SATURDAY, March 02, 2024

Tour operators must embrace travel tech, expert urges

Tour operators must embrace travel tech, expert urges

Travel agencies and tour operators should embrace travel technology and seek maximum benefits from it, the senior executive of a travel technology company said.

Speaking at a seminar "MarketHub Asia 2023" in Bangkok, Paula Felstead, chief technology and operating officer of Hotelbed, said technologies are playing an important role in tourism.

She said consumers use technology and Chat GPT language chatbot to make an itinerary, and 40% of travel agents and tour operators planned to be based in the cloud platform in the next two years.

"Technology is a great problem solver as it removes friction in a secure way," she said. "For example, by providing better insights to your customers and partners, they are going to stay with you in the journey and actually will see you as a genuine value creative partner."

Felstead encouraged travel agencies and tour operators not to be afraid of technology and to take advantage of it based on their business direction.

She encouraged travel agencies and tour operators to invest in cybersecurity as travel technology could bring the risk of cyberattacks to obtain personal information.

"We need to address it head on and we need to come together to be able to make sure that the bad actors don't destroy someone's holiday," she said.

She added that awareness of the prevalence and collectiveness of various social media platforms was also important to attract more customers.

Paula Felstead

Her views concurred with those of Chomchana Trevai, business development manager for AI and machine learning at Amazon Web Services, who said that generative AI enables people to personalise their travel.

"In the past six months, we have seen that generative AI helps communicate with people,” he said.

He said generative AI enables travel agencies and tour operators to offer packages or recommendations that meet customers' preferences, such as loyalty and mileage programmes. However, securely seeking data is important to know about customers' preferences as generative AI does not have such data.

Chomchana said it depends on the mindset of travel agencies and tour operators as to how to gain maximum benefits from generative AI and other technology.

"The travel and hospitality industry's objective has not changed, as to how to give customers value with the tools and technology that we have," he said.

He assured that jobs would not be taken away by AI, but that jobs would be taken by people able to work with the technology.

"People who work with AI would be able to do more creative work with a lot more value," he said, adding that the technology would enable them to perform new tasks.