Artificial Intelligence in Business Travel

January 19, 2018 Zach Garrett

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is forever changing the travel industry. AI has started to gather information on travelers by tracking different consumer responses like purchasing decisions, behaviors towards shopping during different times of year, what restaurants they tend to eat at, how the weather impacts their buying behaviors and where their favorite places to travel are. While big data analytics look at past events, AI enhances predictive analytics by providing the speed, scale and applications required to deal with the amount of data available. It allows companies to display relevant and meaningful offers for travelers online. AI can predict which ad space is most likely to generate conversations. In the past, companies used cookies to display relevant ads, but with AI, companies can have ultra-personalized offers and target specific customer needs and preferences. Technology has taken the travel industry to a new era that is only beginning. Travel industry consumers are already assisted by chatbots, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, web chats and many other forms of AI in their travels.

Airlines using Artificial Intelligence
Some airlines have started to let travelers request boarding passes within Facebook Messenger. As boarding and ticketing becomes more technological and automated, so do the security processes. Security and re-entry into the United States is becoming increasingly automated. For instance, travelers returning to/entering the United States through major airports can use a machine called Automated Passport Control. This enables a more efficient entry process. Additionally, full body scanners were established a few years ago and are becoming prevalent in nearly all airports. The scanners provide a more thorough search and contribute to a traveler’s peace of mind.

Hotels using Artificial Intelligence
Hotels have been testing general-use assistants while also designing their own technological advances. These chatbots and other virtual assistants are built to help answer general questions so that suggestions can be made. By using AI for simple requests, human contacts are available for the more complex issues. These advancements in AI have been used as brand differentiation and ways to improve guest satisfaction. In a world controlled by technology, new platforms can set one business apart from another. Many travel experts believe that AI crisis managers will eventually be able to assist travelers. They will be able to rebook their travel plans and resolve conflicts based on issues like weather disruptions.

At the forefront of AI
I am not saying we predicted it, but back in 2010, Mike Kubasik, Executive Vice President and CIO of Travel and Transport, sat down for an interview with Chuck Koster, Marketing Specialist, regarding AI. In the interview, it was predicted AI would take the travel industry by storm. Now here we are, on the verge of an AI takeover. According to Mike Kubasik, CIO, “Travel and Transport is at the forefront of AI.” He believes AI will be able to predict items before they happen, such as preordering food for a traveler at an airport prior to a connecting flight or telling a traveler the most frequently booked hotel or room by their company colleagues for a certain destination. He shared Travel and Transport is working towards implementing a SMS/text chat function, with future AI implications, allowing users to contact travel counselors via all forms of chat including SMS/text.

Security and AI
You may be asking why Travel and Transport has been cautious to bring AI to the market. According to Kubasik, “Security is so paramount. It is critical that companies evaluate and ensure that security standards are met when using new technology.” He further explains, “We want to assure our travelers that their personal information is safe.” In an ever-changing technological environment, it becomes easier to intercept personal information.

Data Visualization Intelligence
DVI, a technology start-up specializing in the science of data visualization and analytics incubated by Travel and Transport, also takes advantage of artificial intelligence by bringing together multiple data sources to provide insights that are not possible with normal human analysis. Steve Harter, DVI’s CTO, chimed in explaining, “There is just too much data available in the industry to use conventional techniques. The use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) is required to make insights available at the speed required in the modern business culture.”

One DVI Fortune 500 client explains how the results have been remarkable: “DVI Vantage Point lets us see connections and insights that we could never get to before—not just leakage, but the potential savings. The data ties to our agency’s back office and expense data, which has been nearly impossible to gauge in the past. In addition to the analysis, [the data] is reflected in a form that makes it easy to communicate to senior management. It’s the nirvana that we have been seeking as we identify more areas of savings in our mature travel program.” Harter added, “We would not be able to accomplish this this without the use of AI and ML”

The unpredictability of the travel industry makes it challenging to have fully operational AI. However, AI scientists have accepted the challenge and are working diligently to come up with new inventions and overcome the unpredictable. 

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