Chatbots are not going to take over the world yet but solid use cases are emerging according to experts speaking during the final day of the Travel Tech Show at WTM.
John Newbold, co-founder of digital experience agency 383, said companies need to cut through the hype and be specific about when and where bots should be used.
He said: “As with most things, the best bots will be built on strong specific use cases with good user experience.”
Newbold also provided five thoughts for bot design which include not assuming they will be right for everything and how effective they will become when they can chat to each other to deliver “blended useful information.”
TourCMS founder Alex Bainbridge said he could see good use cases in the tours and activities sector such as bots answering queries when offices are not open but consumers are still booking tours.
He added that bots would work well for multi-day tours when most customers need to speak to an agent during some part of the process.
“If we could narrow that down a little with bots we could probably sell twice as many tours.”
Other speakers on the panel, which was organised by Digital Tourism Think Tank, pointed to the impact of chatbots in Asia.
Sandro Cuzzolin, senior manager, business development, Amadeus Travel Audience, said that chat service Line is years ahead in terms of integration with shopping, taxi services and payments.
The session finished on a cautionary note however with Newbold highlighting that the challenge for big companies would be enabling bots to access data from their existing technology.
Bots came up at other panels over the course of the day with experts predicting that some of the established platforms, such as WeChat, are a safer bet than travel companies trying to implement proprietary systems.
At the WTM & Skift session, Marc Heyneker, CEO, Revinate, said chat services were a big deal especially with the specific use case for hotels in terms of guests engagement.
“Our belief is that some of these core existing systems will prevail.”
He also described the current transformation in the hotel industry from the operational focus for many years to the customer centric one of today as exciting.
“When you put the customer at the centre of your universe and how you run your business, the systems required to be effective are different.”
Other speakers also saw it as a good time for technology players to help hotels meet changing consumer expectations.
Alex Shashou, president of ALICE, said: “With the advance in consumer technology, there is a disconnect with how connected we are at home and within the hotel. The foundation is not there yet so there’s a huge opportunity for technology companies in the hospitality space.”