TTE2017: ‘Travel agents can use artificial intelligence for a headstart’

TTE2017: ‘Travel agents can use artificial intelligence for a headstart’

Artificial intelligence can be deployed by travel agents to kick-start them on the road to a sale, making them “more helpful”.

So says Terry Jones, of artificial intelligence engine Wayblazer, which works within the travel industry.

At Travel Technology Europe, he said modern day AI can be implemented to put agents taking calls from customers who have been shopping online on the right track.

By analysing natural language used during online searches, computers can find out what customers are shopping for and give agents in call centres a head-start. He said AI has the ability to quickly pull details on the destinations that the shopper has been looking for so agents – and customers – can “make better decisions faster”.

“The tools allow the agent to be much more likely to solve a query after talking to the customer, get answers quickly and look really smart,” said Jones.

“We all know how hard it is, an agent might not know Africa very well but know Asia.

“I would deploy that to empower my agents and make them more helpful.”

Online, he said, the technology can be used in travel in the form of natural language processing, using the example that it can pick out key words in search using natural language processing to deliver useable results, which he said was better than search, which “only gives clues”.

Its software also allows images, reviews and local amenities to appear in the most relevant order in a customer’s search results on travel agents’ websites too.

It can pull information from social feeds, reviews customers have left and use it to tailor make websites to give customers “more relevant results”, said Jones.

“Data is the new oil for artificial intelligence, it’s worthless until it’s refined,” he added. “But these are learning computers. We really are at the beginning of the AI journey.”

He compared search to asking the “smartest man in the world” for the best hotel in Hawai’i, and getting 42 million answers.

“You can’t ask the detailed questions on a search engine but we [Wayblazer] are offering that now.”

The use of AI, he added, is only useful when made simple and when it solves real problems. “People are sceptical,” he added.

But he said results are measurable, and that Wayblazer has seen a 17% increase in conversion rates with some of the firms it works with. User-rated experience has gone up 63% and search quality has gone up 81%m, he added.

“Let’s not recreate what we already have, but re-imagine what the future can be with AI.”

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