Machine learning, AI will revolutionize travel business

Technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to transform the GCC’s hospitality and travel sectors, but regional operators must strike the right balance between high-tech and high-touch. This was the message from industry experts participating in Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, who told attendees that – if implemented effectively – the latest innovations will help them to ‘sell travel’ more effectively in the future.

Technologies such as virtual reality (VR), robotic assistants and AI chatbots are already facilitating smoother customer experiences across the industry. Global sales of public relations robots are forecasted to hit 66,000 units by 2020, and beacon technology applications in the hospitality sector are projected to be worth USD 72 billion by 2026. Charbel Sarkis, Regional Head of Travel and Hospitality, Retail and eCommerce – MENA, Google, said: “Machine learning is not something that’s going to happen in the future. It’s happening right now.

“The assistance this type of technology provides is very smart. By predicting our behavior, it can personalize the entire travel experience. If I’m a first-time visitor to Rome, for example, I have different expectations than someone who has been five times before and is returning on business. Machine learning can help to customize the offerings we receive.” Innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) could also lead to increased back-of-house efficiency for the sectors such as aviation. Implementing the technology to improve unplanned maintenance costs by just one percent, for instance, could generate industry-wide savings of up to USD 250 million per annum, according to research conducted by Colliers on behalf of ATM. Matt Raos, Senior Vice President Business to Business – Corporate and Leisure, Emirates, called for GCC travel operators to enhance the end-to-end customer journey by implementing technologies collaboratively.

“The challenge we have is that we’re part of a broader ecosystem,” Raos said. “There is no one player that can do everything for everyone on their own. We need to acknowledge that we’re participants in this ecosystem and find ways to collaborate so that we can deliver the things that customers want. “It’s about making the whole industry work together and proceed at a pace that’s not set by the slowest participant in the chain.”

Machine learning and AI-driven innovations such as robot concierges and butlers, as well as facial recognition and room customization technology, are becoming increasingly popular in the international hotel sector. However, some GCC brands have been reluctant to implement innovations due to high customer expectations that have been driven by the region’s highly trained hospitality professionals.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said, “Average IT investment by hotels currently stands at four percent, yet almost three-quarters of all manual activities in the hospitality industry have the potential to be automated. There is clearly huge potential for our industry to benefit from technology implementation.

“Nevertheless, the GCC’s hospitality and travel sectors have built up a global reputation based on high-quality, face-to-face service, so it is vital that the region strikes the right balance between high-tech and high-touch. In the longer term, companies operating in the Middle East’s tourism segment are likely to remain committed to human interaction, but with the assistance of technology.”

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IETF to showcase futuristic events technologies for India

Latest technologies are set to outline the way forward in the planning and execution of events. The Indian events industry is equally impacted by various advancements that are surfacing with new technology, new equipment, new ideas and methods of executing events. The industry will surpass the Rs. 10,000 crore mark by 2021. Set to take place on May 24, Shangri La’s, New Delhi, India Event Technology Forum (IETF) will be the ultimate platform for event organizers to discover the latest technologies in AR, VR, Projection Mapping, Networking, Event apps, Ticketing, Registrations, etc. IETF will also give an exclusive opportunity to launch new products and innovations to technology providers. The event will focus on the theme, “Building a roadmap towards enhancing events and customers experience with technology.” Officials from corporate event teams, operations, wedding organizers, conference and exhibition organizers, ad agencies, event management companies are expected to attend the event.

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Google partners with UNWTO on digital skills development

Fostering knowledge, education, and growth in tourism is at the center of a partnership announced today between Google and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Google will support UNWTO members in addressing the new digital trends and transformation challenges faced by tourism and needed by the sector, to fully harness its development potential and contribution to sustainability.

Digital skills are crucial for competitiveness in tourism, a sector characterized by technological change and the generation of new business models.

“This agreement with Google coincides with UNWTO’s special focus on education, skills development, and jobs, the connecting thread of all our actions this year”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “Google is an affiliate member of UNWTO and this partnership proves the importance of public-private collaboration to advance tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development”, he added.

Lutz Behrendt, Travel Industry Leader, from Google said, “More than half of tourism revenue in the EU is now researched or booked online. By equipping tourism ministries with the skills, tools, and programmes they need to market and protect themselves online, we hope it will increase opportunities for jobs and revenue across the industry. Following a similar tourism programme we ran in Greece, 68% of participating businesses confirmed they saw concrete business results following our training, such as more visitors to their website or physical business.”

A High-Level Dialogue on Digital Skills in Tourism set the backdrop for announcing the agreement. Organized by UNWTO with the support of Google during ITB Berlin, the world`s leading travel trade fair, the event underscored that digital skills development remain a major priority for destinations around Europe.

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