What’s all this technology talk “a-bot” and what does it mean for corporate travel?

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by: Kurt Knackstedt, President, Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

If you’re an avid follower of all things travel and technology as I am, the trade and IT press of late has been breathless in their coverage around how some very futuristic sounding, yet actually “here now” technology will impact the travel industry. Specifically, around artificial intelligence, virtualisation, and “bots” or “chatbots”. If you don’t believe me, or have been living under a rock (or just on holiday lately) keep reading as at the end of this posting I’ve provided just a sample of coverage in this space over the past few months.

For the travel industry, much of the recent coverage is around bots, which can be fairly simply defined as a computer program designed to perform highly repetitive functions. Like book a New York-to-LA flight, or get another copy of your itinerary emailed to you – the sort of things you could imagine a robot in a travel-related sci-fi movie being able to deal with, if there is such a movie.

All column inches aside, what’s interesting about all this coverage is a subtle yet fundamental shift in how new technologies are now debated and discussed in terms of their impact to the travel industry: that it’s now less about debating the merits of whether these new technologies are any good or useful. Rather, the dialogue is more around HOW will the industry adopt/adapt to these new technologies and WHEN are we going to do it by.

Not all that long ago, our industry frequently would view new technologies or capabilities with scepticism and often find arguments why things won’t work as the starting point of the discussion. I think it’s a fantastic indication on how our industry is now mature enough and strong enough to look at new ideas and now think: “hey, this could be interesting, let’s explore first before we just assume that it would have been done by now if it was so easy.”

Regardless of whether you believe that these “smart” applications will ruin the personal or knowledgeable elements of travel management altogether, or will relieve travel professionals of the mundane elements in favour of the value-add ones, there’s going to be a lot of activity in this area over the near term. And if I had to pontificate where this will be at this time next year, I’d venture a prediction that we will find robotic-style interactions happening in a lot of places across the corporate travel arena. Perhaps not everywhere, but certainly in enough areas to make it interesting.

Technology has always been hard to keep up with, but at least now we are engaging at the pace of technology rather than waiting to be dictated by it. At ACTE, we’re confident enough to acknowledge that our thinking also has evolved and are always keen to ensure that our content and events are doing the same. For if we only allow ourselves to think the way we’ve always thought, then chances are we won’t move forward fast enough. To see and feel this in action, please come and join us at some of the major industry events we still have to come in the 2nd half of this year – check them out at www.ACTE.org today.

As always, thanks for chattering, and please know that at least for now, this column was still written by me and not by a blog-bot!

Got some free time for extra reading? Here you go:











Kurt Knackstedt, President, Association of Corporate Travel Executives


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