RPA in Travel and Hospitality: Automate to Regenerate

This article will help you automate your travel business’s processes. Watch the webinar session moderated by Philip Wolf, Founder and Serial Board Director at PhocusWright, and hosted by the Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality practice at DataArt, and read the webinar overview. Explore compelling real-life cases of how companies embraced and capitalized on the automation of repetitive manual tasks.
4 min read
09/29/20
By Alina Khodyakova
Marketing Specialist, Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality
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RPA in Travel and Hospitality: Automate to Regenerate

According to McKinsey, 31% of businesses had fully automated at least one of their functions by the end of 2020. Travel companies are no exception. Let’s explore how your travel or hospitality company can automate repetitive, time-consuming, and manual tasks (disclaimer: it feels like magic).

What Is RPA and Why Does It Matter to Travel and Hospitality Industry?

Robotic process automation (RPA) helps companies adjust routine processes so that artificial intelligence and trigger-based programs can handle these tasks on their own. Here are a few examples of how to use RPA in the travel and hospitality industries:

  • RPA in the Travel Industry. Travel agencies often use RPA for booking process automation, passenger name recording, data validation and reconciliation, as well as automated chats, customer insights, and automation of other processes and activities.
  • RPA in the Hospitality Industry. The hospitality domain can use RPA in non-human areas where communication and interpretation nuances do not matter. Simone Puorto, CEO of Travel Singularity, expects that RPA will be adapted for back office, revenue management, distribution, prediction, luggage transportation, self-service, and other processes.

More and more hotels have started supporting tech-leveraged RPA to make their processes manageable and enable self-tuning. In June, Traxo Inc, the global leader in corporate travel data capture and pre-auditing, teamed up with a business travel performance automation company to automate hotel requests for proposal and program management solution with the help of RPA.

What is under the hood? The new system monitors and renegotiates the hotel program’s terms and conditions, recommends ways to increase savings, and creates hotel bid lists to ease repetitive buyers’ tasks during the annual procurement cycle.

RPA Benefits to the Travel Industry

Domain experts shared a variety of advantages of RPA in the travel industry.

Jenne Pierce, Tech Product Advisor and Former SVP of Product at Apple Leisure Group, told DataArt about queue-reading robots trained to process and parse routine email messages. Staying on top of email queues can be challenging for many travel companies, especially if staffing is limited. In addition, delayed responses or accidentally missing an important message may cause serious service consequences for the company and its clients. An Email (or even fax) queue-reading robot is a relatively easy solution to this problem.

Jenne Pierce illustrated how this kind of process automation helped an airline schedule change management and stop-sell processing. In both cases covered, travel companies that implemented automated solution noticed a considerable reduction in personnel’s manual efforts, which also freed them up for more creative, “humane" tasks:

Jenne Pierce
It’s easy to imagine a world where you’ve automated the whole system, and it’s magical. But you can only get your way there in steps. You do not have to do a “big bang”.
Jenne Pierce Tech Product Advisor and Former SVP of Product at Apple Leisure Group

Jakub Dziwisz, CTO at AirHelp, shared real-life lessons that his team learned while creating and training LARA, a robo-lawyer that helps air passengers get compensated for disrupted flights. At the beginning, the AirHelp team consisted of only two software engineers. They both focused on understanding how humans work and then “explained” the process to the machine, without fancy AI and advanced programming techniques. As a result, LARA can automatically assess 90% of claims.

Jakub Dziwisz
Instead of going with fancy AI, we implemented a relatively simple rule-based system that covered 90% of cases with 95% confidence level... Most of the success here is related to the fact that we invested up-font into clarifying and clearing the process, removing human bias, or the “noise” from the learning set.
Jakub Dziwisz CTO at AirHelp

Webinar Recording: Automate to Regenerate: Cost Optimization Case Studies in Travel

Edward Silver, Strategic Advisor and Former CTO at Flight Centre Travel Group, emphasized that any action a human makes on the web, can be replicated by a robotic process automation tool. Silver said that travel companies that are serious about digital transformation should experiment with RPA. These experiments do not require in-depth technical expertise, yet they can deliver tangible value to the business:

Edward Silver
RPA is at the heart of digital transformation... With automation, you are empowering folks to take the manual elements out of their day, so they can move on and work on higher-value types of activity.
Edward Silver Strategic Advisor and Former CTO at Flight Centre Travel Group

The best part of experimenting and piloting an automation process is that, once a company has the workflow documented in a spreadsheet or a database, it can use the same data to train robots for a variety of systems, including multi-vendor ones. To reduce the time for implementation and more quickly recognize gains in efficiency, travel companies can partner with technology providers proficient in RPA and intelligent automation (IA). DataArt has experience in these domains and we can help facilitate this process.

Share your RPA project needs and get a free consultation from DataArt experts

Greg Abbott, Head of DataArt’s Travel, Transportation and Hospitality Practice, revealed the story behind one of our ongoing automation projects in the maritime sector. For this client, intelligent automation was the key means to reduce costs and unlock the latent value behind their initial investment. To help the client achieve their ambitious vision of becoming “the Starbucks of the maritime industry,” the DataArt team modernized and optimized existing processes, including complex financial reconciliations, as well as leveraged machine learning techniques to automate cost projections. While the project is still ongoing, the client has already seen productivity improve by 50%, in addition to a reduction in processing errors and increased customer satisfaction levels:

Greg Abbott
Beyond the real, tangible outcomes, the client has obtained cleansed data. From that, they are positioned to use some of the AI and ML tools, and they want to get to this goal, which could make a first in the maritime industry – being able to forecast fixed-cost port call.
Greg Abbott Head of DataArt’s Travel, Transportation and Hospitality Practice

This is a good example of a company where a product-led approach drives its organizational transformation.

To summarize the vision of the above-mentioned experts, here are the major RPA use cases in the travel industry:

  • processing routine messages
  • parsing data
  • claim management
  • financial reconciliations
  • cost predictions.

Real-World Use Cases for RPA in Hospitality

Most global hotel, restaurant, and entertainment chains already use RPA for most types of automation. Meliá Hotels International adopted RPA for creating daily reports for every hotel operations manager. Without an RPA, the creation of only one such report from data collected through six different sources took too much time. Additionally, since hotels are located across the globe, it was challenging to deliver them manually by 9 a.m. local time. The implementation of the new approach reduced the time required for this manual process by over 500%.

Summing Up

Travel industry experts unanimously agreed that, with the numerous automation tools available on the market, companies do not necessarily need a large in-house engineering team to pilot workflow automation. The barrier to entry is lower than ever, and organizations can consider starting with a LEGO approach. From there, they can gradually enrich what already has been done for business benefits and considerable cost optimization.

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