. 

The result: With human-in-the-loop AI-powered machine translations, travel brands can deliver marketing messaging and customer support in multiple languages, quickly, seamlessly, and at scale. 

To learn more about the issues facing global travelers, see how other travel brands have successfully achieved localization across multiple customer touchpoints, and discover how machine translation can be a key CX differentiator, check out the complete guide The Tour & Travel (Industry) Guide to Translating the Customer Journey.


 

About the Author

Jessica Florez is the Senior Content Strategist at Unbabel. She has 10 years of proven success in content marketing strategy and development to build business brands, support global sales teams, drive demand for products and services. She boasts a wide range of expertise in both B2B + B2C integrated marketing roles, for industries that include financial services, healthcare, tech (SaaS), and tour & travel. She earned her BA from the University of Central Florida, and her MFA from Hofstra University.

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