Thomson is to trial a new “virtual agent” after research revealed that 77% of people thought such technology would be useful when searching for a holiday.
Customers will be able to interact via a simple chat interface to get responses in real-time, resulting in suggestions of holiday destinations or experiences.
The service is being beta tested and will continue to be developed using machine learning and customer feedback to improve responses.
The travel search tool experiment is part of a wider strategy that will see the Tui UK & Ireland operator phase out brochures by 2020.
The tool enables a simple and personalised search using natural language, claimed to be a different way of searching for holidays compared to the usual checkbox and filtering of e-commerce sites.
The conversation tool, with added “personality,” is designed to make the search experience more enjoyable and easier for customers.
The IBM Watson technology behind it is designed to learn from every customer interaction, to become smarter over time and provide ever more accurate responses.
Tui UK & Ireland strategic innovation director Jeremy Osborne, Director of Strategic Innovation, TUI UK&I said: “We wanted to test whether a conversational search experience would resonate with our customers as a new, fun and easy way to find their ideal holiday.
“By leveraging IBM’s Watson technology, we are raising the bar in the travel industry,” he claimed.
“We are delivering an interactive service experiment to our customers that offers holiday inspiration ideas and personalised search results based on customer interests.
“We are excited to learn how customers react and interact, what they get out of the experience and how it compares to the current way of shortlisting holiday options.”