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Slaves to the Algo | Unpacking The Most Complex Consumer Decision | Travel-Tech with Mieke De Schepper

EVP, Managing Director APAC, and all-around Travel-Tech expert Mieke De Schepper joined us to talk about predicting traveler’s needs, improving operations, and personalizing the travel experience. In the first half of this week’s episode of Slaves to the Algo, Mieke deconstructed the search engines and ad functions on websites such as Expedia and Booking.com.  She highlighted how critical it is for companies to get the top five search results right, as consumers tend not to look beyond the first page.  Drawing on her personal and professional experience, Mieke discussed the countless ways in which travel-related companies use data. From understanding traveler profiles i.e. whether they’re traveling for work or leisure to reducing delays at major airports. We ended this episode by looking into the hospitality industry. While data can play a huge role in hotels serving their customers better, the importance of a “human touch,” will likely never fade away.  

About Slaves to the Algo

Whether we know it or not, like it or not, our lives have been taken over by algorithms. Join two-time entrepreneur and AI evangelist Suresh Shankar, as he talks to leading experts in various fields to understand how they are using or being used by algorithms in their personal and professional lives. Each episode highlights how businesses can leverage the power of data in their strategy to stay relevant in this new age of AI. Slaves to the Algo is brought to you by Crayon Data, a Singapore-based AI and big-data startup.

Suresh Shankar is the founder and CEO of Crayon Data, a leading AI and big data start-up based in Singapore. Crayon Data’s flagship platform, maya.ai, is the AI platform powering the age of relevance.

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Full Transcript of S2EP6 below:

Suresh:

Hello viewers and listeners, I am Suresh Shankar, founder, and CEO of Crayon Data. Welcome back to this episode of Slaves to the Algo. That’s right, Slaves to the Algo, where we talk about demystifying the age of the algorithm with various experts and from various industries. And today I’m particularly delighted to have Mieke De Schepper, Executive Vice President and Managing Director Asia Pacific of Amadeus. Mieke is an expert in the travel industry before that she spent years at companies like Expedia, as well as in other consumer product companies like Philips. And there’s nobody better I can think of who has actually seen through this whole revolution of what data and AI have done to travel over the last decade or so, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Welcome to the show Mieke.

Mieke:

Thank you for having me. Great to be here, Suresh.

Suresh:

Yeah, Mieke I think you sit in a very commanding position in some ways because you know, Amadeus is like you know one of the global giants that underpin the entire travel industry and it’s a name nobody knows of but you know underneath a lot of this stuff is a couple of companies and one of them is Amadeus. And, but before I go into the professional side, I wanted to start with a slightly more personal question because one of the things I always find is that we’re always reacting as professionals to data and AI and what should we do, but we also as consumers and human beings profoundly affected by algorithms.

And in many cases, like I said we’re not even aware of them, in some cases we are. And could you share with me some examples of, you know algorithms that you know have touched your life positively, negatively? Things you hear, things you’re like excited about? Because you know hey, wow, I didn’t know it could do this.

Mieke:

Yeah, yeah, of course, I think you have the algorithms everywhere and then I’m definitely using all the different e-commerce and online tools, especially as I’m typically quite busy and on the road, not so much last year. So, I use all the different tools, I would say there are some good ones. Of course, I mean, the music recommendations on Spotify, Netflix, of course, although sometimes I hope that Netflix would give me some more creative ideas. But they still give me suggestions. And but it is sometimes challenging to get them right no? Because if you have kids, my kids use my phone as well. And suddenly it gets really weird, make some recommendations there. So, it is a fine-tuning thing and that’s my personal experience.

Some of them get it better, they kind of know that there are multiple people on the device and therefore they can differentiate that. While in some other places it goes completely wrong, and you get the weirdest ads coming through. So, it’s a bit of a hit or miss, I would say in the area of ads for me it’s typically more miss. I don’t really find myself that attracted to some of the stuff. While, when it comes to recommendations and trying new things and new experiences on the Kindle or Spotify and Netflix, as I said, yeah, can be surprising.

