OPINION: AI is the industry’s secret weapon. Here’s why

Human hand touching with robot

Data, as we currently know it, is a relatively new phenomenon.

While it’s always existed in some form or another – like the paper files of past years – the avalanche of digital data is unprecedented and has huge potential for all industries; 90 per cent of data that has ever existed was generated in the last two years. The greater the pool of data, the more potential it has for valuable business insights, particularly as personalisation is increasingly in the spotlight for travel.

But even the slickest data analysts can only do so much; this is where artificial intelligence (AI) technologies come in. AI can power through data quicker than a human ever can, all with added security. To maximise AI’s potential, however, it needs to be used ethically for long-term, sustainable use.
Many traveller’s most common online activities are key in building AI capabilities, including search, booking and shopping. All of this gains valuable insight into the travellers’ perspective – what they really want and what’s shifting the dial for them. The more data that is provided from search terms, the more specialised products can be developed that give travellers the personalised experience they’re looking for – with added security.

Taking the pain out of travel

It’s hard to enjoy a fragmented booking experience. From searching across different platforms to managing separate reservations, travel planning can come with extra headaches across various phases of the journey – inspiration, shopping, booking, pre-trip, in-trip and post-trip.

Travellers on average use 10-12 apps throughout the searching, booking and travelling parts of their trip. With only a small screen display through mobile, the priority for airlines and travel agents is to show only the most essential information, harnessing AI technology for efficiency. This can make the process easier on both ends.

More than just simplifying the user interface, AI is protecting travellers from fraud. Card-not-present fraud (online or over the phone) accounted for 84.9 per cent of the total $574 million in fraudulent transaction from Australian cards in 2019. AI is using supervised and unsupervised machine learning to counter illegitimate and fraudulent online transactions that constantly threaten the purchasing customer.

While there’s enthusiasm amongst travellers for the benefits AI brings, overall Australia’s level of AI maturity puts us somewhat on the back foot. There is no dedicated national AI strategy in Australia yet, despite a consolidated effort from businesses and government being needed to reap the greatest benefits of AI. Actually implementing AI can also be challenging due to a shortage in the necessary skills to implement and manage it; a third of Australian respondents in a recent Deloitte study indicated their AI skills gap as a ‘major’ or ‘extreme’ concern for their business.

To reap the reward of AI in travel, Australian organisations must be prepared to invest in emerging technology, refine their AI capabilities and develop the data and algorithms necessary to gain insights into product recommendation, as well as the human expertise to ask the right questions.

However, AI does not work in isolation. Other technologies like IoT, big data and cloud computing give businesses the chance to interact with a traveller throughout their journey, delivering relevant information such as real-time flight alerts. The quality of data is only limited to the ability to process it. This is where AI and cloud delivers.

The rise of personalisation

With the right tools in place, AI can empower travel companies’ ability to collect data that will ultimately optimise business results. AI pricing tools can act autonomously, adjusting prices of flights or hotel rooms depending on demand, weather and other factors.

When put into practice, this new technology has made significant progress in search technology. AI-driven platforms not only powers search results for OTAs, but also supports multiple channels, from mobile devices to social platforms and messaging platforms. The need to focus on speed, accuracy and relevance becomes more prominent as the number of searches for travel products grows.

Expanding the capabilities of the travel industry to service a more personalised booking experience for consumers will only be possible with the help of AI. As these technologies become more proficient and the industry more accepting, the entire outlook of travel will change.


Sabrina Ricci is head of account management for the Pacific region at Travelport.

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