Artificial Intelligence has been around for decades but it is suddenly the most discussed, most important, common denominator technology on the planet due to newfound scale, speed and mass accessibility.
A majority 73% of travel/hospitality IT decision makers said artificial intelligence/machine learning leads their IT/business strategy (vs. cybersecurity at 64% and cloud at 58%), a February 2023 Rackspace Technology survey revealed. Two years ago, cloud, IoT, robotics and blockchain were said to be more important.
AI Use is Accelerating Among Hospitality/Travel Professionals
Thirty-seven percent of hospitality/travel IT decision makers said they began using AI/ML a year ago vs. 13% two years ago, 13% three years ago, 9% four years ago and 10% five years ago. Most (63%) of them are using AI/ML for data analysis followed by 55% using it for product lifestyle management and 51% as a driver of innovation. Intelligent search, document processing and customer engagement are growing fastest among their AI/ML initiatives. A majority (67%) said they plan to use it to improve speed and efficiency, predict business performance (59%) and reduce risk (46%) in the future.
The Question of Trust in AI
The amount of data is said to double every two years emphasizing the need for AI but how much do hospitality/travel IT professionals trust what it finds?
- Over a third (37%) said they slightly trust AI/ML results with 30% strongly trusting the results.
- About as many (37%) slightly vs. 31% strongly think there are enough checks and balances in place to avoid the negative consequences of AI/ML.
- 34% strongly vs. 32% slightly think there is sufficient governance in place to safeguard against any misuse of AI/ML.
Over half (54%) of travel/hospitality IT decision-makers said they encountered pushback or scrutiny about the penetration of AI/ML in their organization.
AI Benefits Are Already Huge with Room to Grow
So far, 36% of hospitality/travel professionals said they have realized substantial benefits from AI/ML already with another 38% saying they’ve seen modest benefits and 26% said it’s too early to tell. Travel/hospitality IT professionals listed those benefits as follows:
- 74% increased understanding of business and customers
- 73% increased revenue streams, personalized marketing
- 72% risk reduction
- 71% ability to hire/recruit new talent, reduced cost of new product development
- 70% increased innovation, operation cost reduction
- 69% improved customer satisfaction, increased sales
- 67% increased productivity
- 65% faster time to profitability
Finding AI Talent is a Challenge
A shortage of skilled talent was cited by 75% of skilled talent as the greatest challenge in their AI/ML adoption so far, followed by 64% citing algorithm/model failure and 51% who lack the technology infrastructure to support AI/ML. 86% of travel/hospitality professionals said they’ve grown their AI/ML workforce in the past 12 months with 57% saying the implementation of AI/ML has resulted in a reduction of their workforce.
“As AI and machine learning mature and projects mature, we are seeing it expand out across the organization and become more ubiquitous, advancing in its importance, visibility, and usage,” said Jeff DeVerter, Chief Technology Evangelist, Rackspace Technology. “The fact that more respondents began their AI/ML journey within the past year is striking, and points to the fact that these technologies are seen as they key to driving efficiencies in uncertain economic times. At the same time, the research makes clear that many organizations are still struggling to understand or realize the technologies’ full benefits of AI/ML, and many face internal resistance to adoption.”
“Organizations that are struggling with AI/ML also tend to be organizations that have immature data cultures, low levels of data literacy and poor data governance structures, because any AI/ML project is only as good as the data being used,” added Ben Blanquera, VP, Evangelist, and Senior Architect, Rackspace Technology. “For more projects to be successful and for organizations to derive long-term value, there needs to be a focus on data quality. For some companies, this may mean rethinking their entire data governance approach.”
“Moving into an uncertain economic climate, IT and Business leaders are using AI/ML to improve business operations with low innovation,” said Nirmal Ranganathan, Chief Architect, Data & AI, Rackspace Technology. “We see customers use AI/ML to build intelligent search capabilities to improve employee efficiencies, reduce manual processes through the adoption of intelligent document processing and improve customer experience through customer engagement solutions. Innovation through AI/ML is rocket fueling the consumer space with mainstream adoption of Generative AI technologies.”
The survey was completed by Coleman Parkes Research in February 2023. Findings are based on the responses of 1,420 IT decision-makers across manufacturing/logistics, retail, hospitality/travel, energy, healthcare/pharma/biomedical, government, media/entertainment and financial service sectors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Most of the companies/organizations polled have from 1,000 to 9,999 employees and an annual revenue between $50m and $1b.