Setting the record straight on automation in travel…

Setting the record straight on automation in travel…

Recently, there has been a lot of bad press about automation, spurred from an Institute of Public Policy Research Report, and being the main supplier for automation in travel, we’d like to offer some perspective to this position.  Our Managing Director, John O’Neill, talks to the Travel Trade Gazette to set the record straight…

I was reminded of when BBC’s Tomorrow’s World predicted ‘The Office of The Future’ in 1969; on one hand so many of their futuristic predictions never came to pass but then it was striking how little was imagined as being automated in their vision of the future.  Being trapped in the paradigm of the time, the secretaries had not been replaced by photocopiers and voice memos still had to be transcribed by a human.  More importantly some of their wilder technological predictions were nowhere near as transformative as the power of having the sum total of humanity’s knowledge only a few finger clicks away.  So, it will likely be with our current age that the biggest changes will be unexpected and yet completely transformative.


Over the previous 10 years we have been steadily automating travel businesses and more recently our focus has evolved more to Intelligent Automation.  We believe this is where the future of automation lies.  Our driving belief is that without this partnership of analytics and machine learning through automation most workers will remain trapped in robotic, drudgery-led and low-productivity jobs.  We have worked with many leading travel companies who have had more than their share of smart and talented people, and yet we see the same sorry tale in every single one of them.  The terrible waste of human capital!


We all know that travel is complex and there are two main challenges that arise from this complexity; getting the promised benefits of “big data” and task overload.  We would argue that only intelligent automation can move the travel industry onwards and allow it to thrive through some difficult times ahead.  A little bit of automation can go a very long way and some of the benefits that travel companies may expect to receive are:


  • Making powerful use of “big data” through analytics and automation

Travel companies have been steadily collecting data on their customer’s behaviour for many years but very few get a good return from this investment and most only do the very basics with it.  The only real hope to make strategic use of this asset is analytic mining of actionable insights which may then be automated.  There are many advances in recent years including the IBM Watson programme, the open sourcing of Google’s natural language algorithm that all are making analytics a mainstream part of doing business and an essential partner to “big data”.   


  • Freeing up human time and effort to use more effectively

Over the previous 30 years we have all been told that we are knowledge workers and that knowledge is the new capital, yet our experience is that almost everyone spends up to 80% of their time engaged in low-value and repetitive work and never get to the knowledge work that would transform their businesses.  We still see many workers manually collecting data from competitor sites, manually testing their websites and systems, manually matching electronic documents such as invoices and physically entering data daily.  Today these types of tasks can be done more cheaply, more accurately and quicker using automation – to make your business competitive.  Some tasks almost lend themselves to automation, including:

  • High volume and simple tasks
  • Tasks that are error prone
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Tasks that cross multiple separate systems


  • Dramatic reduction in loading error rates and cost leakage

Humans are poor at performing manual tasks accurately.  It’s not unusual for large businesses to lose 10’s of thousands of pounds a month in costly loading errors.  Where the cost of errors is high and the risk also high it makes much more sense to automate.  Through analytics you can identify error patterns, proactively find them and then automatically fix them in a healing cycle.  The benefits of this quality-centric approach to a travel business can be enormous.


  • Expanding the range of what is possible and how quickly it can be achieved

When we first started to automatically load special offers for companies, it was at the time when most of them were forced to prioritise a very small number of the best offers that they could load in the time available.  After automation was introduced we found that these companies could load ALL of the offers available which made them much more competitively priced.  It essentially becomes as easy to load 10,000 offers as it is 100 and so the incremental loading opportunity cost has essentially been reduced to zero.  This opens up the range of what can and should be achieved.


  • Increase in quality of work experience and motivation

The Tomorrow’s World vision of an automated office with bored workers playing with their executive toys has simply not come to pass.  Technology has ultimately just allowed us all to do much more in the same time and to be switched on to work for 24 hours a day and the result has been increased stress levels.  What is missing is intelligent automation to take the drudgery away from work to leave enriched and rewarding jobs for workers to do.  That was the original promise of automation! 


In the short-term automation may be a scary prospect for some, but we believe that looking back in years to come it will be a pivotal moment.  Similar to the industrial revolution in the 1800s – the biggest automation programme to-date which completely reshaped the way that our lives are lived.  At first terrible social problems were generated, but in the long-term, it is hard to argue that the world wasn’t made better as a result.

To talk further about your automation opportunities, from contract loading to workflow automation, contact us here.

John O’Neill, MD

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