Last March after attending the 20th IHIF in Berlin, I wrote an article titled: “The big OTA’s may soon turn to a virtual hotel chain model; In that article, I wrote among other things. 'The Leading travel and technology companies - OTA’s', including among others, Google, Facebook, Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisor are currently working on the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to address the needs of their customers in a more efficient and customized way in order to increase conversions and loyalty.
We will also see the integration of chatbots and virtual assistants the likes of Amazon’s “Alexa”, Google’s SIRI and Google’s “Google Assistant” into the OTA’s “hotel Collections”.
Well, we didn’t have to wait too long. Last week the CEO of Booking.com, Ms.Gillian Tans visited my home town of Tel-Aviv, attending the DLD Innovation Festival. The other reason for her visit was to meet a start-up company that Booking.Com has purchased a few weeks ago.
The company’s name is Evature and guess what they do…?
They developed a Machine Learning BOT and AI called EVA.
EVA is a virtual travel assistant/Travel agent that can take care of all your travel needs. https://www.evature.com/
Evature will be one of the first companies at the heart of Booking.com Research and Development Center in Israel.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yesterday, in other news, Amazon, one of the world’s leading electronic commerce giants were reported to have decided to focus their future development of Alexa in Israel. How important is Alexa for Amazon? The company rented 25,000m^2 of prime office spaces in Tel-Aviv and another 12,000m^2 in Haifa. That’s a lot of space that could accommodate up to 2,500 employees. The company is on the lookout for system engineers, engineers specializing in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing - NLP and AI research and development.
What do I make out of it…? That the future is upon us and we need to understand in which direction this industry is evolving. The sooner hotels adapt and make sure that they are well positioned in Siri and HomePod, Alexa, Microsoft’s-Cortana intelligent personal assistant and Google Assistant- the better!
Global Hotel chains want to go direct and “bypass” the OTA’s? Here is your big chance.
So instead of paying commotions to the OTA’s you will end up paying the “bigger guys on the block”: Amazon, Appel, Google and Microsoft.
That’s just one aspect of the distribution end.
What will happen to the high-street Travel-agency shop model?
What will happen with the whole travel-agent profession?
Will we still need the TUI, Thomas Cook, Thompson Holidays, Kuoni who produce brochures in an age in which you will ask your computerized Virtual Assistant to “tailor for you” your custom-made holidays?
What about hotels? do we need a concierge desk in a hotel that has a personal assistant in each and every room?
So many questions, and the more I think about the possibilities the more excited I get.
We are in the “eye of a great technology hurricane”, all tourism related businesses be it travel agents, Hotels, airlines, rent-a-car, tour-guides, tourist attractions have to try and understand how and to what extent, this Hurricane will affect them.
Having a CTO is clearly a good start but it’s far from enough.
Invest in Technology Start-Up’s, keep an open mind towards ideas that may sound a bit wacky at the beginning.
Always but always remember:
“Whoever perceives that robots and artificial intelligence are merely here to serve humanity, think again. With virtual domestic assistants and driverless cars just the latest in a growing list of applications, it is we humans who risk becoming dumbed down and ultimately subservient to machines.” ― Alex Marriott
Joseph Fischer is the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - An international lodging & hospitality consulting firm. He is a veteran hotelier with over 30 years of extensive management experience in the global lodging Industry.
A strategic “out-of-the-box” thinker, visionary, with plenty of tangible and ready-to-be-implemented ideas. Joseph is a frequent contributing writer on 4Hoteliers.com global new portal.
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