TRAVOLUTION EUROPEAN SUMMIT don last week to discuss trends in the digital travel market. Ian Taylor and Lee Hayhurst report

Tech experts tip AI to lift travel’s customer service

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to transform travel search and customer service, say travel technology leaders, but “is not the answer to everything”.

IBM’s technical leader for

travel and transportation, Sharon Moore, told the Travolution European Summit in London: “We have a huge AI capability at IBM. We think of AI as technology that can understand what we’re saying and technology that can learn. “Machine learning is about

looking for patterns in data. It is not a new concept – it’s been around for years, but processing power is better these days.” However, she insisted: “Let’s not think of AI as the answer to everything. It can simplify a lot of routine tasks.” Sara Pavan, head of the

innovation partnership programme at Amadeus Explore, part of travel technology group

‘AI can simplify a lot of routine tasks but let’s not think of it as the answer to everything”

Amadeus, said: “We have 20 AI projects in development or production. Many are internal, others are with third parties. “The key areas we focus on are

linked to the touchpoints of the customer journey. We are also working with the booking part [of the process], pricing offerings in a dynamic way using AI to ensure brands can optimise revenue, going way beyond the traditional [offer] to take account of customer preference and real-time behaviour.” Pavan added: “Data is essential

for any company wanting to do AI, and the right type of data – you might have a lot, but it is not good

IBM’S MOORE: ‘Processing power is better these days’

enough. You have to consolidate it in a structured manner.” Hugo Kimber, executive chairman of Malvern Group, said: “We [in travel] got it wrong in a lot of ways. We focused on the booking process and are poor on inspiration and planning – on the wider surrounding to the trip. We’re interested in what we’re trying to sell, not in what the consumer is asking for.” He said: “AI provides an opportunity to refine tagging and really service customers. People ask similar questions over and over and AI can recognise patterns.” Asked whether AI would replace jobs in the sector, Kimber said: “No, it will free our teams to deal with people.”

HomeAway exploits data to drive conversions

Travel companies “know nothing but learn everything” in the world of personalisation, the European head of HomeAway told the Travolution Summit. Christophe Pingard said this ethos had seen

the holiday rental website become customer-centric. He told delegates the Expedia-owned site had “democratised” its data so everyone in the business could participate in its test-and-learn culture. “You learn things and do not rely on opinions,” he said, adding that this approach was enabling HomeAway to tell its property owners exactly what works to drive conversions. “We did not know that, we learnt it,” he said. “It’s a permanent flywheel. You need to give employees in

your company access to this data, otherwise you are never going to be competitive. We believe we are going to personalise more and more, and we have to accept we do not know everything.” Ross Matthews, chief marketing officer at deals and

holiday comparison site, said: “There are lots of people using data in a really personalised way for retargeting and acquisition. “We have taken the audience-powered route to

answer the question, for when someone is searching on our site, of how do we present a slightly difference experience. That strategy is still developing. “Being audience-powered is proof of our putting the customer at the heart of that.”

PINGARD: ‘To be competitive, give employees access to data’

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Traveltek targets Italy and Germany for cruise systems

Travel technology systems supplier Traveltek is eyeing growth in Europe. The company sees opportunities in Italy and Germany, particularly for its cruise selling systems. Cressida Sergeant, Traveltek’s

recently appointed senior vice‑president for the EMEA region, told the Travolution Summit the firm had been in talks with airlines interested in using its packaging technology to increase sales of ancillaries. Sergeant said that while

Traveltek had traditionally been UK‑centric, it had achieved growth in the Middle East, Apac region and the Americas. However, she said Germany

and Italy were being eyed for growth in Europe as they remain “very traditional markets”. “We believe cruise is a good fit

for our product there,” she said. Sergeant added Traveltek

believes its B2B technology can help agents and operators compete as it looks to match the quality and usability of consumer‑grade B2C systems.

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