The future of AI in business travel
Typical adoption in the travel industry
What is AI?
Typical adoption in the travel industry
Beyond the horizon
How CWT is using AI
AI and your traveler
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the world, from our homes to our workplaces.
Globally, people are inviting AI into their lives, with China leading global adoption. It will be home to 85.5 million smart speaker users in 2019, eclipsing the United States' 74.2 million users and the UK's 12.6 million.
Though some innovations enabled by AI, like driverless cars and drones will not be part of our everyday lives for years to come, we are enjoying the benefits of AI in more ways than we might realize. In business, areas such as HR and customer service are already using AI-enabled technologies widely.
However, there is a lot of noise out there. There are different promises about how AI will affect various industries, and business leaders say they see a gap between AI’s potential and the tangible impact it could have on their business.
We are here to demystify AI in the travel industry
In this insight, you will uncover:
What AI is and how can it be used
Typical adoption of AI in the travel industry
How AI could transform business travel
Our AI applications and what they mean for you
It is a term we hear constantly, particularly when we talk about innovation and how our world will change
But what does it really mean?
Artificial Intelligence describes a computer’s ability to complete tasks using intelligence normally associated with a human. Its goal is to alter how we integrate information, analyze data and use insights in decision-making. When English computer pioneer Alan Turing developed his test for AI in the 1950s, he was looking for a machine that behaved in a way that was indistinguishable from a human.
However some applications commonly described as AI, such as technologies that replicate tedious tasks at hyper-speed, do not necessarily reflect “intelligence” as we think of it today. The three main areas talked about as “AI”; robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) all display human characteristics. The difference is in the level of sophistication they are bringing to the task.
Let’s start with three key terms used by experts: Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA is a process-driven technology. It is the automation of simple tasks across applications normally carried out by humans. Because processes repeated by a machine are faster and more accurate, RPA can be used to automate tedious and repetitive tasks, augmenting the workflow of humans.
Example: In a booking form. RPA copies the value in field A and pastes it into field B, then saves it. RPA is used to conduct repetitive tasks in the auto industry and in factories around the world.
Machine Learning (ML)
ML improves how processes occur by referencing previous interactions. When there is a decision that needs to be made, ML makes it based on recognizing past patterns, enhancing how the process occurs over time.
Example: In a booking interaction. ML recognizes that the past 10 times you booked travel, you booked with airline X. On the 11th booking, even if you have not entered airline X as your preference, ML will infer you will most likely be booking with them.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI describes a computer’s ability to apply intelligence to a task to ensure the best outcome. It is able to learn and adjust its processes to improve outcomes over time.
AI redefines and re-aligns processes by developing an understanding of the business at-hand. It is able to apply this understanding to a particular process to make decisions, even if it has not undertaken a specific process before.
Example: Applied to facial recognition used to verify a person’s identity on a passport. AI enables facial recognition systems to compare an individual’s features to a vast database of facial images, improving its success rate at understanding and identifying faces over time.
When we talk about AI in the travel industry, the term “AI” refers to one or a combination of all three of these applications (RPA, ML and AI), replacing traditionally human tasks to the point that we are unaware whether it is a human or computer conducting it.
Data: the fuel that powers AI
Good quality data, and a lot of data, is critical to the success of AI. The more accurate data you have, the better chance an AI engine will be able to identify the multiple variables at play, to learn about them, improve on them, and achieve success.
AI is embedded in our everyday lives
If you’ve ever asked a smart speaker a question, you’ve interacted with AI.
Smart speakers and voice-activated assistants found in smart phones are all enabled by AI technology.
It’s easy to associate AI with the things that get the most media attention, such as self-driving cars, and forget that many of the technologies we engage with daily are also powered by AI.
Netflix: As you watch your favorite show on Netflix, the platform is gathering data and recognizing your behavior patterns so it can offer you personalized content – giving you a better user experience.
Banks assess and reduce fraud by recognizing your spending patterns. Insurance companies use AI to analyze your profile to decide not only how risky you are as a client, but how much you might be willing to pay for insurance in the first place.
Frontrunners are likely to benefit disproportionately: Early AI adopters could potentially double their cash flow by 2030*
Every industry is currently investigating how AI could deliver tangible benefits to their business.
AI has the potential to enable better experiences, security, efficiency and wellbeing across diverse sectors including finance, health care, and travel.
While the number of organizations using AI is still low, some future modeling suggests that 70% of companies might have adopted at least one type of AI technology by 2030.
We are already learning the benefits AI-enabled technologies can bring. Take productivity as an example. A recent study found that productivity increases from AI-led automation could add up to 1.4% to China’s annual GDP growth.**
We also know that the travel industry, one of the top 10 industries working with big data, has some of the best opportunities to harness AI. CWT alone processes 330 million transactions per year.
With access to some of the most detailed and extensive data sets about travelers, the business travel sector is sitting on a treasure chest of opportunity, just waiting to be unlocked. The key? Understanding which business areas will get tangible benefits from using AI.
Here, we look at some examples of how AI-enabled technology is being used in the travel sector
*Source: Notes from the AI frontier: Modeling the impact of AI on the world economy
**Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers, “Sizing the Prize: What’s the Real Value of AI for Your Business and How Can You Capitalise?” 2017.
How AI is enabling new technology in travel
1. Safety and security: VIP pass based on facial recognition
What: Facial recognition software to speed up airport check-ins
Benefits: Improved safety and security, increased efficiency
Using information provided through a partnership with US Customs and Border Protection, US airline operator JetBlue is using facial recognition software that can verify travelers with a “quick photo capture”, allowing them to board faster using a biometric self-boarding gate. Photos are securely transmitted to the Customs database, and JetBlue does not have direct access to the photos, and does not store them.
