Big Interview: TravelTech Show 2024 speaker Jason Bradbury on AI

Big Interview: TravelTech Show 2024 speaker Jason Bradbury on AI

Ahead of the show the tv star shared his thoughts on its role and impact

AI is one topic leading the travel technology agenda and one that buyers and developers alike are taking a keener interest in than ever before. Indeed, ahead of this year’s event, research from the TravelTech Show has highlighted that 80% of buyers are planning to increase their use of AI specifically in the year ahead. 

Whilst nearly a third (32%) expect to see it having the biggest impact on customer service and customer experience (CX), almost a quarter (24%) state it will add value to applying customer preferences to make targeted recommendations. A fifth (20%) expect it to have the most impact on booking assistants.

How do you think AI travel technology will integrate and collaborate with other sectors such as finance, retail and education? Do you think this will enable growth for the travel sector in terms of operational efficiency, sourcing new talent and revenue?

Imagine booking a trip to Tokyo, and your AI assistant or AI-assisted human travel professional, not only secures the best flight deals but also arranges for a tailored travel insurance plan and perhaps a pre-approved travel loan, taking all of the effort and endless form filling out of the holiday booking experience. In retail, picture arriving at the airport and receiving personalised shopping suggestions via an Augmented Reality display that guides you to exclusive deals on travel accessories that match your style and needs and shows you to the gate! Education will see a transformation where AI helps design immersive Virtual Reality field trips, allowing students to explore historical landmarks or marine biology sites before physically visiting them. Yes, your high street travel agent may well yet have a Star Trek-style holodeck to entice customers to book that holiday to Bali! This future integration will streamline operations, enhance service delivery, and open new revenue streams, driving growth and innovation in the travel sector.

What level of influence do you think the guest / customer will have on the development of AI and machine learning within the travel sector over the next 10 years? Which aspects of AI offer the greatest potential and appeal to travel customers and therefore operators? Generative AI and reinforcement learning to recommend itineraries, for example?

Certainly, one of the most appealing aspects of AI for travel customers is the ability to offer hyper-personalised recommendations. For instance, generative AI will craft bespoke itineraries based on a deep analysis of an individual’s interests, health, physical ability, previous travel history, and real-time local and national events, creating a level of hitherto unachievable bespoke experiences.

Additionally, reinforcement learning can enhance these recommendations by continuously evolving based on customer interactions and preferences, ensuring that suggestions become more accurate and tailored over time. This is, ultimately, what great travel agents do, but AI should put this ability in the hands of everyone in the chain. This customer-centric approach will enable travel operators to deliver exceptional service and differentiate themselves in a competitive market.

What do you think the main challenges of AI are likely to be over the next 10 years that travel operators need to be aware of? Is it security risks, expected increased legislation from governments on its use, for example? How can they prepare for these?

I think, over the next five to ten years, travel operators will face several key challenges related to the adoption and integration of AI. Disruption to traditional job roles will grab the most headlines but I feel the human in the travel industry chain will remain critical in customer interactions. Security risks will also be a primary concern, as the increased use of AI in handling personal and financial data makes the industry a target for cyberattacks.

Additionally, the landscape of AI legislation is expected to become more stringent, with governments implementing regulations to ensure ethical AI use, data privacy, and transparency. Bias in AI algorithms could lead to unfair or suboptimal outcomes for customers. Operators should focus on developing inclusive AI systems and regularly auditing them for bias. Ultimately, an AI is only as good as the data it has access to! Strategic planning, investment in security and the industries already experienced human assets will be key to success as well as an understanding of ethical AI practices.

The technology specialist and former host of the gadget show Jason Bradbury is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s TravelTech Show, which is taking place on June 19-20 at ExCel, London. Bradbury will be kicking off this year’s event with his opening address on Wednesday June 19.