I’ll be speaking tomorrow at the Worldwebforum

When I landed in Tokyo last Friday I got a message via WhatsApp asking me if I could speak about Artificial Intelligence in tourism and the transformation that the industry will have to master. It was a reaction on my latest post here. I will speak in the tourism track right after Amazon bestseller Christopher Kai and we will answer questions during the following panel together.

Details: worldwebforum.com/tracks/tourism/

Many people talk about Artificial Intelligence without really understanding what it is. The easiest way to explain it is to say it is something similar to a computer which can be trained to do repetitive tasks.

For example this computer can write down at what time a specific tourist books his hotel, every time this customer does a booking, on and on and on.

Once you have all these data you can train the computer to identify repeating patterns in the behavior of tourists, like how often this tourist books his hotel during the weekend, at night etc. Once you have found a pattern like «tourist No. xyz usually books at midnight you can send out promotion emails at that time or display an ad for him or send him a reminder if he spends the same weekend every year at a certain place.

Identifying these patterns is nothing that a human being could not do. In fact Artificial Intelligence is basically nothing more than a virtual assistant whom we train at first and then let it execute repetitive tasks – except for one application: big data. When there is too much data for us, an Artificial Intelligence will still be able to identify patterns. Such patterns can help us to make predictions or to offer tailor made services. And also you can delegate tasks like sending a reminder E-Mail to the Artificial Intelligence.

The next big thing will be the augmented travel agent. I used to book with the same agent for many years, even when he changed his employer. Why? – Because he knew me so well that he always made the perfect recommendation. Every time the agent changed his employer the agency lost a certain amount of  “his” customers. Imagine, a computer would have learned to understand these customers as good as he did or even better, based on all the available data, that he had. Such an agency would keep their customers, at least more of them. Losing an agent would not mean losing customers.

Understanding your customers goes even a step further. If you publish 600 words written by yourself, we have a machine that can precisely tell us your personality profile, how to communicate with you, in which tonality, what to avoid and how to persuade – sell our offers to – you. With this publicly available information you can write personalized newsletters, in principle for each individual a different one. Or you can prepare tour guides, receptionists etc. how to treat a specific person individually.

There are many options how to use Artificial Intelligence in tourism and I guarantee that whatever is possible will be done, as it has always been.

Tomorrow I will present a few statements, like:

  1. AI will be the new concierge with the knowledge of the locals.
  2. Thanks to an Artificial Identity the tourism industry will easily offer me individual personalized travel suggestions
  3. AI will increase transparency and authenticity of user generated recommendations (TripAdvisor etc.)
  4. The transformation will start in the field of marketing but rapidly transform all kinds of business processes and plans.

However, the industry transformation maybe not as fast as technology would allow us to do. Having been a digital pioneer since 31 years now, I have seen the types of barriers that usually come into the way.

Barrier 1 is disbelief. People do not even resists innovative technologies, simply because they cannot imagine that they will be used in the first place. Ignorance is one of the hardest to overcome barriers. The goal here must be to find recognition for the fact that change is underway.

The next barrier is avoidance. People invent all sorts of activism to avoid having to deal with the new technology. They try to avoid it. If they can’t, they will actively question and fight it – this is the next barrier. They will actively argue that it is nonsense, just a hype that won’t last etc. We all know these arguments.

The big question is, how can we, who we see and what to grasp the potential, overcome these barriers. That is where the model I am presenting you here comes into play – The Science of Change Triangles. It is an easy to remember tool that presents you all the obstacles and solutions that may come into your way.

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