Travolution Summit: IBM says blockchain has ‘huge potential’ in travel

Travolution Summit: IBM says blockchain has ‘huge potential’ in travel

Blockchain has a “huge amount of potential” in travel and could cut out mistakes by providing a “frictionless” end to end experience, IBM’s head of travel told the Travolution Summit.

Ian Leonard told delegates: “Blockchain gives secure traction from one end to the other of a transaction. It needs authentication by several people and it hasn’t been hacked yet. It’s extremely difficult to hack it.”

In travel, he said it could be used to reduce the chance of duplication of payments and reduce the likelihood of instances where a hotel room may be double booked, for example.

“There’s a huge amount of potential for Blockchain,” he said. “Let’s find the base area that we need to fix or change and apply blockchain to that. It could certainly help create frictionless travel.”

Leonard said blockchain was one of the emerging technologies that he could see making an impact in travel and played down fears that automation could take jobs away from the industry.

“We are not intending that any of this replaces human beings, we want to give humans the combined intelligence of everything that’s been before.”

He used the example of call centres, adding: “If you take all the calls you have ever had and all the information that came with them, how powerful can that be?”

Steve Endacott, non-executive chairman of Teletext Holidays, gave a presentation on the use of technology in call centres created by travel technology provider Zen3 – a company he is also non-executive chairman of.

He explained how Zen3’s technology has helped him more closely monitor staff’s calls, by using computers to listen out for key words. This, he said, helped them understand why customers were not booking with them when previously they had been focussing on why customers had booked.

That allowed them to tailor the calls to suit a broader range of customers, he added.

He agreed that automation was helping, not hindering the human workforce, and said: “How many people work hard on a Friday afternoon these days? Are they out of a job? The traditional work model will change.”

But Richard Harris, co-founder and chief executive of Intent Media, said: “It’s easy to imagine the kind of jobs that will disappear.

“The big changes that AI [artificial intelligence] will drive are fundamental changes in the way we interact with technology.”

Rentalcars.com’s chief product officer Supriya Uchil, who joined the Manchester-based firm from Amazon, said companies are “slowly tiptoeing” into automation and said the more companies use it the more they can personalise the customer experience.

“Nothing can be better than an experience that’s applied to you,” she said.

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