Using the force of AI – artificial intelligence has come a long way since R2-D2 and the Terminator; travel companies now routinely use it, but now the next level of travel AI has arrived

Mathematician Alan Turing, shortly after breaking the Nazi encryption machine Enigma, asked the question “can machines think?” That was back in 1950 and at its most basic, artificial intelligence is the branch of science that seeks to give a positive response to Turing’s question. Machines have been made to think and the human race continues to explore ways to make machines more responsive to our ability to think and act rationally.

Science fiction would have us believe that by now we should all have our own personal robots helping around the house, taking our jobs, running countries and even working as assassins. R2-D2 is probably one of the most famous science fiction robots, which managed to combine humour and charm with its own brand of intelligence to solve problems and saved a galaxy far, far away.

Real life robots may not be quite so endearing as nowadays we are more likely to interact with robots while using website chatbots, virtual assistants and telephone surveys. Many of us ‘talk’ to robots on a daily basis and yet we don’t tend to bat an eyelid, or perhaps even realise we are not dealing with a human!

One of the most useful aspects of artificial intelligence is to analyse massive amounts of data and pull out options that match our criteria. Airlines and hotels routinely use the analytical power of AI to manage dynamic pricing. Global distribution systems (GDS) enable all of us to view travel information, select options and book without the need for human intervention. According to TripAdvisor, 45% of us use smartphones to plan our travel. Apparently 36% of users are willing to pay more if there is an easy and interactive way of booking and a massive 80% of us prefer self-service to find the information we seek.

Sabre Corporation, a software and technology company for integrated travel solutions, have announced they are working with Google to develop an AI-driven technology platform. The technology, known as Sabre Travel AI, works with Google’s AI technology and machine-learning capabilities that can help customers find relevant and personalised content. The system will help to analyse and predict consumer behaviour, using real-time shopping information and sophisticated travel-specific business insights.

The idea is to help airlines, agencies, corporations, hoteliers and other travel partners to provide the right offer at the right time and thereby help them deliver tailored personalised options to travellers. This is in turn is aimed to help drive higher conversion rates and build loyalty.

The expectation is that customers will be able to integrate their own proprietary solutions with the Sabre Travel AI. The system will provide access to cloud-based technology tools which will work with third party databases to learn and develop models through machine-learning capabilities to understand performance and provide new solutions. This together with Sabre’s own travel domain knowledge will help accelerate Sabre’s digital transformation by developing critical products and solutions based on travellers’ current and future needs.

Through its partnership with Google, Sabre plans to continue to innovate using the new power source of the programme and launch more new retailing capabilities in the market beginning early 2021.

According to a recent survey the younger generation prefer to use the assistance of AI, whereas the older generation are still preferring good old customer service. There are of course still tales of errors with some travel bots failing to identify the difference between certain locations around the world. However AI is making its way into all aspects of life and particularly in the way we plan and book our travel. Alan Turing would  be proud of how far machine learning has come. He started the process after all.

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