Machine Learning in Travel Industry

dlc. Travel Tech

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, ignoring every big tech advance in the past few years, you must have heard of machine learning!
For example, the recommendations made by Netflix and Amazon, the personal
assistants competing in our iOS and Androids devices, and  the futuristic self-driving cars are all forms of machine learning. Basically, machine learning is empowering the current artificial intelligence revolution. But what is it exactly? And how does the travel industry use it?

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is an application of Artificial intelligence (AI) which provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience, without being explicitly programmed.

Strange right? The co occurrence of “Machine” and “learn and improve from experience” in the same sentence, as if we’re talking about a human being , we kinda are, after all the goal of artificial intelligence is to mimic the human intelligence.

So, how does the machine learn after all?

This question is not yet easy to answer here, but let’s start by breaking down the big problem which is machine learning to different smaller set of main sub problems, the first one is called Supervised learning, the other one is Un-Supervised learning (there are other types but we’ll focus on those two to keep it simple).

Supervised machine learning, imagine you have a booking website, you’ll find yourself with a huge data about travel related reviews on hotels, places to visit etc. and you want to know the general sentiment on one of the hotels that you host on your website (maybe to list the hotels with the most positive feedback at the top of your search results).

Our supervised learning models can solve such task, these algorithms will look at as much as it can see from your customer positive and negative reviews, learning in the way the patterns that make a user review positive, this pattern may be finding the word “very” and the word “good” in the same phrase means that the sentence is positive, and it learns as well the pattern that makes a user review negative.

That’s why it’s called supervised, because our learning algorithms look at the data in a supervised way, they already have the answer (each phrase is positive or negative) and they try and learn the pattern that generates that answer, then our learning models are ready to be set free and look at new unseen hotel reviews and predict whether these reviews are positive or negative.

 

Un-supervised learning, unlike the previous type of learning, this one doesn’t use known outcomes to guide the learning. These algorithms can find patterns and relationships automatically in our data.

Imagine you want to send travel packages offers for your customers in a specific season maybe during the summer, but different people will react differently to the same package, unsupervised algorithms may come handy in these types of problems, where you want to cluster your customers into different customer segments and you don’t have any outcomes to guide the learning, then send each customer segment the package that they will probably love.

 

Machine learning at dlc. Travel Tech

Here at dlc. We’re integrating machine learning into our core apps, here’s a few examples:

a. Leads ranking – in Tangram CRM, you can classify new customers as hot or cold lead, in other words probability of whether the customer is gonna confirm a reservation or not.

b. Time Series Forecasting – Given historical data, we can provide predicted values to travel agencies that would forecast future revenue or total number of customers over time.

c. Recommender Systems – Recommend packages to customers, based on the information available about user, packages and user preferences.

d. Chatbots – Automated chat machines that can understand typed up words and sentences and communicate with customers to provide sales services.

If you’re interested to know more about the wonders of AI, check out this previous blog out.

 

How AI is Revolutionizing The Travel Industry.

 

A storm is coming. One that might possibly change the world for good; the same way we started using electricity for anything and everything back in 1882. That storm is called Artificial Intelligence (AI); and  every single working industry, in one way or another, is doing its best to make good use of it, including the travel industry.

While it’s true that the ideology and Science behind AI has been around for many years, it’s only now that we are really starting to see companies actually diffusing it into their regular work-flow.

In short, how a particular AI generally works is that it studies past data about a particular subject and tries to learn on its own the hidden patterns and trends. For example, a hotel’s dataset might show that Brazilians like to book expensive rooms in the month of June. A good AI would take notice of that, along with countless other patterns, that might not make logical sense to us, humans, but are essential to make predictions of how future customers would act.

 

The main reason for the sudden popularity is that AI is more ‘usable’ now. Reasons for that include:

  • Data is now in abundance and continue to increase exponentially.
  • The cost of storing data is decreasing exponentially.
  • Data gathered from IOT (Internet of Things) is available now in almost every electrical device.
  • The spread of computer hardwares which can run complicated algorithms quickly.

See the below chart as an example of the exponential growth of data:

Zooming in on the travel industry, we can find several examples on how AI has been particularly disruptive. Some of these examples are dynamic pricing, railway booking service, disruptive management and time series forecast.

