Travel brands have been using chatbots for some time, on
their websites and through Facebook Messenger, to engage customers with a
Now Emirates Vacations, the tour-operating arm of Emirates
Airlines, is using a new strategy: putting an artificial intelligence-powered
bot right in its online ads.
In a 30-day test at the end of 2017, Emirates Vacations tracked an 87% increase in engagement from consumers that saw the chatbot ad
versus those that saw a standard display ad.
WayBlazer’s travel recommendation
platform powers the ads. Consumers click in the ad to ask
trip-planning questions, and the bot responds with recommendations of
destinations and packages offered by Emirates Vacations.
“Anything that removes the friction, we want to try,” says Ailsa
Pollard, senior vice president of Emirates Vacations. “This is allowing them [consumers] to
remain where they are … putting it as close to them as possible, with limited
The bot analyzes the user’s intent based on the key terms in
their query as well as the context of the page where it appears.
“For example if the ad is being displayed on an article from
Condé Nast Traveler that’s talking
about the Maldives, then the ad can understand that and prompt the user to
consider some vacations in the Maldives for example,” says WayBlazer CEO Noreen
“For Emirates … they view this as an extension of their site
and to enable users to search for their products without having to go to their
site but while they are researching travel and reading articles about travel.”
Spreading the word
In addition to destinations and packages, the bot suggests hotels, points of interest and third-party reviews. Consumers can click through
the ad to go directly to booking on the Emirates Vacations website.
The ads will run in digital publications targeting travelers
in nearly a dozen markets including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Seattle, and additional markets will be added in the future.
Pollard says Emirates Vacations will continue to tweak the ads with new
content to better understand what is most effective for consumers.
“It is an ongoing test and learn. We see it as a constant
evolution,” she says.
“The richness of the data searches that we get and the
conversations [are used] to constantly improve the chatbot and its responses.”
Pollard says future analytics will show whether
consumers who interact with the bot have “higher loyalty value and higher customer
lifetime value with us. All of those things take months and years to build up
so right now it’s gathering the data.”