Over the past decade, numerous experts within the travel industry have been claiming that technology can't replace travel agents, that only human beings, leveraging years of experience, could help you find and book that perfect trip.
Indeed, this statement was true for many years, and initially the emergence of the booking engine was viewed not as a threat but merely as a useful tool to be utilized in the booking process.
The mere thought of an intelligent, machine-based travel expert system capable of coming even remotely close to understanding clients' needs was viewed as the stuff of science fiction.
Now there is something more threatening looming on the horizon: We are beginning to witness a metamorphosis of the traditional booking engine into an expert system.
The booking engines of today are no longer just filtering tools. They are being designed to simulate the decision-making process of a travel agent.
Instead of relying on years of personal experience, the booking algorithms utilize Big Data and real-time analysis. Examining user reviews and maintaining client profiles, the booking algorithm is able to simulate, to some degree, the actions of a travel agent.
Although the current expert systems are still in their infancy stage, we can and should expect to see improvements in the years to come.
Vitaliy Melnyk, research and reporting analyst
Travel Product Management
Automobile Club of Southern California
Costa Mesa, Calif.
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