Our survey of travel executives—part of an extensive cross-industry analysis of over 1,600 C-suite executives and data science leaders from the world’s largest organizations—reveals that most travel organizations are barely scratching the surface in AI.
Just 13% of travel companies have the AI maturity today to unlock its full potential. We call them the AI Achievers. AI Achievers are different because they know that success with AI is a science and an art. It’s where the science of algorithms meets the art of organizational adaptation.
As early successes build confidence in AI as a value-driver broadly, we estimate that across industries, AI transformation will happen much faster than digital transformation—on average, 16 months faster. What does this mean for Travel specifically? It creates a clear sense of urgency for action.
After all, leaders haven’t forgotten what happened to Travel’s digital laggards. Those still in business today continue to play catch up.
There is growing consensus that AI is increasingly essential for competitive advantage in Travel.
What is AI maturity?
AI maturity is mastering a set of key capabilities in the right combinations across two categories:
Foundational AI capabilities—cloud platforms and tools, data platforms, architecture and governance—that are to keep pace with competitors.
Differentiation AI capabilities—AI strategy and C-suite sponsorship, combined with a culture of innovation that can set companies apart.
In all industries, AI Achievers’ commitment pays off in superior performance across financial metrics and beyond with 50% greater revenue growth.
Consider the breakdown of travel companies across these categories. AI Achievers (13%) show strength in both categories. AI Builders (7%) show strong foundational capabilities and average differentiation capabilities. AI Innovators (13%) show strong differentiation capabilities and average foundational capabilities. AI Experimenters (67%) have average capabilities in both.1
Today’s Achievers have set the standard and are poised to remain leaders. They have demonstrated that excellence in areas like vision and culture are just as critical as algorithmic integrity. Our research uncovered five key success factors for Achievers.
Champion AI as a strategic priority
AI strategies need the support of the CEO and the entire executive suite.
Invest heavily in talent
The more proficient all employees are in AI-related skills, the easier it is for travel players to scale human and machine collaboration.
Industrialize AI tools/teams to create an AI core
A strong AI core is particularly important for travel companies because of how ecosystem dependent the industry is.
Design AI responsibly
As travel companies deploy AI for more tasks, adhering to laws, regulations and ethical norms is key to build a sound data and AI foundation.
Prioritize long and short term AI investments
Travel companies can support smaller AI initiatives that deliver cross-enterprise benefits without massive transformation efforts.
We are confident that travel companies can pursue these success factors and expect to see the share of AI Achievers in Travel increase rapidly and significantly, more than doubling to 26% by 2024. This is encouraging news for an industry looking to put COVID-headwinds completely behind.
This prospect raises a critical question of where travel companies should target AI investments as they increase their AI maturity. The most promising applications for AI in Travel in terms of transforming experiences include customized travel planning and online customer service through chatbots, face-to-face traveler service though robots, facial recognition and identity management through biometrics, and dynamic pricing and predictive data analytics through AI and machine learning.