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Video: “I don’t like the term artificial intelligence. I like the term assisted intelligence.” (WiT Singapore 2022)

“Regardless of old world or new world, it is necessary that we put customers at the heart of the business. Human touch is key because we’re in hospitality – regardless of what technology or product you have – you’ve got to have that in order to make it work.”

Those words were spoken emphatically by Christine Tan, an independent hospitality consultant who has attended every WiT event since 2005. She’s a familiar face in the travel scene and she has observed trends, fads, and phases come and go in the last couple of decades. And “trends” was at the core of the conversation that kicked-off WiT Singapore 2022.

What key areas of the pre-pandemic world can be combined with the ways of the new world? How are the new crop of industry experts applying lessons from the last two years to their platforms?

At The Crossroads: Old World, New World Converge brought together two generations of industry leaders – those who rode the first wave of online travel and those who emerged in the second wave – to share their ideas and ideals on how to take the best of both worlds and forge a better road ahead.

Omri Morgenshtern (CEO, Agoda) is the perfect example of a travel trailblazer who’s making the best out of both worlds. During the panel, he said “I think booking travel services together happens now… actually it has been happening for quite a while. I think it got expedited through the pandemic.”

He added, “The thing we didn’t crack is persistency, or what we internally call the persistent trip. That’s the notion that people don’t book everything at the same time. What we didn’t crack, as an industry, is the user experience to put those things together and enjoy better and better rates.” It’s an idea that has been echoed by many big players, platforms, and OTAs lately, this idea of the connected trip in which travellers not only book everything – flights, accommodation, activities – on a single app, but they do it in a single sweep to create a seamless travel experience. This connected trip is yet another core trait of the post-pandemic landscape.

What was clearly outlined by everyone on the panel is that change is key in travel and hospitality. As the old and new continue to meld in the coming months and years, many experts believe that it’s time to review the way we perceive certain concepts in the tourism industry.

“I don’t like the term artificial intelligence. I like the term assisted intelligence because I think that’s going to be the progression that gets us to this new state. It’s not to try and replace things, it’s to supplement first…”, said Timothy O’Neil-Dunne (Principal, T2Impact) in a statement that starkly contrasts the stereotypes we’ve heard about AI. As Hollywood has taught us, AI will one day form a hive-mind company to spawn an army of robots, and our only hope will be to call upon Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop them. In reality, Assisted Intelligence can be a positive tool in the travel space – one that aids its human counterparts and enhances their work, instead of ultimately replacing them.

However, nothing screams “new old world” more than travel content. “Old fashioned infomercials in a new fashion environment” is how Timothy Hughes (Vice President, Corporate, Development, Agoda) describes it. Whether it’s on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube, video content has become a driving force and a deciding factor in the decision-making process of many travellers. In many ways, short form content was what kept many people anticipating the reopening of borders so that they could experience the places featured in the videos for themselves.

Check out the full video for more insights on how travel and hospitality is learning and adapting from the last couple of years to create a more robust and authentic experience for travellers and consumers. 

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