Thomson to introduce virtual assistant tool for holiday inspiration

Holiday company Thomson is set to launch a new travel search tool offering its customers an innovative way to find inspiration for their holidays.

In an industry first, the UK-based holiday company will introduce a travel search tool that will leverage IBM’s Cloud platform with cognitive intelligence. Thomson is trialling the new tool with customers after research showed that 77 percent of respondents considered that a virtual agent would be helpful when searching for a holiday. The experimental service is in beta and will be developed using customer feedback to improve responses.

The virtual assistant will enable customers to interact via a simple chat interface to get real-time responses and helpful suggestions on holiday destinations or experiences. The tool enables a personalised search using natural language as compared to the usual checkbox and filtering of e-commerce sites. The conversation tool is designed as to learn from every customer interaction and provide ever more accurate responses, Thomson said.

Jeremy Osborne, Director of Strategic Innovation, TUI UK&I said; ‘We wanted to test whether a conversational search experience would resonate with our customers as a new, fun and easy way to find their ideal holiday. By leveraging IBM Cloud Technology with Watson’s cognitive intelligence, we are raising the bar in the travel industry. We are delivering an interactive service experiment to our customers that offer holiday inspiration ideas and personalised search results based on customer interests. We are excited to learn how customers react and interact, what they get out of the experience and how it compares to the current way of shortlisting holiday options.’

Helen Kelisky VP of Cloud, IBM UK and Ireland stated: ‘Cloud is the foundation for innovation. Thomson’s new interactive and conversational search tool is a prime example of how organisations can tap into the powerful infrastructure of IBM Cloud to build a customised user experience, which will continue to rapidly evolve with customer feedback and preferences.’

The move is in line with Thomson’s announcement earlier this year to transform the way they inspire customers to book holidays in store and online. By 2020 the holiday brand expects to phase out brochures and offer a digital experience at every customer touch point, investing in more personalised, inspirational content for customers, it said.