The smartphone is the new window to the world, allowing people faster access to information and more developed technology.
Today, 2.5 billion smartphones are used globally, and this number is projected to increase to five billion by 2020, said Bertrand Saillet, general manager, Asia, FCM Travel Solutions (FCM), citing figures from World Bank, GSMA, Apple and Google.
With this trend, mobile-optimised artificial intelligence (AI) is going to â€śdrive massive changeâ€ť, he predicted at a CTW Asia-Pacific session on September 27.
The wave is already taking shape. Deltaâ€™s partner in Brazil, GOL Linhas AĂ©reas Inteligentes, this year launched Selfie Check-in, the worldâ€™s first app to use facial recognition to allow customers to check into flights. It is currently available for Brazilâ€™s domestic and international flights.
Similar technology is also being tested for JetBlue flights from New Yorkâ€™s JFK Airport to Boston. Saillet suggested that in the future, facial recognition could even be used in hospitality for concierge officers to greet guests with preferred welcome amenities.
However, the business-travel world is â€śstill very fragmentedâ€ť, noted Saillet. For this, AI can help determine who the traveller is, and chatbots are a way to interact with customers on their mobile phone and deliver personalised products.
â€śI believe that the chatbot is going to completely revolutionise the travel industry, especially for corporate travel in Asia,â€ť Saillet toldÂ TTGmice.
Saillet proposed that, with apps such as FCMâ€™s Sam Chatbot, travel managers and agents can offer their clients an â€śorganised itineraryâ€ť with â€śresponsiveâ€ť advisories and content on the userâ€™s intended destination, capped off with a chatbot to aid in other requests and queries.
The app can help travel managers â€śconnect with the best players of the (travel) marketâ€ť, Saillet pointed out, such as expense management systems and sharing economy suppliers.
However, he was also quick to clarify that mobile AI does not replace customer service. To maintain the human touch, FCM retains 8,000 consultants to aid its clients and communicate with its partners.
Sam Chatbot is currently live in the US, to be launched in Singapore and Hong Kong in November and in the rest of Asia come January 2018. It will also be available to use on social media platforms like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, concluded Saillet.