Industry News

Powering Travel: How AI, Digital Payments, and Customer Centricity are Changing the Game in South Africa in 2023

Travelstart has announced the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions to enhance the experience for customers.

The global travel industry has undergone a mammoth transformation in recent years. Navigating a challenging and constantly evolving landscape, some successes include the implementation of enhanced health and safety protocols, the swift adoption of digital technology, as well as increased booking flexibility and a renewed focus on domestic tourism.

In line with a new study by travel technology company Amadeus, which reveals travelers’ openness to new and emerging technologies, and their desire to travel more in 2023, Stephan Ekbergh, CEO of leading online company Travelstart, notes the adoption of three primary collaboration models that he believes will power future growth, based on AI, digital payments and client centricity, respectively.

CCO of Mikha’il Ernest says: “We are seeing a steady uptick in the number of new strategic alliances around the globe, which enables players of all sizes to be more competitive, by increasing their reach and exposure, easing payment processes, while simultaneously bringing down costs and improving the overall customer experience.”

Enhanced personalisation through AI

Travelstart has announced the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions to enhance the experience for customers. In the coming weeks, the company will be launching AI-powered support and self-service becoming Africa’s first OTA to use ChatGPT to enhance customers’ experience.

The company’s internal teams are ensuring an AI first approach, with the product team focusing on ensuring content is dynamic and rich. For hotels this will help generate descriptions using ChatGPT and using AI to classify and enhance establishment images. Moreover, this move will be presented to the customer as the best and most applicable choice, saving the traveler precious time in finding the best flights.

“We are thrilled to be the first to introduce cutting-edge AI and ML solutions to enhance our customer experience,” said Ekbergh. “We believe that our customers will appreciate the personalised assistance and recommendations, making their travel experience smoother, easier to navigate and more enjoyable.”

The implementation of AI and ML solutions reflects Travelstart’s commitment to innovation and staying ahead of the curve in the travel industry.

“After the nightmare of Covid19 and the massive impact on the brand and on our operations, we’re constantly seeking new ways to improve services and provide customers with the best possible experience,” he says.

Seamless Payment Experience

As travel continues to become more digital and technology driven, Ekbergh says partnerships like that of Travelstart and Mastercard place new emphasis on frictionless payment experiences, and help create a seamless booking experience for customers.

Travelstart’s partnership with Mastercard also provides exclusive discounts and deals to all Mastercard holders, including up to 20% on global flights and 10% on hotel stays.

“As a digital travel company, our primary focus has always been on affordability and simplicity,” says Ekbergh. “Working with Mastercard, an innovator and pioneer in the digital payments space, we can proudly say that convenience does not have to come at a cost. Despite the soaring costs of travel, our fintech-alliance enables us to provide competitively priced travel, seamlessly.”

Customer Ops-ession!

According to Ekbergh, companies that share a like-minded customer-centric approach, can provide a more personalised and comprehensive service overall, which should lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty, and result in increased revenue and repeat business.

South Africa’s newest local airline and strategic Travelstart partner LIFT, prides itself on hassle-free travel and confesses to having a “customer-obsessed” approach. Like Travelstart, simplicity, and affordability play a key role in the airline’s service delivery.

“Thanks to deep integration with our digital platform, Travelstart clients benefit from LIFT’s ticket flexibility and world-class aftersales customer support,” says Ekbergh.

He concludes: “In light of the economic shocks and upheaval of recent years, we are more cognisant than ever of the strength that comes with “the right” strategic collaboration and feel confident and excited about the road to recovery that lies ahead.  Together, we know we can navigate future uncertainty more effectively and emerge stronger on the other side.” 

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