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The main theme of the recent Travolution Summit was AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the impact that it is or will have on the travel industry. In truth, none of the speakers were bold enough to claim that they were effectively employing AI in their businesses. Many were trialing it in one form or another, and more talked about its impact in the future. Perhaps rather reassuringly one of the lines delivered by the articulate Sam Turner of Hotelbeds was “Get powered by data, driven by people”. Another speaker prophesized that 25% of jobs in the future would be replaced by AI/chatbots/robots. But then I am sure the same was said about the personal computer, and look at how many jobs it has created.

The “big five” tech giants employ over 600,000 people and that is surely likely to grow. These 5 companies were referred to as the consumer gatekeepers and having a strong grip on their customers. Apple’s market cap is $800bn, Google’s is $650bn, Microsoft $500bn, Amazon $450bn, Facebook $430bn. Combined it’s more than the whole GDP of the UK.

Returning to the more prosaic here and now, many of the speakers talked about the more practical issues that their businesses face. Dean Harvey from Kuoni admitted that his main KPI remained driving customers in to Kuoni stores, and Supriya Uchil from reassured us that providing the right car in the right place remained a fundamental customer requirement. Steve Endacott of Teletext Holidays was gathering and analyzing hundreds of thousands of data which was captured from telephone calls from recorded from conversations with customers, as call centres remained their core booking channel.

It was refreshing to attend a digital conference where for the first time nobody banged on about “mobile first”. I think we have all got that message now. But one of the speakers did say that “video” was the new “mobile” and that marketers should allocate 10% of their budgets to developing video content, even if there could be no way of proving any RoI. Skeptically, he did however work for a video production company! Seriously though there is no doubting the power of video, and we were enlightened to the fact that there are more videos consumed per day compared to the cumulative totality of the last 30 years’ worth of US TV. And of course most of this is consumed on our mobiles and shared via the dominant social channels Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.


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