Suresh:

And that’s wonderful. I’m going to go a little bit deeper into some of those examples of that you said as we go through the show and we talk about in the context of travel and how you know, I think it’s the human being behind the algorithm that can actually deliver this as well. But, you worked I think you’ve worked in a couple of really large online travel players. One was Expedia, which is a consumer then Amadeus which is more like the backbone.

And one of the claims at Expedia, is the fact that they make, apparently about 600 billion predictions through AI every year. Now, what’s, I mean that’s a staggering number and it’s always vague, you know I’m always curious how do people come up with the 600 billion? But I’m not going into the number. What kind of predictions and what kind of things do people do today, you know when you’re improving the travel experience? and you know what could you share some examples of that?

Mieke:

Yeah, and I would say in the travel experience, I mean the prime example is really trying to provide the right results. When somebody searches for certain flights or a hotel. How do you make sure that the top results there are the right ones for that traveler? And so, in Expedia, we call that sort, in Amadeus we call it to search because most consumers don’t go behind, after the first page which would mean that you actually you’re looking on a computer which most people don’t do.

They’re on a mobile phone. So, on the mobile phone, you basically have five results that matter. And it’s pretty important for an Expedia or when we enable an Amadeus search to make sure that you provide the right five there because typically for flights like Amadeus our traditional search results return 200 flight results. But in reality, people want to see five, and those needs to be the most relevant and so how do you take, and that’s really where your data comes in and AI comes in on really fine-tuning and understanding how to make sure that you have the right five so people actually convert on that front.

Suresh:

And that’s fascinating because please explain this to me. I go on and I search, and the top five things I now see are either ads, or they are for the most popular things. And like you know, why is this, it’s so much data out there, that those five search results that I’m getting, the top five are still not what, you know, why would Google actually not be able to tell me these things, for example?

Mieke:

Yeah okay because, for example, it’s more specific. They have more specific information about you when you are on a flight, when you go on Expedia, you’re pretty sure you’re going to be looking for a flight. And you’re a certain type of traveler, you’ve booked before, there’s additional information about you. And so based on that the best results are returned, most of the best ads, not only the banner ads but also kind of the inline ads, all that kind of gets optimized. And Expedia measures every day: does it make sense to have those two ads on the top or not? Does it improve our conversion, or does it reduce?

And they always have A&B tests, every day and most of the online players have all measured if those ads are actually adding value. And again, there are certain e-commerce players that have a very strong view of advertisements. I mean, I know, booking.com doesn’t do ads, and they have a strong principle on that but again I think it’s finding that fine balance because not all ads are bad, and sometimes it really helps consumers to make a choice. So, again, what works in the e-commerce world is the A/B testing and really finding that right balance but it’s and it’s different for different consumers what they’re kind of the friction point is for them to still convert or to feel annoyed by the ads. And I think this is where many of the e-commerce companies and travel companies can get much better. It often feels a bit like a standard approach, so it’s not a personalized approach yet.

Suresh:

Oh, and I think this is one of the things that you know I talk to a lot of people and everyone always asks me this question, right? I mean you know, one of the things that Google talks about, really, is the fact that there are 7000 micro-moments in a travel journey. And you know, we both know John Kim and I asked him the same question and I said if Google knows so much about me, why do they need me to click 7000

times? Why can’t they just tell me hey Suresh you want to go to Bali? Or maybe you want to go to the Maldives and let me show you those two things right now, right at the top of the search.

And the question I guess is really about, there’s an algorithm that really tries to know you and predict something, but there’s also a business model. And the business model says I have to serve an ad or I have to sell you something because somebody paid. So where does this whole between commerce and business and the actual helping a consumer find the right thing? How does the tradeoff actually happen? I mean, like I said you worked at two giants, you must be facing these kinds of tradeoffs all the time.

Mieke:

Yeah, the tradeoff really happens with data. And that’s really the big difference between e-commerce versus traditional retail. It’s really data-driven where data is measured every day, and how the conversion can be improved because the key metric is conversion. Yeah, and again, what you can, how much you can convert based upon local direct traffic that comes in because the cost of customer acquisition is super high, so you better make sure that you find the best possible way to convert that. When you take things into account like the ad revenue, all of that gets taken into a model to really optimize their outcome. And that’s tweaked and fine-tuned every day and like with AI with machine learning, and those algorithms, improve over time and try to get more specific. And again, it gets better as the data gets better.

