Why travel companies should embrace – not fear – AI

The increased usage of artificial intelligence (AI) will enable companies to explore new areas and opportunities, say data science experts as they encourage the travel industry to worry less about the complexity and focus more on the adoption of the system.

Speaking at the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning panel organised by Agoda on Monday, Yaron Zeidman, chief technology officer of Agoda, advised: “An important part of data is to collect as much as possible, even if you’re not using it today.”

The adoption of AI is more commonplace, but choosing the right one is also crucial

Agoda employs AI not just in its chat system, but also in recommending similar hotels to users according to their previous bookings and searches.

Idan Zalzberg, Agoda’s vice president, data engineering, added that companies must “empower all employees – not just one team – to access data science” as it is “integral to every part of the product”.

He added: “Don’t fall into the trap of defining AI as a complicated model. Take time to test and find an AI system that you can really trust.”

Zalzberg also recommended the philosophy of “explainable AI”, where companies should not hide but explain what and why data is being used to create more beneficial customer experiences.

Adopting AI now is even easier than before, with new initiatives like AI Singapore in the equation. AI Singapore is a national programme that aims to educate and train companies in building their AI capabilities.

AI Singapore head, AI engineering and AI industry innovation, William Tjhi, told TTG Asia on the sidelines of the event: “Everybody is interested to reap value from AI, but there’s a good chance that the younger (companies) are more interested in building the capabilities (of AI).

“We have a nine-month AI Apprenticeship Programme. The aim is not just to teach (participants), but expose them to real industry projects.”

In order to be selected by AI Singapore, Tjhi reveals that companies should consider the impact of adopting AI and the feasibility of doing so.

“We want them to have data and the right kind of people who can manage by themselves when (the company’s AI functions) take off,” said Tjhi.

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