The first example is PROS ; a company that utilizes an idea called dynamic pricing. PROS provides technology for popular airlines around the world, where the AI would first study consumer behavior on which flights they like to book, when and where. Then, when a future consumer wants to book a flight, it would automatically provide prices that he would be most comfortable with. For example, consumers on low budgets might be provided with lower priced flights, while consumers who were previously unhappy on cheap flights, might be provided with more expensive, but much more comfortable flights.

Using this, PROS have reported 50% less response time, 50% less mainframe usage, 100% increase availability in requests and almost 0% rejected traffic. In other words, consumers don’t need to spend as much time and are always able to find the best offers.

Another company is called Trainline, where they say you can “Save an average of 43% when you book tickets in advance.” This UK based company provides an online rail booking service, after gathering all kinds of consumer behavior data. Future train passengers would then be provided with tickets they are most likely to choose, while informing them what the cheapest price would be, how many tickets are left, and also notify them in advance when new tickets are available.

 

Disruption Management is another great example. A quick look on Flight Aware might give you an idea of how many flights are canceled or disrupted each day. The Australian Airlines, Qantas, decided to try to use AI to combat these issues. The AI would collect data from airports, including weather and current delays, and predict in the future if a disruption will happen and how. Furthermore, the AI would then automatically make a back-up plan that would be most convenient for the passenger to take.

Qantas reported that using this, “15 out of 436 Qantas flights (about 3.4 percent) were canceled, as compared to 70 out of 320 (22 percent) flights by Virgin Australia [another airline]”.

One further example is flight price prediction using time series analysis. AltexSoft developed an AI tool that would analyze changes, trends, seasonality of prices over time. Then, it would use that to give recommendations to the consumer of when to book a flight, whether he should wait for the price to go down, or if waiting is actually too risky. An example is shown below:

How dlc. uses AI

Here at dlc. we have a data science team dedicated to provide technology to travel agencies that make use of AI wonders. Examples of how we use AI include:

  • Dynamic Reports – Automatically providing ease-of-use charts that automatically calculates averages for numerical data (such as prices), as well as counts of categorical data (such as the total number of people for top nations). 
  • Leads Ranking – After receiving data containing consumer requests, this aspect would predict which are most likely to confirm a reservation and which requests are not. 
  • Time Series Forecasting – Given historical data, we can provide predicted values to travel agencies that would forecast future Revenue or total number of customers over time. 
  • Chatbots – Automated chat machines that can understand typed up words and sentences and communicate with customers to provide sales services.

…and much more in the future.

How Mobile Phones Revolutionized the 3 Stages of Travelling

 

Mobile Phones have evolved beyond imagination in the past 10 years. Not long ago they used to be merely used for phone calls, short text messages, and Snake game! But nowadays mobile phones have massive computing power compared to even computers 10 years ago. This vast evolution has lead to the integration of mobile phones in nearly all kinds of daily life activities. They have almost become our life partners or “a way of life” in the words of the former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs.

One of the many activities mobile phones have hijacked in our daily lives is travelling. Mobile applications have swept the travelling industry and completely reshaped the industry, this can be clearly seen as a study has shown that 85% of international travelers have some kind of mobile device with them while travelling (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016). Not only has it dominated the in-travel experience but also the pre-travelling and post-travelling experiences have been recreated with mobile phones. Let’s go more in depth in each one of the 3 stages of travelling to see how mobile phones revolutionized each one of them

     1. Pre-Travelling experience:

This phase begins at reserving your flight and hotel, used to be a hassle of phone calls, followed by a payment meeting to physically deliver the money to your travel agency has never become easier. Now with a few taps on your phone you can book and pay for your entire vacation without leaving your seat. Studies have shown that Mobile bookings in travel have grown by 1700% between 2011 and 2015, moving from 1% to 18% of online revenues (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016). Also Furthermore you receive your booking confirmation on your phone and even your boarding pass! Now most airports around the world support self check-in using QR codes on their phones, and people are starting to adapt to it, Mobile boarding pass use has become the preferred choice of 18% of passengers within the past year, and the use of mobile apps for check-in will also double from 8% of passengers preferring this option to 16% by 2016..

2. During the Travelling experience:

Mobile phones have completely replaced the need for tour guides. Now you can access maps on your mobile phone and throw away the old paper maps you used to get from a stand in a souvenir shop. There are many applications which given some parameters like duration of stay, dates, and your interests can put together a full program for your trip which will cover all your needs, like google trips or visit a city. Moreover there are applications which even help you find shops that are near you and sort them by price like the infamous Yelp! According to a Survey done by Opera Media works 85% of respondents said they use mobile devices to book travel activities. 1 in 3 respondents said they use specific mobile applications, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, to research accommodations and activities.