Suresh:

And you have, sitting in a company like Amadeus, you probably have some of the most extensive collection of travel data in the world. And without going into anything that’s confidential and you know, what kind of data do you have and how are you using all of this in a way to, you know, you talked about, you know, the recommendation the personalization, how are you using that, today, to make sure that the traveler’s experience is actually improved?

Mieke:

Yeah, so we have, of course, a tremendous amount of data. We’ve been in the business for over 30 years. We see more than half of the world’s flight bookings, through our systems and actually even more because we power, huge amount of airlines in the world and we see what goes through their, the data what goes through their systems. We work with airports. So, we really work from travel agency to airport to airlines and actually then hotels. So, we have quite a bit of data of travelers throughout their traveler journey. And are also using that data to optimize what we offer as solutions.

So, it’s about understanding travelers, and understanding what profiles are, what their needs are. It’s about predicting travelers’ actions, so we can help our travel agents or airlines to offer better solutions in terms of upselling and merchandising solutions. And then it’s really also about improving operations for airlines for travel agencies for airports, by using that data to really optimize and to be able to fine-tune and predict for example when there are delays when delays would be happening. So, airports can adjust their schedule as well and they can already plan for some of the disruptions that might happen. So, we can use data because we have that so extensively to bring that together and we bring that into our products as well to help our customers to improve all of these elements.

Suresh:

And you mentioned, interestingly, both sides. Typically, when people think about data and AI, it’s always thinking about from the customer’s point of view. But you mentioned the operations. That must be a huge gain in terms of you know it’s very quantifiable, you know if I’m able to either predict something or I’m able to show you some saving. How much of the AI, and the data initiatives in a company like yours is going towards what I would call the cost-saving, the efficiency, the operational improvement bucket, as opposed to the customer experience in the revenue buckets?

Mieke:

Yeah, I would take it. It’s hard for me to break that down, in that sense, I would say there is typically a bit more optimism on the revenue optimization on how to sell more, how to improve conversion so that’s more on the revenue side. But, on the cost side, I mean, when you run an airline or an airport costs are a very important part no? I mean especially these days. So, how can you improve your network, your customer service optimization? How do you avoid disruptions? Those things can really add up when you run an airport or an airline.

And so, again, I think, typically these things work better once you’ve had a bad experience one time. You see what the cost is, of actually having that disruption. But again, I think there’s been before even before COVID we’ve had ash clouds in Iceland or other parts where people know pretty well how costly a disruption can be. And so, but again, it’s always easier to showcase the revenue upside versus the cost part. But I think there’s I would say more on the revenue side, but again, cost optimization, operational optimization, still very important in this industry which is very asset-heavy.

Suresh:

So, it’s interesting that you say there’s more interest in the revenue and the customer side. I mean I personally know more about that than the cost side. I would’ve thought that people are more interested in the cost side because but what you’re saying is interesting, and I’m just going to go a little bit deeper into travel for a moment Mieke. Travel is the most complex decision that a human being makes right?

I mean you know when you want to buy a shirt or when you want to kind of read a book or watch a movie, it’s typically one decision. But travel is a series of decisions. I have to decide first where I’m going to, then I’m going to decide the flight, and the timing of the flight and the class. And then I have to make a whole bunch of choices about you knows what happens in the flight and, in the airports, and then I get off, and there are stars and hotels and places to go through.

Is there a utopia that’s going to happen where I will wake up and I will have an AI engine tell me Suresh you want to go here? Here’s everything that’s planned out. It’s all here, the AI has told you this, just go do it. Or is that too far away? Or, what’s going to happen between now and that day?

Mieke:

If only we all would know. No, I think it’s not going to be like that because people want to feel that they have a choice, typically I would say, no? I mean everybody wants to feel that they’re in control, and that needs to be also a better recommendation and it’s still not easy to identify. For example, in travel, one of the challenges is that there is not one person. You are all different personas. When you travel for work, when you travel with your family, when you travel with you, with your friends, as well how do you

recognize that this is a girls trip, versus a business trip. And that’s really where the challenges come in the recommendation.

