Day 1 – Artificial intelligence is real

Day 1 – Artificial intelligence is real

Senior technology executives from across the travel industry believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will play a pivotal role driving the recovery of travel so long as mind sets and attitudes towards data sharing change.

The opening day of Travel Forward began with a session dedicated to AI in travel.

Andy Owen-Jones, CEO and co-founder of AI-early-adopter bd4travel, said that AI and machine learning is the only way for travel companies to “infer” what their travellers want.

However, to get beyond “averages” and into “personalisation”, AI specialists need access to data

“The tools are there for mass personalisation – but mindsets need to change. Segmentation is not personalisation.”

Sundar Narasimhan from Sabre Labs noted that this distinction is reflected in how enterprise applications for AI and machine learning in travel are now engineered and optimised towards improving the experience for travellers and away from optimising yield for suppliers.

He also advocated new mindsets in terms of data sharing.

“If you share data, the algorithms can work across sources, personalisation can become collaborative, a partnership.” He outlined a future use case where AI can provide a trip experience where the flight and accommodation have both been personalised.

Mindsets, new paradigms and fresh thinking were a theme throughout other sessions as well. Jospeh Ling from Vouch explained how his business is having to change mindsets in the hotel industry.

“We have to convince hoteliers that human interactions are not equal across all touchpoints. Our product helps hoteliers to automate many tasks where the human touch is not needed, which frees up hotel staff to focus on tasks which materially impact the guest experience,” he said.

Elsewhere, attendees heard that attitudes to partnerships, collaboration and innovation are likely to be different as the industry recovers. In a session supported by Travolution, Marc Padrosa from forex specialist Kantox said that “educating the client is the most difficult thing” for his business, which optimises currency exchange rates for travel sellers and suppliers.

Fintech is an area where many travel firms partner with experts rather than take on the development themselves. The balance between build and buy varies between companies. Baz Lemmen, CEO of Hotelplanner, said: “We work with the best payment providers because they are improving all the time. I don’t want to do data storage, Amazon can do that. But for API integration, I want someone who is touching our system and knows how to do it exactly as we want because we have a certain kind of customer, so I will do this in-house”.

Similarly, some partnerships which were formed during the pandemic will need to be re-assessed. Kayee Cheug from Skyscanner said that the strongest partnerships will be future-proofed

“We put travelers at the centre,” she said “so when we partner with another business with the same approach, the solutions will evolve in line with strategic goals.”

Another industry where mindsets need changing is aviation. A panel discussion in the afternoon was unequivocal in its view that improving the data sharing between airlines, airport operators and air traffic control can improve aircraft and routing efficiencies, with the immediate benefit of lower emissions through reduced fuel burn.

Yann Cabaret from SITA told the packed room that “modern technology supports collaboration – with the data we have we can apply machine learning to optimise aircraft movements, in the sky or the airport.”

However, commercial considerations prevent many private sector operators sharing data with each other, a situation incompatible with fighting the climate emergency. “Industry efforts can only work if everyone is in,” he said.

The volume of structured and unstructured data within the travel industry creates the perfect environment for artificial intelligence to generate new products, better experiences for travellers and more revenues for travel companies. However, the consequence of this is that the volume of data means that firms should think about validating the data before using it.

Manual Hilty from multi-day trip planning tech specialist Nezasa said that his business has been developing its platform so that it can support data analytics and AI at scale and apply the insights on a personal level.

“Planning, booking and fulfilling multi-day tours has many, many touchpoints each of which its own layers of complexity,” he said. “We know that AI only works when the data, and the platform hosting it, is fit for the purpose of using AI to build better experiences for travellers”.


World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. In 2020, WTM Virtual facilitated 20,000+ meetings and held 42 live content sessions over the 3-days show.

Next live event: Monday 1 to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next WTM Virtual: Monday 8 to 9 November 2021 – Virtual

Travel Forward London is the leading travel technology event, co-located with WTM London. Travel Forward is renowned for showcasing the next-generation technologies for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Over 19,000 travel officials and 150+ innovative solution providers attend for 3 days of cutting-edge insights, open debate and unrivalled networking opportunities. The combination of a 2-day conference, interactive exhibition and start-up showcase makes Travel Forward truly unique.

Next live event: Monday 1 November to Wednesday 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next Travel Forward Virtual: Monday 8 November to Tuesday 9 November 2021 – Virtual

London Travel Week, brought to you by WTM London, is the one-stop-shop for event hosts and visitors to be able to shape the next 12 months of travel together. The festival of events supports the global travel and tourism industry through capturing invaluable news and enhancing industry connections.

Next event: Friday 29 October – Friday 5 November 2021

WTM & TF Virtual, is the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America takes place annually in São Paulo and attracts around 19,000 tourism professionals during a three-day event. The show offers qualified content, as well as networking and business opportunities. In its ninth edition – the first 100% virtual – WTM Latin America followed its focus on effective business generation and reached the milestone of 4,200 meetings held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors.

Next event: Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April 2022 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 April 2022 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 29th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2021 showcased over 1,300 exhibiting companies from 62 countries across nine halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, with visitors from more than 140 countries over the four days. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #IdeasArriveHere

Next in-person event: Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 May 2022, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2022. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ATM Virtual, ILTM Arabia, Arival Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, as well as Travel Forward. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country summits.

WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub.

About RX (Reed Exhibitions)

RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.


RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

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