IBM and Travelport bringing AI and blockchain innovations to market

IBM and Travelport bringing AI and blockchain innovations to market

At Travelport, we play a critical role in the travel ecosystem, working alongside suppliers and providers to ultimately deliver memorable, exciting travel experiences. Through our strategic technology partnerships, we navigate the complexities impacting our customers and simplify the major burdens that are slowing down our travel industry. With IBM, we’re combining our established infrastructure, deep industry expertise and powerful technology capabilities to help drive innovation for travel.

This is an interesting time for the travel industry, where we’re seeing how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain can have a positive impact on our customers. Our partnership with IBM allows us to not only bring these innovation proof of concepts to life, but to deliver them to market so that our customers and partners can thrive — and together, we can enhance the entire travel experience for everyone. For example, last year we launched IBM Travel Manager, a joint product from IBM and Travelport that combines our data with AI to improve management of corporate travel spend.

The impact of tech on travel

Companies are now taking advantage of IBM Travel Manager, an industry-first solution we commercialized for intelligent, efficient decision-making driven by powerful data analytics and AI. At Travelport, we process over $89 billion worth of travel spend annually and manage around 15 billion shopping searches each month, enabling us to capture and understand a rich cross-section of highly relevant travel intelligence. The platform combines Travelport’s data-led insights and IBM Watson AI to intelligently track, manage, predict and analyze travel costs and trends in one place. Now available to travel managers and travel management companies, this innovation has the potential to significantly change how companies manage and optimize their travel programs.

Much like AI, blockchain enables us to resolve issues, improve processes and ultimately deliver better experiences for travelers. At Travelport, we believe that much of the customer experience will be underpinned by blockchain inspired technologies that allow us to securely link multiple content sources in the travel supply chain, simplifying the booking and management experiences for agents and travelers alike. Using IBM Blockchain, we’re currently addressing a costly, inefficient challenge for agencies and hotels.

Hotel commissions processing, which takes place on the back-end by hotels and agencies, are a less exciting part of the travel process but a critical part that ensures that the agencies supporting travelers and driving hotel bookings are duly compensated. Considering that travelers have endless options for accommodation, a booking alone is not enough to provide a commission to an agent. In fact, a large percentage of commissions owed to agencies from hotels for guests’ stays are getting lost or going unpaid due to the manual processes required to fulfill hotel commission settlements.

Putting the traveler first

This year, we’re working with IBM to provide agencies with real, tangible ROI from hotel fulfillment. Adding hotel commissions on a distributed ledger creates the ability to transform complex commission processes so they can become quickly and accurately settled. While hotel commission settlements are understandably not a worry for travelers themselves, these back-end processes ensure that the providers who work together to deliver an end-travel experience are duly compensated.

Travelport and IBM’s joint effort, Commission Reconciliation Blockchain, is currently working with BCD Travel and collecting data from several major hotel brands who are eager to take the first step in an improved process tied with data clarity and timeliness. My colleague Ross Vinograd recently told the GBTA conference in a panel alongside IBM, BCD Travel and Hyatt that, “by using blockchain capabilities to automate the hotel commission settlement process and improve fulfillment accuracy and transparency, we’re enhancing commission processing for the better and ultimately improving the experience of buying and managing travel for everyone.”

“From my perspective, there are data standardization issues throughout the ecosystem from all parts,” Dan Stephenson, Regional Process Owner and Shared Services Director at Hyatt commented during the GBTA panel. “I think that one of the things that has attracted me to this particular project, is I see this as a potential solution — one of the only ones that I am aware of that could actually work to solve for some of those standardization issues. Frankly, I have two goals when it comes to our payment process — that we pay accurately, and that we pay as quickly as we can. The less time we’re all spending thinking about getting to the right answer, the better off we all are.”

Our journey forward

Working alongside partners like IBM has enabled Travelport to make significant strides in commercializing our innovations in 2019, and we’re excited to see how technology is truly putting the traveler first. As we transition deeper into a world where people are inspired to travel when, where and how they choose, through whichever means they prefer, Travelport is focused on delivering the solutions sparked by innovation that support this era of customer-centric travel.

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