So, it needs to get more sophisticated and that’s typically where you need to provide some steering. But it is a small element and what we start seeing is really there’s a shift versus wanting to search versus getting recommendations. Will you trust a travel agency, to give you only five options? And that really has to do with how much trust you have that those are relevant results for your needs. Yeah, and, and this is a little bit that gets built over time and that’s for example when, when the customer has, as part of a loyalty program or more. That’s where typically, it gets more refined, and where that relationship gets get built as well.

Suresh:

It’s very interesting, I mean, and I don’t want to go to into Crayon and we did some work, but we said the purpose of travel is probably the single biggest influence, on the whole journey that you take. But when I call a travel agent and the travel agent asks me a question: who you are traveling with or what are you traveling for, I give a simple answer. No engine in the world today, asks me that question.

Mieke:

There are elements that can be looked at if you book a trip and there are two adults and two kids, it’s pretty clear, it’s a personal trip, no?

Suresh:

Yes, true.

Mieke:

But, yeah, you’re right I mean it does, basically, there are elements that, that you can use to recognize that. If people saying, I’m flexible for three days, that typically means it’s much more of a leisure trip so there are elements that you can recognize. But it’s true, an agent gets richer information. Yeah, and I think what I would say what we are working on and what travel agencies are working on so like how do we move from more of a generic search that we try to optimize with knowing as much as possible about you, but typically it’s still a quite generic search. And based upon the kind of input what would be the most likely choice, depending on the departure and the arrival, how can we start knowing more about you?

And that doesn’t only come from the travel agency but as you know, data is scattered in many different places so how can we kind of find out more about you? And for example, what you’ve been looking at, previously. Because people typically start earlier on the journey before they start booking, they start looking at what will be great options to go to and they started saying relaxing, started looking for a relaxing three-day break, what will be a good location. So, that’s where data comes in and the AI comes in, trying to gather that information and with that come to the right recommendation. It is more about personalization, of course, there’s a buzzword, contextualization. I do see things moving from, kind of, you pulling information so you put in a search in your pool kind of information system. More and more moving towards push and information being pushed towards you. But it’s still a fine balance to making that too pushy. And again, there needs to be relevance, otherwise, it becomes annoying. You disconnect.

Suresh:

It’s very interesting because you mentioned the human being at two ends of this. Sometimes when you’re talking to a human being at the beginning of the cycle like when you go to a travel agent, in some ways they’re helping your shape the surgeon, coming back with something. They’re probably not as good as making the recommendation but they’re helping you. And you mentioned the fact that a consumer wants to feel in control and make the choice themselves and not be. You want to be pushed, but not too much. How are is AI evolving to understand how much to push? I mean, other than, still at a very early stage of saying listen, when do I actually tell you, no no, you should do this, versus when do I just say, I’m giving you some choices and now you got to make it? Are the systems getting that smart?

Mieke:

Yeah, they are, absolutely. They gather. They learn over time. And so, this is where data really happened. Basically, the measure where the conversion drops, where you do too much, and how you define, and again there are multiple areas as recommendations pricing is a key area for AI. I mean you know I mean, and for a certain customer, groups are 50 cents between one or the other or $1. What’s the cutoff where people are going to bail out and basically are going to disappear.

So how much can you play around with pricing? Super important how sensitive price-sensitive are people. Travel is still a very price-sensitive topic. But really what price sensitivity do different people have, that’s where you have a good revenue management system as an airline which is basically driven by of course data and machine learning and AI. That’s really the sophisticated ones kind of really tried to optimize for that and that’s pretty important in an industry like travel where the margins are not that steep.

Suresh:

I completely understand and you know, again, pricing is very interesting. In your own experience, I mean you know if you give a consumer, a really great experience versus like just a little bit better um let me not talk about a 20% better price because people will choose that. But a little bit better thing. Is price generally a bigger factor in a consumer’s decision? I mean, at a generic level, price, then let’s say, the right recommendation?

Mieke:

Yeah, price is still very important in travel and to get, definitely to get in there. Again, it’s not just price, it’s also price consistency throughout the booking journey. Ah because that is not an easy one because you have the shopping part and then the actual booking part. And one of the complexities in travel is to get price consistency between those two because it’s a fluid inventory. Like a certain number of hotel rooms, a certain number of seats on the plane. So, the gap between when you shop and book, there’s a time gap in between. And that really makes travel quite complex versus, for example, physical goods, because there’s a, there’s a dependency on the capacity that’s really available.

