AI – an overused buzzword or the future of travel business?

0

Earlier today, Agoda Outside held a conference at its global headquarters in Singapore that examined the business and social implications and the growth opportunities available through Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the travel industry and beyond. In a world of “disruptors,” experts shared their views on how AI, and its components, including machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing, and robotics, are evolving so rapidly and disrupting the ways in which we do business and engage with consumers, on a scale we have not yet fully understood.

At the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning knowledge and networking event, sponsored by Agoda and supported by the InfoComm Media Development Authority, Singapore, thought leaders from Agoda, Grab, IBM Watson, AI Singapore and Visenze debated the AI revolution and its responsibility to enhance, not replace human work. The panel also discussed the implications of AI and how it’s paving the way to a new reality where computers are not only instruction-following automatons, but are genuinely smart and intuitive, and how business and society respond to this.

Some key highlights from the panel discussion include:

• “AI technology is here to stay, but it is constantly evolving and improving processes across business functions from search to marketing and promotions, to customer service. We already see that where five years ago, when we input data we were able to explain the ‘decisions’ the computer made. Today, the development of deep learning is changing the landscape even more rapidly. We are now in an era where it is harder to explain why the computer made the decision it did – in the same way we can’t define human intuition. Now we are learning from computers and measuring the results that they achieve. Should we fear AI and what the future holds? No, but in the same way we trust our human intuition, we need to start to feel comfortable with machines thinking for us.” – Yaron Zeidman, Chief Technology Officer, Agoda

• “One of the mantras we have at IBM Watson is dream big, start small. And this mantra is definitely something we applied to our growth in AI. We knew that if we wanted AI to make a difference, we had to think of it not in terms of the tech, but in terms of the users we were helping and the problems we were trying to solve. And even more so, introducing AI was never about the replacement of people, though at a task level that will surely happen. What we really wanted to do was use AI to see how we could augment to unleash people’s potential.” – Dileep S Rangon, Director, IBM Watson

• “Consumers are looking for explainable AI. For example, I may show you fewer options when you search for something, but the goal is not to hide anything from you. As a consumer, you need to trust that I’m showing you what’s relevant to you. And the best way I can show this is by explaining why – hence, explainable AI. As we continue to experiment in this space, we need to remember that it’s all about establishing a conversation between the user and the AI to create a much better experience overall.” – Idan Zalzberg, VP, Data Engineering, Agoda

Technology is changing how we travel. John Wroughton Brown, CEO, Agoda stated, “AI and machine learning are changing how we engage with our customers. Consumers today expect to get clear information, quickly. From researching destinations, to making payments, or contacting our customer experience team, we increasingly use technology to enhance our customers’ experience with Agoda, throughout their booking journey. We are dedicated to deploying deeper human-centric AI solutions that allow us to do more. Our vision for AI is to be our customers’ personal travel agent in the vacation planning and booking world: to be there when they need it, and to help them find the perfect deal while considering price, past experiences, availability, and most importantly specific personal preferences. AI allows us to do this at scale. Our business is primarily about connecting vacation seekers and property owners – our partners – we believe that extensively deploying deeper AI solutions will be a triple win: for our partners, for our customers, and for us.”