3. Post-Travelling experience:

Most people keep dwelling on the trip with nostalgia, and what better way to preserve memories than photos and videos that are always with you in your pocket. All the huge companies in the mobile industry have provided solutions in this area. For example, Apple introduced memories in its embedded photos application which creates a mashup video of images taken on the trip, Facebook introduced a standalone application called memories which allowed people who were with you on your trip to share photos with you so there would be only one common album were all your photos and memories would exist even the ones you did not take!

Moments: The Evolution of Cameras.

By Youssuf Radi- Backend Developer Intern.

Photography. An art form invented in 1830s, becoming publicly recognized ten years later. Today, photography is one of the largest growing hobbies in the world. Photography has come a long way in its relatively short history. In almost 200 years, the camera developed from a plain box that took blurry photos to the high-tech mini computers we use in our DSLRs and smartphones today.

The story of photography is fascinating and it’s possible to go into detail. Today we take a step back and look at how this fascinating technique was created and developed, because proudly knowing the past is the primary way to create a great future.

Camera Obscura

The basic concept of photography has been around since about the 5th-century B.C.E. It wasn’t until an Arabian scientist Hassan Ibn Al-Haytham developed something called the camera obscura (which is Latin for the Dark Room) in the 11th-century that the art was born.

Camera Obscura is essentially a dark, closed space in the shape of a box with a hole on one side of it. The hole has to be small enough in proportion to the box to make the camera obscura work properly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Invention of the Camera

The first photo picture – as we know it – was taken in 1825 by a French inventor Joseph Niepce. It depicts a view from the window at Le Gras.

the photo had to last for eight hours, so the sun in the picture had time to move from east to west, appearing to shine on both sides of the building in the picture.

In 1839 Sir John Herschel came up with a way of making the first glass negative as opposed to metal. The same year he coined the term Photography deriving from the Greek “fos” meaning light and “grafo” – to write.

Finally, after decades of refinements and improvements, the mass use of cameras began with Eastman’s Kodak’s camera. It went on to the market in 1888 with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”.

In 1901 the Kodak Brownie was introduced, becoming the first commercial camera in the market. The camera took black and white shots only.

The first 35mm still camera developed by Oskar Barnack of German Leica Camera. Using a film for colored photos.

Technologies

TLR

The twin lens reflex (TLR) camera started in 1870. This type of camera has two lenses. The top lens composes and focuses. The bottom lens actually creates the shot.

 SLR

The Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera uses optical film to capture pictures and images. The mirror and prism system used in the SLR cameras send the light through the lens of the camera

Mirrorless Camera

Just Like Mobile Phones no Mirrors are used to view the photo Using the sensor directly to view the photo and record it if needed

Camera’s Principles

Exposure  

Exposure refers to the amount of light that enters the camera and hits the digital sensor. Basically, it is a measure of how dark or bright a photograph is. 

 

 

 

 

 

Aperture

The aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens through which the light

enters the camera. The size of this opening can be adjusted

and the aperture size is measured in f-stops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shutter speed

The shutter speed refers to the length of time the opening in the

lens remains open to let light into the camera and onto the sensor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISO

The ISO refers to how sensitive the digital sensor in your camera is to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to light. Setting a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera sensor to light.

 

Moments: The Pleasure of Working at dlc.


by Ammar Mokhtar- UX Lead at dlc.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been always concerned of where and how my work would be, the dilemma between doing what you love, and the existing opportunity that might not be appealing was really confusing. After a long period of time of travelling and after graduation, I had a firm decision that I’ll definitely work abroad and would look for whatsoever job that helps me to keep bouncing over borders as I got obsessed by the idea of travelling and meeting new people and getting exposed to diverse cultures.

However, as the fate is already destined, I found myself joining a company with a real potential, but most importantly a company that combines the 2 pillars I’m always revolving around; Travel and Technology. The decision wasn’t that complicated, actually i took it at ease to join dlc. for the highly selective and beautiful environment it provides alongside the outstanding technical exposure i found since day one. It was always a part of my ideal job is to work where I feel I belong to, in terms of mindsets, outgoing team and all having the same common of factor of being travel aficionados. It feels great that i go daily to work without actually feeling it’s work, I never had the burden of feeling heavy to head to my work each morning, on the contrary, I feel energized every day and looking forward having another great work day full of work, laughter, games, and exchanging travel talks which actually assure me that i’m working where I fit the best.