Suresh:

And so every time, and I’ve noticed this particular thing as an individual traveler. So you’re saying I put it in the shopping cart, I come back and say okay let me decide this next morning, the price has changed. And that is one of the big drop-off points I guess because you know you get satisfied.

Mieke:

And the question I get most was when I was working with Expedia and even now is saying, can you tell me, those do they measure that, when you come back then the price goes up? And I’m saying like, why would we do that no? I mean why would you want to increase the price and so forth like, like always, when I come back there must be a cookie so I will always go to a different computer to refresh and new and they might give me the better offer. I mean, if that would really work in terms of improving conversion of course, perhaps it would be done. But why would we, no? It’s really about, it’s a very fluid part. And people do feel that they’re being cheated because companies take cookies and take the information and then you come back and your willingness to pay must be higher therefore the price is up. And again, these are people who feel a bit, that they are being watched, and they’re always being unfairly treated.

Suresh:

That’s fascinating because I feel like that. And I know something about data, right? And maybe it’s a little bit, as you were talking, I was thinking maybe it’s a little bit of human beings taking their real-world experience when you go into a shop, and you’re trying to bargain, and you kind of go away and you come back and the guy knows you want it, the shopkeeper knows you want it, and then is prepared to pick the price higher. Maybe we are taking the real-world experience and bringing it into the digital world and maybe the two worlds are not the same. It’s quite interesting that you mentioned this.

Mieke:

There are some players and one of the companies I think that’s doing very interesting demos is Hopper. Hopper in the US, and what they do is well you can basically say I want to travel with that date, and they come back to you with offers versus immediately you having to pick it. So, I think that you could hold a price, there are many different ways they could do it. And they really try to optimize as well based on who you are, how much certainty you want to have, helping you to get the best possible deal there. And again, it’s interesting because it changes the dynamic as well. And it kind of takes out tries to address the element that you feel like you’re being cheated if you don’t make the decision at that moment.

And more and more, that’s a kind of price guarantee or helping the consumer to get the confidence that they are getting the best deal. And that’s a lot based on machine or AI, no? We’re trying to give these calendars about the capacity that’s available. These red days, green days what would be the average price, what the people pay, is this a good time to book. And so, more and more travel companies are starting to provide that type of information to consumers to make them feel more confident about booking a trip because at the end of the day you want them to book the trip, and you want them to have no worries and concerns if they’ve overpaid. However, typically people once they’ve booked, they’re not likely to cancel, it’s lower.

Suresh:

Absolutely. It’s interesting, you know, again going back to the human-machine thing. One of the things that we have believed and, you know, not a pitch for Crayon, but I think one of the things we’ve believed is that a combination of the human being in the AI typically delivers a superior experience and result, then a purely human-led decision or a pure data-led decision. And I’m going to just give you an example right we work with.

We work with a very large credit card company that does a lot of work and travel and when they talked about personalization, they said, can you deliver the personalization to the concierge? So that the concierge knows those top five destinations and he can use it to have a conversation with the customer. And I don’t know your own experience in this because their view and our view than was the conversation, backed by data allows you to actually narrow down and filter what is needed. I don’t know your take and I’d love to get your take on this being an expert in travel yourself.

Mieke:

Yeah, I think that’s what I mean then companies use this as well. I mean, you can’t run purely on data, they actually need to understand what’s happening in the context and I’m trying to think of an example but, for sure. I mean, with all the data in the world, you still need to understand the context where that data has been in, you can’t measure everything. And again, I’ve had many debates over the years where a lot of the engineers at the library, you can measure everything and we can manage this globally, and for example, being in Beijing.

I mean one example is based in the Asia Pacific. Yeah, I mean, a lot of the tech companies believe they can do everything out of their HQ where all their product and engineers are. I don’t believe in that because I believe you need to be in the market. Because things mean different things and once you start looking at just the data, I think you don’t always get it right. And I think this is where you have to find a combination between the human insight, and the data.

Suresh:

True and I think this whole thing about, while it is true the world is getting globalized…

Mieke:

Sorry.