Would you board a self-driving plane?
2. Customer service: Robot concierge deployed at a Hilton hotel
What: Customer service robot used at Hilton McLean, Virginia, US
Benefits: Improved customer experience, increased efficiency
A robot concierge named Connie, developed by IBM, has been deployed at Hilton McLean in the United States. It has been introduced in a pilot program designed to help guests figure out what to visit, where to dine, and how to find things they need, improving efficiency and providing a unique customer experience.
How will AI impact the future of business travel?
Some of the best applications of AI technology come from the start up community: the people at the forefront of exploring how AI can disrupt and improve experiences. That is why CWT’s innovation program works with startups to investigate the best applications of AI and other new technologies.
Here, Stuart Whatley from our product and technology team shares his perspective about where AI could take us:
Imagine a world where your technology books an end-to-end business trip the second you click “attending” on a meeting invite.
Imagine a world where you glide straight from your car to the plane.
Imagine a world where expenses become “a thing of the past”.
Click play to discover more.
AI allows us to deal with the ordinary at scale, so people can focus on the extraordinary
– Daren Pickering, CWT Innovation and Technology
With the vast data and complex processes we manage for our clients, we understand the value and opportunity that AI brings. We have developed technology that delivers tangible results for our clients’ day-to-day travel processes, delivering duty of care, consistency and productivity.
Here’s how we are already using AI.
Why: Traveling employees want instant, individualized travel support in their pocket when they are on the road
What: Intelligent chat bot that harnesses human insight to support your travelers
50% of travelers say they would rather use a messaging service* than talk on the phone while traveling – a figure that jumps up to 67% for millennials, the biggest emerging business travel demographic**. This is why we developed a messaging app that improves efficiency when communicating about travel. Travelers access myCWT messaging via the mobile app, where CWT’s hybrid travel counselor, Reece, responds immediately. Reece answers queries quickly because she already knows your employee’s name and travel information from the app. More complicated questions are seamlessly transitioned to a live travel counselor.
AI adoption: You may have experienced similar AI messaging. Have you opened a chat box when contacting your bank or talking to a retailer online?
*Source: Nuance 2018 US Customer Service Messaging trends report
**Source: Harris Poll and Interactions survey, 2018
Why: Travel managers need to be able to access ever-more complex data with ease
What: Simple search bar to search vast data, visualize it, and build reports
As the amount and complexity of data travel managers work with increases, we saw an opportunity to give them familiar platform that makes searching data questions easier. AnswerIQ improves the productivity and expertise of your travel management team by letting them quickly visualize data and build reports using a tool that learns and improves its search capabilities, getting smarter and more personalized through use.
AI adoption: The search engine you use daily learns more about you over time to offer relevant results. We are bringing you that same experience of intuitive and quick results.
Exploring new possibilities
There are a vast number of start-ups working on new applications of AI. That is why we partnered with Plug & Play, a Silicon Valley-based start-up incubator. Through our work together, we are able to identify some of the best innovations applicable to the travel industry.
Need: Duty of care
What: A text messaging service for bookings missing a hotel. It alerts travelers about trips with no hotel booked and proactively offers hotel options that keep travelers in-channel, even with last-minute bookings.
What: AI-enabled technology that predicts peaks and troughs in travel volume caused by delays and cancelled flights. This technology could predict periods when more travel counselors will be needed to support your traveling employees.
Need: Productivity, employee experience
What: Technology that analyses data from your phone and travel records to provide insights on the best time for you to fly. It could look at your sleep patterns on past business trips to define the perfect time for you to fly to be most productive.
What AI technologies interest you most?
- AI for wellness
- AI for productivity
- AI for cost management
- Other, join the conversation on twitter
Connect with our innovation team
Look out for our next Innovations LAB: two-day events that examine the latest innovations with maximum potential for your travel program. Our technology development leaders guide you through the latest insights in travel innovation and introduce you to world leading tech start-ups so you can experience new technology, first-hand.
September 11 -12, 2019, Silicon Valley, CA
September 10, 2019, Silicon Valley, CA
November 13 -14, 2019, Silicon Valley, CA
October 1 -2, 2019, in Paris, FR
Sign up today
Empower your employee, power your business
“My focus is making sure we can define the optimal solution between three things: the cost of travel that needs to be managed, performance – what you expect to achieve by sending someone on a business trip, and the experience your people have when they are traveling.
There’s no longer a binary effect between cost and service. It no longer has to be the case that effectively managing your program needs to result in a worse service for your travelers.”
- Niklas Andreen, Chief Traveler Experience Officer, CWT
Imagine a world without computers. It will soon be impossible to imagine business without AI technology.
With our deep travel expertise, we are applying AI technologies to business travel processes that will make the biggest impact to our client’s bottom line. We are investigating how AI-enabled technologies can increase cost savings, security, efficiency, and the experience of your teams and your traveling employees.
Empowered people power business
We believe in B2B4E, our brand promise that puts your people at the core of everything we do.
That is why we are approaching the enormous potential for AI to improve business travel by understanding you and your traveling employees.
The best applications of AI augment human expertise and experience, opening up time and space for us to deliver an even better service.
We see the greatest opportunities coming from applying AI to targeted business processes, from increasing the efficiency of booking trips, to improving the experience and productivity of your traveling employees by giving them individualized travel.
AI will transform the end-to-end experience of travel, and we are exploring how it can empower your people, and power your business.
To learn more, contact your CWT representative.
How could AI adoption affect your bottom line?
Look out for information about our ACTE event exploring how AI can boost business efficiency and deliver a better experience for your travelers.