Thomson is claiming a first with the launch of its virtual assistant using IBM’s Cloud platform and Watson technology.
The travel search service will enable customers to get immediate responses on suggestions for holiday destinations and experiences.
The tour operator says it’s trialling the tool, which uses natural language, following research showing 77% of people feel a virtual assistant would be useful in holiday search.
So far, the chatbot can be used via Firefox and Google Chrome.
Over time, Thomson says the service will continue to develop as customer feedback is used to improve responses.
IBM Watson has been developed to learn through interaction and therefore become smarter with its responses.
Jeremy Osborne, director of strategic innovation for Thomson-parent TUI UK & Ireland, says:
“By leveraging IBM Cloud Technology with Watson’s cognitive intelligence, we are raising the bar in the travel industry. We are delivering an interactive service experiment to our customers that offers holiday inspiration ideas and personalised search results based on customer interests.
Thomson is not the only travel company to be using the technology with travel discovery service Wayblazer an early leader with the technology.
Wayblazer announced back in January that Trisept Solutions would be integrating the technology into its travel agency desktop system.
In June, Singapore-based Zumata announced it was working with IBM Watson serve up personalised hotel results on third party sites.
A number of industry players, including airlines and online travel agencies, have launched chatbot services in recent months.
One of the most recent is Aeromexico with its Aerobot service which enables travellers to search for flights via Facebook Messenger.
The service, which is powered by customer experience specialist Yalo, enables flight search of Aeromexico and partner flights with users transferred to the airline’s website for booking.
Available in English and Spanish, Aerobot also provides flight status updates and answers frequently asked questions such as queries around luggage allowance.
Aeromexico’s vice president of ecommerce Brian Gross says:
“Conversational commerce is about to go big in North America and across the world. But also, Mexicans are among the most avid users in the world of chat apps and of Facebook.
“73% of Mexican Facebook users already contact their favorite companies via Facebook. Our customers already use and love these channels, so we want to be there too. And eventually, we’ll be able to service our customers who use artificial intelligence assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo.”
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