18 FEBRUARY 2019
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With a growing number of stories on the uses of high-tech in our industry emerging each week, it’s a good time to catch up as the Travel Technology Europe (TTE) expo arrives in London this Wednesday and Thursday, 20-21 February, at Olympia. It runs in parallel with the Business Travel Show.
An eve-of-show poll is emphatic that tech in general and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular are set to dominate in 2019, with increasing investment in chatbots, automated content and machine learning. If some or all of those terms, and some which follow, are unfamiliar, you’ll be aware of the problem.
The TTE survey found AI is the technology travel industry professionals are “most excited about” going into 2019, thanks to the opportunity it offers for more interaction and personalised solutions. When asked which specific AI technologies travel companies were planning to invest in over the next 12 month, chatbots topped the list at 36%, followed closely by automated content (35%), machine learning (32%) and voice recognition (29%).
TTE advisory board member Paul Stephen, CEO at digital marketing specialist Sagittarius, said the results reflect the growing recognition that personalisation and tailored experiences are key within travel. “Customers will not tolerate generic, irrelevant marketing,” he said.
“Through the use of chat, voice and machine learning, a traveller can look forward to a more interactive and relevant conversation with travel brands that have recognised that, to be successful, they need to embrace these emerging technologies now.”
TTE show director David Chapple noted that while technology presented many opportunities for travel brands when it comes to matching consumers to their perfect product, it is not without its challenges. “Behind the scenes, travel professionals are still struggling to find the right systems to help them to fulfil customer desires, with booking / reservation systems and payment systems cited as their most significant technological ‘challenges’,” he points out.
On the bright side, he says, both the opportunities and challenges presented by technology have prompted travel companies to increase their tech budgets, with the survey showing 59% are planning to spend more in 2019 than they did in 2018 – 34% of respondents indicated they were willing to spend in excess of £100,000, compared to 18% in 2018.
“Talk to anyone in travel marketing and they’ll all agree their job these days is to deliver travellers with ‘experiences’ – the creation of which relies very much on understanding customers better so that they can be offered tailored, relevant product,” Chapple says.
At least the trend, he adds, is in the right direction: “It’s really exciting to see travel brands embracing AI technology and putting plans in place to implement it within their organisations, as opposed to viewing chatbots or virtual assistants for example as passing fads”.
TTE features a number of sessions on AI, including ‘The Art of the possible – innovation in AI and Machine Learning’, with panellists from ETOA, Inspiretec, Musement and Sonata Software discussing the ways in which these technologies are being deployed in the travel industry at the moment.
The heavyweight nature of the show is emphasised by the list of more than 80 speakers, including experts from Microsoft and Google Assistant delivering keynote sessions. Microsoft’s Andrew Baxter will be sharing insights on how to ‘do technology like a boss’, while Nicolas Dussart from Google Assistant will discuss the use of ‘conversational UI in the traveller’s journey’. The third keynote session, ‘Women in tech: it’s about time’, will be delivered by Sharon Moore MBE, IBM's chief technology officer for travel and transportation.
Following attendee feedback, the keynote sessions have been staggered so visitors can attend them all if they wish, while expert speakers in other meetings will address the hottest topics affecting the travel technology sector today, the Internet of Things, data and personalisation to NDC, cyber security, voice technology and more.
The conference programme also includes a series of ‘Tech Huddles’ on specific subjects hosted by speakers from companies including AirGateway, Unbabel, Stackla and Crowdriff for up to a dozen attendees each to share ideas and learn from the experiences of other users and suppliers.
The full conference agenda is at www.traveltechnologyeurope.com/whats-on/conference-programme
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