Travelport, IBM use Watson to provide travel insights

Kgaogelo Letsebe
By Kgaogelo Letsebe, Portals journalist
Johannesburg, 22 Aug 2018
Travelport and IBM have created an AI-powered travel platform.
Travelport and IBM have created an AI-powered travel platform.

Travel commerce platform Travelport has partnered with IBM to introduce IBM Travel Manager, an artificial intelligence platform designed to help businesses manage corporate travel spend.

Travelport provides distribution, technology, payment and other solutions for the travel and tourism industry. IBM has come on board as a strategic technology partner.

Fiona Shanley, Travelport's chief customer and marketing officer, explains that the platform will use the capabilities of IBM Watson and Travelport's data to gain previously unavailable insights for better decision-making.

"Delivered via the IBM Cloud, the platform uses IBM Watson capabilities to intelligently track, manage, predict and analyse travel costs in one place to fundamentally change how companies manage and optimise their travel programmes.

"The platform will give users complete, unified access to previous siloed information, which, when combined with travel data from the Travelport global distribution system, is then used to create real-time predictive analytics recommending how adjustments in travel booking behaviour patterns can positively impact a company's travel budget," she notes.

The platform features an interactive and intuitive dashboard that offers visibility of travel spending, the ability to create alerts and notifications, predictive and pre-defined spending trend analysis, and natural language understanding to analyse text and uncover insights from structured and unstructured data.

The Global Business Travel Association has predicted that annual global business travel spend will reach a record $1.2 trillion this year, while a recent survey by Travelport found that millennial business travellers in SA are driving an evolution in corporate travel.

According to the report, which surveyed 11 000 travellers in 19 countries who took at least one return flight in the last year, business travellers are demanding both cutting-edge digital support throughout their trips and on-demand advice from human consultants.

The research revealed that 37% of SA's millennial business travellers now count being unable to access booking information across their devices 24/7 as one of their biggest gripes, while 39% say they get frustrated when companies don't use data analytics to provide highly personalised travel recommendations based on their past preferences.

Meanwhile, 39% say not being able to get expert advice from human consultants during the booking process is a major pain point.

Elizabeth Pollock, IBM industry client leader for travel and transportation, says IBM Travel Manager features advanced artificial intelligence. "The platform provides cognitive computing, predictive data analytics using 'what-if' type scenarios, and integrated travel and expense data to help travel management teams, procurement category managers, business units, finance and human resource departments optimise their travel programme, control spend and enhance the end-traveller experience.

"While other solutions only provide a fragmented historical picture, IBM Travel Manager combines and normalises data from all key sources, allowing for more robust insights and benchmarking than other reporting solutions."

The product is expected to be commercially available to customers globally and locally, through both IBM and Travelport.