Suresh:

That’s perfectly fine. Hello!

Mieke:

Say hello! Hey, you have a background. Yeah, I have a background. Yes, you can swim.

Suresh:

You know, I keep saying this, and hey that’s the first child that we’ve had on Slaves to the Algo! So, welcome to your son!

Mieke:

Oh, he is, he is always regular in my team meetings and when he doesn’t show up my team says hey, where is he?

Suresh:

No, but it’s very interesting because I do keep saying this to people that in the new world we live in, your child, your spouse, your dog have more of a right to be in your home than like you know than a stranger does. So, a lovely interruption that was. But I have, you know I’m conscious of the time out here, I’m sure we can talk a lot more.

I’m going to go away from just the flights and the travel to the hospitality industry right. And do you think that you know, between airlines, and, you know, the airline industry is definitely changing but the hotels as well. Do you think that now hotels are going to start being able to interact directly with consumers, bypass this whole travel agency thing, and try and figure out what people want, set up full experiences for them? Do you think this is going to happen very soon?

Mieke:

The challenge I would say in the travel industry this is a very fragmented industry, much more than the flight industry and of course you have a couple of large change but especially when you live on this side of the world, it’s way more fragmented. And so their access to data and their ability to leverage that data is lower. And again, their ability as well to reach consumers. And again when I was at Expedia we focused on also enabling the hotels to be in touch directly with the traveler, and not to show that off there.

I think that’s, that’s a bit of the past, no? That travel agencies are trying to shield the traveler because there’s really no benefit of doing that because at the end of the day the traveler also wants to be in touch with the hotel to ask for specific things and that.

Suresh:

Absolutely.

Mieke:

I am always surprised how as a traveler myself typically how poor the CRMs are of the hotels. I mean, the amount of times I, again, I don’t like sweet stuff the amount of time I have a chocolate cake in my hotel room. I don’t know how often and again they should be remarking somewhere that I’m never eating nothing, no? I prefer sparkling water…

Suresh:

I’ve had a lot of complaints about Muslim travelers saying why is there a bottle of wine? I mean like you know, it’s not very hard.

Mieke:

Like it’s that feels so impersonal and again perhaps even, even when you’re a frequent traveler, the amount, the way that they capture that information how it’s there. I mean there’s still a lot of work that needs to happen around the CRM systems. I think one of the challenges the hotel industry is that, and that’s also why we stepped into the hotel technology because as such a fragmented industry and actually some of the key systems are pretty outdated, that most hotels use, their ability to really extract the information, typically the human touch is better than the system in the hotel world so far, I would say.

It’s really that GM knows the customer service, the staff that works. And I think in a hotel, you feel it, no? When there is a well-trained team, and they know what they’re doing. How powerful would it be if that great team is so well trained is empowered and enabled through data to even improve the service and make it more specific. But I think that we’re a long way from that at the moment. I know of course a big change, or trying to do things, but it often feels very mechanical and automatic.

Suresh:

So, I’m going to share with you just a moment in 1997. No technology. Checked into Hong Kong in the Mandarin Oriental I’ll name the chain. The second time I went in there the lady at the reception says, Mr. Shankar, your chicken is waiting in your room because they allow you to check in both that and there is an iron, you know, a steam iron waiting for you know. You take the morning flight to go in at 12 and you want to iron your clothes before you head out for the meeting. And I’m like, how did you know that? And she pulled out a yellow piece of paper, which is just in the file that you know they get a booking, and they attach it and, you know, wants an iron in his room.

So, it’s that simple. It’s not the technology it’s really the people as well right how you capture that information and I guess it just shows that though we talk about big data and AI, there’s a lot of the human touch that still is needed for these things. But that was a distraction and I’m going to come back to a question that I think worries a lot of people today. And I’m sure you see it because in a large company we are exposed to things like regulations and GDPR and data privacy acts in various countries. Now, two big tech giants, Apple first and then now Google is basically saying you cannot track me anymore on my browser. You cannot email us with permissions on my mobile phone. How do you think this is going to change the face of an industry where the cookie and following you everywhere has been very much a part of targeting?

