Travel companies should not rush into implementing AI, says Inspiretec chief

Travel companies should not rush into implementing artificial intelligence without first planning what they want to use it for, according to the chief executive of Inspiretec.

Speaking as part of a panel on business transformation at Abta’s Travel Convention in Bodrum, Simon Powell said businesses should not feel pressured into adopting artificial intelligence just because it is being talked about widely.

He said: “There are lots of people in the room who will think they have to implement AI immediately because there’s been a whole afternoon of sessions on it [at the conference].

“But don’t rush and take on something simply because you think you have to; I would urge people to take their time with it.

“When you see this technology being used in our sector and you’re going to embrace it, decide how it could benefit you, because it’s really important.”

He added: “I recall when the old Thomas Cook when bought an ecommerce platform called ATG on the back of a demonstration all about cheese, and our industry is much more complex than selling cheese.

“Just because you can sell cheese, it doesn’t mean you can sell travel.”

Powell advised companies to “keep it simple” when introducing the technology and setting small, achievable targets.

“You need to decide what you’re actually trying to achieve with the technology,” he added. “Break it up into bite sized chunks that can make a difference that you can deliver on.”

His views were back up by Joao Gonzaga, chief digital officer of Der Touristik Group, who advised companies to use data to help shape their strategy when implementing artificial intelligence.

“I recommend any company to evaluate what their strategy on data is – as an industry we are data rich but insight poor,” he said.

Nisha Botevyle, UK & Ireland country director at Sabre, agreed, saying: “We all have the data but we don’t always know what to do with it. You have to be able to translate it into something tangible.”

Botevyle went on to say the industry should look at how the beauty is improving its online customer experience and adopt similar practices.

“If you look at the transformative experience tactics [beauty retailer] Sephora has employed, they are the masters at making you buy something you didn’t know you needed,” she said.

“Using augmented reality and virtual reality, they have managed to replicate an in-store experience online and what they’re doing is creating emotional connections with their customers through that experience.”

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