With emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, there is often such hype that a reality check is often a refreshing break.
For Sabre's chief scientist and senior vice president of research, Ben Vinod, AI is at its very early stages and unlikely to be able to do everything a “travel concierge” can do. Well, not in his lifetime anyway, he says.
The travel industry needs to be thinking about the various applications for AI from intelligent retailing to productivity gains.
Echoing what many experts say about new technologies, Vinod says companies need to look at business needs.
“It’s about identifying the problems and determining whether it is something to be pursued," he says.
He adds that while travel could be seen to be lagging when it comes to AI, it’s probably explained by the high-touch, complex nature of the industry.
Within Sabre, a special AI group has been created to share knowledge around the subject, but Vinod says he would like to see the whole company thinking about it and how it might be used.
Speaking at a session at last week’s Business Travel Show in London, he says Sabre is working on a number of interesting projects involving AI.
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One example is context for travel-based segmentation using AI. The project uses data such as length of stay, days of travel and number in party, as well as shopping and industry data, to define more closely what a traveler might want.
“The purpose of the trip has implications for what your preferences are and dictate what you want to see.”
While up until now, customers see flight classes and related fare rules, but the hope going forward is that AI will help fine tune offers to better match what consumers want.
Vinod says it’s a “predictive model,” where having the customer history might not be as important as the context.
A further area Sabre is working on is around normalization or standardization of hotel and resort information. The company will launch a product in the next few months, according to Vinod.