Here’s How Ctrip is Using AI, Big Data, and Intelligent Hardware to Meet the New Age of Sophisticated Travelers
AI and other digital intelligence technologies are taking the business world by storm, and this is only likely to increase as time goes on. It’s helping brands serve and understand their customers in new and more convenient ways than ever before.
Ctrip – now trading as trip.com – is getting in on this action by launching a new platform, powered by AI and machine learning, designed to offer next generation customized digital travel services to its enterprise customers.
Chinese Business Trips
Business trips are a huge part of Chinese culture. Whether those trips take the form of single day outings to local attractions, or lengthy sabbaticals to foreign destinations, taking the workforce out of the office and taking part in such activities are common and considered an essential component of building stronger teams. Small firms and large corporations alike engage in this kind of activity on a semi-regular basis.
“Over 5 billion trips were made across China last year, generating a total estimated revenue of 4.57 trillion yuan ($713.8 billion) in 2017 – a 69 percent jump from 2012 and average annual growth of 15.8 percent over the past five years. Meanwhile, 129 million overseas trips were made last year, official data showed,” said a Ctrip press release.
Of course, these team building trips are not the only market which exists, with thousands of Chinese business people also travelling for meetings and negotiations.
Traditionally these outings would have been organized by the companies, with a preferred travel agent with whom they have a formal relationship. The advantage of meeting with a brick and mortar travel agent is clear. The single issue faced by companies attempting to arrange trips like those described above is the need for significant customization, which is obviously better communicated and achieved with a face to face conversation with a flesh and blood human being.
However, Ctrip is looking to step into the gap this leaves for an agency to offer a service of organizing these trips on a much larger scale and more centralized position.
“The market potential for enterprise customized travel service is huge and might take about half of the overall customized tourism market share soon,” said Head of Ctrip's Customized Travel Department, Xu Zhiyun. “We estimate the company's revenue in the field would this year quadruple that of 2017 due to the launch of the online platform.”
A New Enterprise Platform for Digital Travel
Therefore, Ctrip’s mission was to create a platform where this desire could be met, without the need to visit a brick and mortar travel agent.
The platform will combine the personalized aspects of a brick and mortar travel brand with the technical expertise of Ctrip’s online experience and works by matchmaking businesses looking to purchase travel packages with appropriate agencies. These travel agents will be able to present their offerings through the Ctrip platform, where the business clients will be able to complete the booking in a single location – even where multiple providers are used.
Ctrip has experience in this field and already has powerful big data capabilities working for it. However, they have never taken on an undertaking of this magnitude before, with these business trips being much larger than the smaller group deals the company has previously offered, and it will be exciting to see whether they have the infrastructure and personnel to make this platform take off in the way they envisage.
“On the platform, enterprises will enjoy customized services from over 4,000 professionals who will design tourism packages to cater to their specific demands,” said the company in a press release. “The online services will make the consulting and designing process more efficient and transparent thanks to a large pool of tourism resources and precise match-making based on big data, according to Ctrip. Enterprises will also have access to Ctrip's customized tourism services via over 6,000 offline travel agencies.”
One great advantage of digital travel platforms such as these is they not only use data to power themselves, but also gather vast swaths of data in return. This data can then be used by the AI and machine learning built into the platform to help with the further development of its capabilities.
This means that, as the platform is used by enterprise customers, it will get better at offering more intelligent recommendations, ever more closely aping the experience of visiting with a brick and mortar travel agent.
You can hear Ctrip’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Victor Tsang, speaking on “Delivering a seamless travel experience – How to meet the needs of the domestic and outbound traveler with AI, big data and intelligent hardware,” at Digital Travel Summit APAC 2019, in April, at the Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore.
Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.