Don’t let the internet ruin your sunset

Share this post:

I helped online travel planning take off. Now I want to get it back on course.

Here’s what happened: I started out as a travel agent, then went to American Airlines and spent 24 years in marketing and IT. When we saw the internet boom, we asked:

“How can this help travel planning?”

Great question. American Airlines had an electronic reservation system named Sabre, but at that time most people who booked their own travel still spent tedious time reading through flight schedules, lists and other details to research their options.

So, American Airlines turned Sabre into a new company named I was the CEO of from its launch in 1996 to when Sabre bought it back in 2002. That’s when I left to help create, serving as chairman until Priceline bought that company in 2013.

Online travel planning made a big impact in how people plan their travel. It gave people a site that could compile prices and availability for everything. It was everything in one place. But the internet kept evolving. The amount of information to sort through doubled, tripled, exploded. Suddenly, everything in one place started to sound like a mountain of choices. To get the best deal on the right destination, people needed to spend tedious time reading through details to research the options. Sound familiar?

Travel planning needed innovation

Online travel planning needed to innovate. It needed to be more than an electronic catalog so massive that you had to limit your trip at the start. New technology gives us new approaches. In particular, the boom in artificial intelligence has inspired people to ask:

“How can this help travel planning?”

Great question, once again. But the answer starts with another question: What do people need? It’s not about inserting artificial intelligence—it’s about finding out how it can help.

When most people plan their travel, they want to get the perfect trip with little effort. Online travel planning made things easier at first, but somewhere along the line it became about the technology. Websites didn’t ask travelers what kind of trip they wanted; They asked travelers which city, what time, what part of town. Then it turned into a game to grab the latest deals and uncover special discounts. A lot of people don’t want to play that game. They’re ready to relax on vacation, not tense up for an online bargain-store blitz.

Choices became limitations

And sometimes people don’t want to make choices that limit them up front. The very start of online travel planning requires you to dissect your beautiful beach vacation into a specific city, hotel and schedule, quickly crumbling into price comparisons and tiny photos. What if your ideal vacation is waiting for you somewhere else? What if you were open to seeing somewhere new?

Travel should be about travel. It shouldn’t be about bookings, reservations, discounts and limitations. When someone watches a beautiful sunset at a beach resort, they’re not watching an internet-booked sunset. They’re just watching a sunset. That’s the human experience. It’s not internet travel. It’s travel. The internet needs to get out of the way.

Get the internet out of the way

That’s what we do with WayBlazer. WayBlazer uses IBM Watson cognitive technology to let people say something like “I want a beach vacation in January, with scuba diving nearby.” Using most websites, you would probably start by searching for scuba diving, find something that looked good, then book a nearby hotel and travel. But the diving might be a small part of your trip—what you really want is the most amazing beach and hotel that has diving nearby, just like you said. You can’t search every single beach with diving near it, and you can’t look at every hotel and review site to try to figure out which places are best. But WayBlazer can.

Our cognitive technology understands what you say, understands what reviews say, and finds the best price—for the best destination, not just the best website.

That’s how we’re innovating to meet real needs with the latest technology. That’s how we plan to fix online travel planning and get it back on track for the future.

We just want to make sure you can see that stunning sunset on the beach.


For more, watch the IBM interview with WayBlazer’s Terry Jones.


More stories

How AI chatbot technology can help boost service

What makes a financial services organization a good bet for a customer? To start, customers look for a successful track record, a commitment to fiduciary duties and low fees. But they also value responsiveness. When customers have a question, they want a prompt answer. They want a company devoted to providing convenient, personalized customer experience. […]

Continue reading

How to lift building IQs and improve people flow with high-tech AI

At KONE, our job is improving People Flow® in some of the world’s tallest buildings in the world’s largest cities. We know that even one elevator or escalator out of service can cause major headaches for the people that count on them to get from one place to another. That’s why we started working with […]

Continue reading

How to find new football stars with AI technology

For football (or soccer, for American) fans, talent on the field is a thing of beauty. Names like Messi, Ronaldo, Pelé and Zidane evoke images of unparalleled grace and athleticism. As we saw in this year’s World Cup, new stars are emerging all the time. But have you ever wondered how new talent rises to […]

Continue reading