Mieke:

Yeah, that’s a good question, and again I don’t know all the specifics on that, on the kind of the heart of these companies have kind of put boundaries. When I, there is so much data in different places and it’s not just cookies. And again it’s, I would say you should be careful on where you with whom you’re sharing your data, but you also kind of should assume that your data is already everywhere. Yeah.

And so, I think, of course, it’s going to make a difference for certain industries that are very dependent on that data and I know advertisement is definitely one of those. But I think using data and helping using that for good, I think that’s really where there’s a lot of benefit from it. And again, you see that in the travel industry, where it’s going to help travelers to get a more frictionless experience, and again it is so many in the industries that you’ve talked about before where data is really helping to save lives. And I think so. It’s not all bad, we’ve been using data and science data for a long time, it’s just the size of it, and the amount of data that you have now, here, it is, it is much richer than it was before. And therefore, new things are possible that were not possible before. So, I don’t think we should see it as something scary or we should say conscious, again you don’t let your money and your things kind of scattered around, but like, I would say it is something that’s out there and you should, I mean the glass half full person, you should see that it’s going to help you, for things to get better.

Suresh:

Well, that is such a wonderful thing because I think there are people who are genuinely scared about, I think, the hold of tech giants and the amount of data that’s out there. But you’re right. I mean in some ways data is like a gun. I mean it’s really the person who holds the data and what they do with it as much as what it is.

Mieke, I’m going to ask you one last question before you go. I know you can’t talk, and I don’t, I don’t know whether you or anybody else in the world knows when travel will come back but if you move away

travel and take a three- or five-year horizon. Can you share something that you think is going to be completely different than travel that is led by AI and data? Some new trends that you’re seeing?

Mieke:

I mean, okay, so I think travel will come back, people, that’s not me it’s very when there’s life there’s travel. People want to travel. And I think, I mean, we see technology as a key enabler to get travel started again. And the reason is because being able to get the certificates of all that you have vaccination all of that to have that information being shared, just the information that people need to know what papers they need all of that, that’s a lot of data that needs to be guaranteed and must be shared and updated around time right time. And then also biometrics, which is really going to be a key element, to have touchless travel and to have safe experiences as you travel. So, technology will enable travel to be able to start safe again.

We’ve done some research recently as well that turned out that people truly also believe that technology will be the key enabler for travel to start in a safe way again. And so, I would say, what will change, too, too difficult to say. But I think we do see overall already, I mean, more people and again throughout the whole pandemic are doing things much more even online. In terms of shopping, talking, meeting all of that, so more of that move to a digital online space. So, that will give more opportunities and they will also have a need for different experiences in a digital space than from before. And I think you’ll start seeing, you’ll start seeing different business models come up, and where some people are challenged throughout the pandemic. There are others who will come up with new ideas and fill that void.

Suresh:

I have my own personal take on, thank you that is that is quite interesting, especially the role of biometrics, and all these vaccine passports and all of that and how technology can enable that. My own belief is that a lot of people are going to start traveling, the way we used to travel. Longer trips. I mean I think we’ve all gotten used to thinking I can go to go on a flight go, and I can hop across the pond and come back in a day or the on the same day or I can do a two-day trip because of I think the friction that’s going to come around medical I think longer trips are going to be in. So, to me, it’s very interesting because what happens when I take a longer trip because everything about consumer behavior changes when I’m planning for five days, or ten days, as opposed to just going out there.

So, I think we’re up for a very interesting time in the travels business but when it does come back as it will. And Mieke I think like I said travel is such an integral part of all our lives. I guess we could keep talking for a lot, but I really like to thank you for being on the show and sharing some of your experiences in the travel industry and how data and AI are being used.

To my viewers, so thank you very much once again for being on the show. To my viewers and listeners. that was Mieke De Schepper, Managing Director of Amadeus Travel in the Asia Pacific, a travel veteran, a person who has been at the forefront of using technology to change the face of travel. And for all of you who are wondering yes, she says travel will come back, she can’t predict when neither can I. No, no one can but soon enough.

And please do subscribe, and it’s, we are, Slaves to the Algo is on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on YouTube. Thank you for listening to the show. And once again, a very big thank you Mieke, for sharing your experience on data and travel in AI. Thank you for being on the show.

Mieke:

Thank you.

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Dhanya Nageswaran

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