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article imageArtificial Intelligence to change the travel industry: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 2, 2017 in Technology
Artificial intelligence will soon be providing options and planning your next vacation, according to Terry Jones. The chairman of startup Wayblazer says that artificial intelligence will change the travel industry. We spoke with him to find out more.
Jones was the founder of Travelocity.com and he served as founding chairman of Kayak.com. This has helped to place Jones as a powerful voice in the world of entrepreneurship and matters relating to travel and transport.
As CEO of Travelocity for seven years, Jones helped transform it into a public company with three billion dollars in travel sales. He left Travelocity to help found Kayak.com, a company that altered the way travel was purchased. Today Jones is the chairman of Wayblazer and managing principal of ON Inc, a consultancy he founded to help companies in their transition to the digital economy.
To find out how digital technology is disrupting the travel sector, Digital Journal spoke with Jones on a series of key topics.
Digital Journal: Thank you for the interview. What are the major challenges facing the travel sector?
Terry Jones: Well of course like any industry there are many, but we believe a key one is making it easier for travelers to discover the destination and product they are looking for, as the average traveler searches over 30 sites before booking.
DJ: What are the general advantages of artificial intelligence?
Jones: AI systems can communicate in natural language, can analyze unstructured data, can give advice and can learn. These are great advantages versus traditional computing
DJ: How can artificial intelligence benefit the travel industry specifically?
Jones: At Wayblazer we believe that AI can benefit the travel industry in several ways. By communicating in natural language suppliers can derive the consumers actual intent in trip planning (i.e.” I want to vacation on an island in January for my anniversary”) And by using AI to present the right products, with the right images and reviews suppliers can benefit by turning more shoppers into buyers!
St Ives  Cornwall. A charming English seaside town.
St Ives, Cornwall. A charming English seaside town.
DJ: How will consumers benefit?
Jones: Consumers will benefit through a much easier planning process. Using ‘conversational commerce’ users can communicate with intelligent bots that will help them find the perfect destination and hotel in much less time.
DJ: If a consumer wanted to plan an elaborate round-the-world trip, what can artificial intelligence do to help with this process?
Jones: I don’t think AI can help you plan a round-the-world trip today. The data problem is simply too large. But in a few years, yes!
DJ: Are travel artificial intelligence services best accessed through an app or via a web browser?
Jones: The way you consume AI really doesn’t matter, through the web, mobile, app or even voice. All work equally.
DJ: What has been the reaction of those who work in the industry to the idea?
Jones: Like any new technology there are early adopters and skeptics. Some are deploying now, with excellent results. Some are experimenting and some are sitting back and missing out.
Vulnerable commercial aircraft
Vulnerable commercial aircraft
Stock.XCHNG
DJ: For those who like a ‘human face’ when planning travel, does this fit with the artificial intelligence model?
Jones: We believe that AI can help those who want a ‘human face’ as well. We are deploying AI to assist travel agents in finding the right product for their clients since every agent can’t know everything. AI can help agents satisfy their clients most difficult request.
DJ: What future disruption do you think the travel sector faces?
Jones: Travel distribution will continue to be disrupted by new technologies including AI. As happened with the internet and mobile technologies, early adopters will be rewarded and laggards will face consequences.
DJ: What other types of services do you think will be disrupted by artificial intelligence?
Jones: Almost every industry will be transformed by the deployment of AI. In particular Financial Services, Insurance, and retail.
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