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TTC Special: Tourism: Is artificial intelligence necessary?

TTC Special: Tourism: Is artificial intelligence necessary?

In today’s world smart systems and chatbots are used in travel agencies and air transport companies. Photo: aimage/123rf

By Frank Martin

TTC Service.- Artificial intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

Among those tasks may be visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

All those tasks are daily work in the world tourism industry from which the Caribbean also derives its higher income.

Of course, tourism industry is no exception. In today’s world smart systems and chatbots are used in travel agencies and air transport companies.

Especially crucial for the market are predictions about the near future foresee the development of personalized solutions, which will lead to further rearrangement in the technological revolution that has been going on for decades in the tourism industry.

The process of continuous progress seems to be unstoppable.

According to News Americas, from London, “the extraordinary technological advances that have taken place over the last decade mean that very soon it will become a pervasive commercial tool with benefits and dangers that tourism professionals will need to understand”.

The author David Jessop, a British expert that is a consultant to the Caribbean Council estimates in a recent article that the application of AI to Caribbean tourism is likely to be far-reaching and to present challenges to the often conservative, bottom-line-oriented industry in the Caribbean.

Jessop quoted Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett as saying that digital technology would change the way in which the region addresses tourism.

“It would enable the industry to better understand visitors’ needs and the industry’s requirements, while enhancing its competitiveness and providing a seamless visitor experience”, Bartlett added.

The minister wants that Jamaica should become a leading player in adapting to and creating digital solutions of the kind that have begun to transform the industry globally.

Many experts on the matter, including Jessop, believe that IA makes possible the accumulation of big data and the integration of databases and analytics with globally used platforms such as Google.

This allowing hotel, airlines and other providers to create a sales and booking experience that anticipates a client’s interests and offers bespoke travel solutions.

“AI will enable real time interventions, for example rebooking if a flight is delayed and could allow a hotel, restaurant or tourist board to advise in-market via a client’s cell phone options based on their location and preferences”, Jessop added.

One more advantage is that by harnessing data from valuable market segments such as millennials, AI can then, through social media, offer in a targeted and subtle way options for personalized travel and experiences that relate to an individual’s lifestyle.

The expert estimates that the industry in the region will likely benefit directly in the short-term though data accumulation and the purchase of related domestic and external AI services.

But warning that “this rapidly accelerating process suggests that in the longer term the ultimate commercial benefits will principally go the largest and wealthiest international players able to develop and own integrated AI platforms like tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, financial services companies, hotel chains, and internet platforms that “are all now racing to control and integrate”.

Jessop’s proposal is that it may be far more important for the Caribbean to develop a long-term focus on those aspects of AI that are inward facing: that is those that support in-destination efficiencies, inter-sectoral linkages, training, education, and a better understanding of the impact of taxation, so that the domestic industry, governments and deployed big data also requires answers as to how information can be controlled and directed nationally to deliver Caribbean development and the retention of revenue.