Few weeks ago, I found a popping mail in my inbox starting with congratulations, you won a trip with dlc. for being the employee of the quarter, at this very moment I felt thankful, for being appreciated with what i love for doing my job properly, it’s beautiful thing to sense appreciation in everything you do. I chose to head to Northern Africa to a country I was always curious to visit Morocco. The experience there was beautiful, the mix between authenticity and lovely nature is enchanting, and what added to the experience is those welcoming and lovely friends I met and made over there.

To recap, working where you feel fitting and appreciated is definitely the most rewarding thing someone could encounter in terms of work in this changing world, it’s a bless.

Concerning the future, it’s still vague or in more precise words it’s unpredictable yet exciting. The company’s potential is giving a special motive to oneself, with the sense of belonging we have, we always strive for something big, really big and going after it.

Moments: 6 Reasons Why Using CRM Will Help You Achieve Your Business Objectives.

By Noura Habashi- Account Manager at dlc.

We know your objectives are profitability, efficiency, customer care, retention and growth. We care about your objectives. We offer you a solution that helps you achieve all your objectives.

So, How will CRM achieve this?

1-One place for everything:

Rather than searching in notebooks, inbox and call history, the salesperson will find all he needs on one place. That will save time and make it easy for him. It also records all the interactions between the sales team and contacts to avoid confusion.

 

2- Customer Relationship:

CRM helps you know your customer well. It captures details about the customers and their behavior. Therefore, you can tailor your products and services for them. This will also guide your marketing and sales efforts. And when speaking to your customer, they will feel you know them well and that they are important for you. This creates a competitive edge for your company.

 

3- Communication:

CRM is the best tool for you to communicate within your company.  If the sales person responsible for a lead is not available, his colleagues can easily do his job, they don’t need to reach out to him to know the interaction history.

 

4- Uniform Way to Ease Assessment:

CRM standardizes the form in which the information is presented. This makes life easier for managers to track and assess the sales team activities.

 

5 – Sustainable Tool for Growth:

We all know it is frustrating to manually track every customer interaction. A CRM will be able to handle all the information and therefore this will help you achieve higher revenues each year.

Furthermore, it is considered the most efficient way to analyze the sales team activities because you get to know which strategies worked best and which channels brought the most leads. This directs your strategic planning to achieve higher conversion rates.

 

6- CRM Can Manage Your Social Media Activities:

Social media offers great opportunities of potential customers and contacts. CRM helps you maintain an active presence on all social media platforms. It is integrated to the social media platforms so you can post automatically and manage them form a single platform.

Moments: Evolution of Travel Industry

By Noura Habashi- Account Manager at dlc.

Ever since I was young, my family used to contact certain travel agency that they dealt with for years to arrange our trip. We always used the traditional way until I started to use the internet to do the job myself.

 

Here was a debate between me and my family. They argued that dealing with the travel agency they knew is the most trusted way to arrange the trip as they guarantee the quality. It also doesn’t take a lot of time nor effort; it requires only a phone call and maybe a visit. Also, they have their trusted tour operators that they work with. However, I always tried to convince them that doing the job online allows us to compare prices and get the cheapest rates.

 

In general, with the increasing use of internet, people now prefer to arrange their trip on their own either by using online travel agencies to arrange the whole trip or contacting tour operators to assure better prices by removing the middle man (agency).

 

Traditional offline travel agencies will continue to exist only if they focused on a specific target market. Their niche target market should be elder people and business men. Most elder people won’t do the effort of searching online and go through the hassle of comparison to find the best deal. Many are also not familiar with the internet. They prefer contacting a trusted agency that they can actually visit and know someone there to arrange the trip for them. They prefer quality and ease over price. Business men want a specialized trip to cater their needs. They also prioritize time and quality over price.

 

A combination between offline and online services is the best strategy for travel agents by using technology, they will cut costs. Software programs as ERP and CRM automate everyday tasks, thus, cutting costs by decreasing number of employees and time required. This increases productivity and efficiency. It is also convenient because it allows employees and managers to check the updates and work outside the office (if they are on holiday or sick).

Travel technology allows agencies to categorize their customers in classes and provide insights about their preferences. As a result, it helps them to customize offers to cater for their customers’ needs. Finally, using an online booking engine and a website, the agency would be more visible to people. This will increase brand awareness thus increasing their customer base.

