Thanks to technology, Travel agents will become “more important than ever“ – Hotelbeds CTO


Thanks to technology, Travel agents will become more important than ever, according to group chief technology officer for Hotelbeds Paula Felstead speaking at Market Hub Asia.

Travel Weekly’s Nancy Hromin was in Bangkok, covering the event exclusively for the Australian market.

Felstead opened her presentation with a tongue-in-cheek reference to Space Odyssey, but with a warning we should be wary about embracing the latest and greatest, as there is no first mover advantage in embracing “Chat” without understanding exactly how it’s going to benefit your business.

Travel Agents and Advisers now have the opportunity to use tech to free up their time to provide invaluable insights and advice for destinations.

“Our strategy at Hotelbeds is to test, learn and iterate. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and when you do, react fast, fail fast, and you fix it. We already have over eight AI implementations live that we use every single day, including revenue predictions, churn predictions, decline predictions. We also have smart cash, which analyses all of the scans all of the search material so that we can actually feed everyone the most search for results, the fastest possible way. So we’re no strangers to AI.”

Felstead went on to say the following key trends were just around the corner.

“The combination of your mobile phone and AI and visualisation will be absolutely the killer app in terms of being able to help the traveller really get the most from their travel experience.

“Travellers will be able to, on their phone, visually see the activity that they’ve signed up to.

“Apple is working on having glasses that are the equivalent of a VR headset. If they do what they’re saying they’re going to do by 2026 or 27, that will be a game changer in terms of a combination of AI and visualisation. None of us should be scared of technology. However, we should be scared of the unintended consequences of technology.”

Felstead then described an example where she was reading an article in Majorca, which she lives. (Hotelbeds HQ is located there).

“One post put on Instagram, which then became ChatGPT’s most popular beach in Majorca reply. What happened then was they were finding there was multiple cues to go to this one beach, and so therefore, that was what was being continually fed. It was like an exponential wave of “this is the best beach to go to guys”. So everybody went there and because everybody went there, exponentially, it got worse and worse and worse,” she said.

The most potent piece of wisdom that Felstead said was great news for Travel agents and advisers.

“AI and social media only takes us to a to a point, but it’s actually doesn’t all meet the needs of the consumer. Does everybody really want to go to the same beach or to the same place or to the same hotel? Social media enables you to make connections with your potential customers. But actually, the value of that they get from connecting with you, is really your magical point,” she said.

“And it’s up to you to decide what that is. So what value are you adding? Is it you know, the last well trodden path? Is it? Personalisation? Is it level of service? Is it insights and knowledge of actually I went to that restaurant, it’s got five stars review, but actually, it’s right opposite the bus station. That level of insight and experience and value that you can add is still there. But you’re going to have to think differently about how you express that and how you make that customer connection”

MarketHub Asia by Hotelbeds 2023 event in Bangkok sparked dynamic and in-depth discussions among industry leaders, paving the way for insights into the future trajectory of the tourism sector under the theme “’Where Next?”. Influential figures and top industry leaders delved into crucial topics spanning from data and technology to the profound influence of the workforce.


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