The Robots Have Landed

Today, at ITB Berlin Convention, Sergi Mesquida, Head of Innovation and New Ventures, Hotelbeds Group, will look at the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the hotel distribution chain and how hotels and travel intermediaries need to prepare for the changes ahead. We asked him what the future holds for AI in this industry.

The digital revolution is already here. Websites have been rewritten with design thinking principles and looking for the best user experience possible. A lot of processes have now been embedded into smartphone applications that people use routinely. According to SKIFT and the Gartner Group the next revolution is ‘travel as a service’, where new companies will offer multi-modal journeys on a single ticket that will allow us to go door-to-door with the help of an intelligent assistant that can also handle delays, cancellations, and so on.

How will AI impact on the hotel distribution chain?

AI will impact in three main ways. With process automation, AI will ensure that a lot of back office administrative tasks are automated; cognitive insight will detect patterns in large volumes of data (such as detecting fraud in real time); and cognitive engagement with intelligent agents that offer 24/7 customer service in the customer’s natural language, such as Connie, the first IBM’s Watson-enabled robot concierge in the Hilton McLean in Virginia, USA, or Jibo, a speaker available in hotel rooms that can speak, learns to recognise faces and voices, asks questions and tells jokes or bedtime stories.

THE NEXT REVOLUTION IS ‘TRAVEL AS A SERVICE’

What will the effect be on the workforce if AI takes off and becomes mainstream?

Most of the AI initiatives that target workforce reduction per se do not succeed, due to the huge change management required. In most cases, machines are enhancing humans in order to allow the workforce to focus on higher value tasks. What we see is an impact on outsourced work being replaced by AI since they are, by definition, lower value tasks.


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN DISTRIBUTION. AN OXYMORON?

  • Category: eTravel World
  • Date: March 9, 2018
  • Time: 1.30pm – 2pm
  • Location: Hall 7.1c, eTravel Lab

Photos : Sergi Mesquida Head of Innovation and New Ventures of Hotelbeds Group