 

In fact, The travel industry is a booming industry. According to Skift, it is the second-fastest growing sector globally, with 3.9 % annually  over the next ten years. However, not all travel companies use technology. They have a problem embracing technology. As a result, they miss out the opportunity to manage their daily tasks more efficiently, market their business online and cater for their customers’ needs; noting that most of their customers are technology users.

4 Simple Benefits of Using a Booking Engine

There are many advantages of using internet booking engines. Some of these advantages will be far better than others but all of them can have a positive impact on your business and many of them when used in conjunction can give you a greater return than if you were to use only one or two of the features in isolation. As flight booking online continues to offer more and more air travel content, options, and varieties, the market is going to continue to grow and thrive. Actually, according to an Allied Market Research, the Online Travel Market is estimated to generate $1,091 billion, globally, by 2022. The biggest question of all is what are some of the best benefits available to you?

 

  1. No commissions:

One of the most important things about a BE, is that, by using one, you can cut out many of the additional fees or commissions that you usually have to pay when you book through a traditional portal. For example, if you are trying to book individuals on a flight without your own internet booking engine, then you are going to have to send those customers to a place that does have one.

 

Another great benefit is that if you are going to have your own internet booking engine you do not need to send them to another website – you can advertise on your own website. Because if your customers have to see advertisements, they should at least see yours!

 

  1. 24/7 Booked flights:

Another major pro of having a BE, is flight booking online. Flight booking online is crucial for your business to be able to grow and thrive. If you work between let’s say 9 AM to 5 PM like other traditional businesses, when do you expect your clients to come and actually get their tickets? Most of them will be at work as well. You certainly do not want to be working odd hours or a different split shift. Rather, by having your own internet booking engine you will allow your clients the ability to book their own flights when and where it’s most convenient for them.

Many studies have shown that most flights are booked after 5pm when individuals are home relaxing and dreaming about their next trip. If you can make yourself available during the day’s sweet zone, then you will be able to greatly enhance your business, as well as serve your customers better. Don’t let some other entity steal them away by offering air travel content that includes flight booking online when you yourself can host your own internet booking engine.

 

  1. Efficiency Maximization:

Maximizing your efficiency means making money faster and by doing less work. There are many aspects of online booking that have become automated in recent years. If you have not taken advantage of this automation then you are still likely manually inputting information into physical or digital copies yourself. Your time is valuable, it could be better spent selling new bookings or assisting clients you have already received.

 

Powerful online booking tools like TTS Web-book are an excellent way to take the workload off of you. But what can TTS Web-book and other online booking tools actually do?

 

One of the most important properties of any online booking tool is information-gathering. Your online booking tools will be able to gather all the information needed from a client. By setting up a customized page, you ensure that you get all of the required data to ensure a booking. In addition to this, it allows you to keep your clients files on record in case a deal comes up for their favorite vacation area. Being able to gather all this information and have it organized in a single place is one of the primary strengths of an internet booking engine.

 

A different core strength is that it will not allow for double bookings. Instead it will only allow bookings if bookings are available. This means you do not have to go back and forth and check calendars or booking dates but rather the system itself will protect you from making these very human errors. In fact, a good internet booking engine will also update a booking status if it has been reserved. This self-updating, error prevention, customer service enhancement tool is an essential requirement for anyone who is serious about succeeding in the travel industry.

 

  1. Online Payment Management:

This one is very important as it is the mechanism by which you receive payment from clients and by which your clients receive a guarantee of services. One of the major advantages of internet booking engines is that they will also be able to handle your online payment management as well. The handling of online payments is a critical consideration for any of your internet booking engines. Not only does this help reduce the workload but saves from the whole payment process; taking a check, going down to the bank, depositing at the bank, making sure that the check clears, or going around with a reams of cash.

Now your clients can simply complete their booking from the comfort of their own home using a secured credit card and you do not have to keep either valuables or checks in your office or on your person.

 

What’s also great about online payments is that they always include a receipt as well. Just like with any normal transaction, your clients will get a receipt emailed to them or the receipt will come up on the payment screen once the payment transaction is completed. You can even set it up so that you receive a duplicate receipt as well for your digital records. Being able to keep and take payments in a digital way allows you to search through your records for payment information for past clients and to be able to identify any possible missteps along the way for your client.

 

With greater ease and access, online booking engines are definitely the way the travel industry will continue to grow and thrive for many years to come, and provide better customer service by meeting the needs of their clients at anytime anywhere.