Technological progress is continuing at an unprecedented pace. How are your members taking advantage of artificial-intelligence technology, sharing economy apps and other new tools? What technological developments are you more cautious about?
Assante: For the student market, the positive advancements are in risk management apps and GPS. We’re investing in ways to use technology to keep students safe while they’re on the road. How do we communicate with our students and chaperones in the event of an emergency at a major attraction or shopping mall, where the students may be walking around on their own? How do we keep track of our students in an emergency?
In our customer base, because they’re under 18, there are really strict protocols around artificial intelligence. We’re sensitive to the sharing of social media and Facebook pages and even to the ways teachers and group leaders interact with students online.
Pantuso: At a seminar I attended a few months ago, one of the speakers was talking about the confluence of artificial intelligence, robotics and the capacity of machine learning moving forward. You put all those pieces together, and it’s creating a dynamic moving at lightning speed. It’s not all going to happen tomorrow, but it’s going to be a quick progression, and we’re going to have to be prepared for it.
One of the issues we’re talking about on Capitol Hill is who owns data at the end of the day. A bus going down the road is generating a lot of info. Is that owned by the manufacturer, the government or the person who paid $550,000 for the bus? We’re believers that the data belongs to the person who bought the equipment.
Inman: We are constantly trying to get cutting-edge products for our members. We have several new associate members who are offering customized items for ticketing, events and other digital solutions. We’ve also been working with Aon Affinity for about a year to launch a new benefit to help safeguard tour companies to reduce their exposure to cyber liability and protection in the event of a breach.
Dale: When it comes to artificial intelligence, we’re still trying to figure out what place it has in the travel industry today. Where does it fit into our business models? I don’t know, but I feel a responsibility to educate and provide whatever insight and resources I can for our members as they address it.
How do you coexist with the sharing economy? We have to because it’s not going away. So we see more and more hotel chains that are trying to integrate that shared experience into their portfolios. And our members will be doing the same, like sharing a meal with people in the community who may not be part of the group you’re traveling with. But you have an option to do it through a tour operator who has found resources to create a sharing experience.