The maturing of cognitive technologies is opening up opportunities in travel, according to a trends report from Deloitte.
The report says the technology enables travel brands to change existing processes, streamline operations and create "smart workforces."
Cognitive technology is within the field of artificial technology (including machine learning, natural language processing and speech recognition) and is able to carry out jobs that up until now have been done by humans.
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The Deloitte 2019 U.S. Travel and Hospitality Outlook says that the mix of operations carried out by and between people combined with the unpredictability of traveler preferences and travel patterns presents opportunities for cognitive technology in terms of insight, automation and engagement.
The report points to airports as an example where cognitive insight can be employed to analyze data across various sources, help avoid delays and ultimately improve the passenger experience.
A number of airlines claim they are using AI to improve efficiency. Lufthansa Group chief digital officer Christian Langer said last September that AI could spell the end of the long-term crew and schedule planning that carriers need to do today.
And, during a session at CES 2019, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian also discussed the use of AI to increase efficiency as well as to take better care of customers during disruption.
The Deloitte report says: "Cognitive insights give operations teams new abilities to manage aircraft flows by harmonizing historical and real-time operations data with external data sources (i.e., weather) and predictive analytics, so that instead of reacting to a weather disruption, airlines can redeploy assets in real time, based on the growing likelihood of disruption.”
It goes on to highlight cognitive automation, which could drive greater efficiency across the industry in areas where “high-volume, repetitive tasks” are performed and which includes machine learning for “subtle, complex and often broken processes.”
The technology could be implemented in many areas across travel from processing passports and visas to using automation for better communications among hospitality staff.
In November last year, Carlson Wagonlit Travel said it was running a number of chatbot pilots including one for simple tasks and straightforward transactions.
A further trial in the field is being carried out by Amadeus - it has been testing machine learning for revenue management tasks and believes it can be widened out to website conversion.
A third area drawn out in the report is cognitive engagement for customer service whereby “intelligent agents” interact with customers, whether they be travelers, employees or suppliers, and provide a more personalized and cost-efficient service.
In travel, the jury is still out as to whether chatbots and digital assistants can help with more complex tasks.
So far, the technology is being used by airlines mostly for flight information and boarding passes, although carriers such as KLM offer ticket purchase. In hotels, chat assistants provide an additional link between guest and hotel services.
Deloitte sees potential in the use of chatbots to be widened out during 2019 to travel recruitment and training, saving time and effort across the screening, interviewing and education processes.