Wendie Lee, Flight Centre, presents at the SOAR conference in Brisbane Wendie Lee, Flight Centre, presents at the SOAR conference in Brisbane

AI plus personal touch a winning formula for trade, independent agents hear

Agents can embrace ChatGTB and other AI developments to their advantage while still providing the personal touch and human interaction that clients value, delegates at the FCTG New Zealand Independent Conference heard late last week.

James Kavanagh, Flight Centre’s CEO leisure, says agents should not be afraid of the technology and should take heed of former predictions of doom.

‘Who thought the internet would kill the travel agent? Are you guys still around? This is just the next round, it’s about how you use AI’s ability to enhance your own ability.

‘An independent agent I talked to in the US says that AI is now like her intern in the business.’

The conference incorporated The Travel Managers, Flight Centre Independent, Travelsmart and Travel Associates at Home. Held at Westin Brisbane, it attracted some 120 agents, 30 suppliers and members of the support team.

Wendie Lee, chief technology officer independent, says AI can do a lot of the ‘running around’ for travel agents.

‘Piecing things together from multiple sources is a major pain point and AI can help us solve this.’

Lee, who also spoke at the conference, emphasised that agents don’t need to be experts in technology generally.

‘You just need an open mind, engage with the research being done. Travellers expect their needs to be anticipated and their holidays to run smoothly.

‘Mobile connectivity and being a digital concierge for your clients will become more and more important.’

Lee warned about putting various demographics into boxes. ‘We can’t assume that the older generation won’t want to use technology or that younger travellers don’t value a travel adviser.’

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