Tui believes its own agents can be the best source of ideas for digital innovations that could be developed by a new technology division set up by the operator.
The Tui Travel Lab, which was officially launched last week, has already created a mock-up of new customer price alerts, as suggested by Julian Hensey, a Thomson agent in Bristol.
He was among 30 members of staff from across the organisation due to attend a ‘hack day’ at Tui’s Luton headquarters this week to discuss ideas and future priorities.
Jeremy Osborne, Tui director of strategic innovation and business change, said agent input would be essential because they deal with customers all the time.
“Our frontline staff often do have the best ideas,” he said. “[Until now] the problem has not been a lack of ideas, but persuading people there is a mechanism to bring them to life.”
Tui is creating a crowdsourcing platform on its intranet on which agents will be able to contribute ideas for the Travel Lab.
Osborne said Tui was also likely to appoint ‘digital champions’ within each area of its business to liaise with the lab and sit on a committee, which he will chair.
“We need to prove that we can deliver on the ideas we are working on. We also need to prove to the business we can choose the best ones and deliver them to the market quickly,” he said.
Osborne said the Travel Lab team would strive to operate in a similar way to technology pioneers such as Google by quickly developing basic versions of the ideas to prove they worked.
Since it was set up as a pilot project last October, the lab has built an Apple TV app and developed natural-language search technology that will be launched to 1,000 customers in April.
“We are not trying to spec a Rolls-Royce,” he said. “Any development has got to be grounded in a customer opportunity; it’s got to add value for the customer.”
The launch of the lab last week also saw 2,000 Tui staff attend talks by guest speakers from Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Twitter and LinkedIn during Tui’s first Think Digital week.
Tui is collaborating with IBM, Samsung, Fujitsu and similar labs operated by Tesco and John Lewis.
Chris Bayley, Tui Group chief information officer, said: “All our customers are digitally connected, digitally aware and digitally expectant.
“At the core of our business is our vertically integrated model. That gives us a unique opportunity to engage with our customers at every stage of their journey.”