TravelNewsAsia.com
Fri, 6 Oct 2017

Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence Anticipating Real-Time Travel Needs

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and chatbots are leading the charge in the way that travellers manage their travel experience and represent the next wave in customised and intuitive travel management.

Designed to simplify life for corporate travellers, these technologies are beginning to assist like a skilled consultant that delivers timely and invaluable assistance.

Australia’s FCM Travel Solutions, one of the world’s largest corporate travel and expense management companies, has been developing its own innovative pocket travel assistant called Sam, short for Smart Assistant for Mobile.

It has been developed out of FCM’s Innovation Lab in Europe which aims to identify gaps in travel technology and develop solutions to provide the next level of assistance.

“Sam is a combination of AI-augmented chat functionality and a team of expert consultants to deliver the best of both technology and the human experience,” said James Kavanagh, FCM Travel Solutions’ General Manager Australia. “Not only will this app Sam fulfill most necessary travel management functions, but it goes further in tracking your location and providing real-time information and updates to you on things like traffic and departure delays and provide you with alternative travel options to suit. As well as telling you which carousel your luggage will arrive on, Sam can provide destination information and the cost of transfer options along with estimations of travel time to the airport.”

Using a messaging-based interface, Sam importantly provides users with access to their personal travel consultant for live assistance on the go, as it augments human capability and expertise rather than replacing it.

Sam is one such innovation that focuses on the experience of the traveller rather than another technology solution which has traditionally served the travel manager or buyer.

FCM Travel Solutions is seeing the impact that Generation Y is having on the corporate travel sector where the traveller and their experience is central to the service. The rising ‘voice of the traveller’ within organisations is demanding greater choice and flexibility.

James Kavanagh said that, “Innovation and the resulting technology is the enabler of a richer travel experience and one which anticipates and takes into account your location and previous travel and booking behaviours. Many travel companies — including airlines like Qantas, KLM, Lufthansa and Aeromexico — are deploying their own bots to provide personalised travel services.”

FCM Travel Solutions has been awarded the UK Guild of Travel Management Companies Innovation Award for 2017 for Sam. Following the current implementation trial Sam is likely to be rolled out to other markets including Australia.

“The smartphone era is transitioning into the conversation era where users are communicating with apps in a more message-based context and this will extend to include voice,” Mr Kavanagh said. “The best and most intuitive user interface will counter app fatigue and accompanied with specialist human expertise and a knowledge of previous travel patterns will better address travel requirements.”

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