FCM: AI app for business travellers
We speak to Ciarán Kelly, managing director, Middle East & Africa of FCM Travel Solutions, to know more about this gift to the business traveller universe.
What role does Sam fulfil?
Sam is designed to help make business travel as stress-free as possible for business travellers. This chatbot-based “Smart Assistant for Mobile” app uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to pro-actively support business travellers before, during and after their business trip, via a conversational interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions. Sam provides personalised support with itinerary management, air and hotel bookings, flight updates, local city and country information, local weather and restaurant suggestions, security notifications, ground transportation and driving directions.
However, business travel is still about people and at any time during the chat-interface the business traveller can message an FCM travel consultant for live assistance.
Why is FCM’s AI chatbot unique?
FCM is the first travel management company (TMC) to apply the latest developments in AI, machine learning and chatbot technology to create a smartphone application for business travellers that doesn’t replicate what they can already do via other apps or channels. Most TMCs only support a business traveller reactively if they need a flight booking changed during the course of the trip, or to send them a generic travel alert. We believe that there is a real need to proactively support the individual traveller at each stage of their trip.
Sam is unique because the app can query, process and respond to data from a multitude of sources and suppliers virtually instantly. A simple message-based interface provides the traveller with contextual information relevant to their actual trip. It aggregates all relevant information a traveller needs in one place at the point when the user needs it.
Sam picks up on cues and updates travellers accordingly. For example, the night before a flight, Sam sends the weather forecast for the traveller’s destination, so he/she knows what to pack; Sam reminds the user to check in online. On the day of travel, Sam advises the traveller how long it will take to get to the airport; alerts the user if their flight is running late; tells them their flight’s departure gate.
Safety during travel is a key component - please tell us more about how this works and how it benefits Sam users.
Those who travel for business face a unique set of risks. In most companies, about 20 per cent of employees are either engaged in business travel or longer-term assignments. These numbers are set to rise substantially as markets develop. Air passenger numbers alone are expected to double to eight billion in the next 20 years, and many of those passengers will be corporate employees.
That means more workers face a variety of risks and pain points, ranging from major incidents like earthquakes, to more commonplace events such as food safety scares and traffic accidents. Companies have legal and moral obligations to provide safety and security to their people as they travel on business.
A new functionality was recently introduced to support travel arrangers within Sam and offer them greater visibility of their travellers in-trip. The new version grants travel managers, PAs and bookers access to view their current travellers’ itineraries, as well as receive notifications about events that affect each traveller, such as flight delays or cancellations. The app prompts travellers to report they are safe via a push notification. One tap later, the travel manager is informed about the status of each traveller. As a result, travel arrangers can take appropriate action or communicate directly with the traveller to ensure their wellbeing.
Share some data on business travel trends from FCM clients in the Middle East.
The top destinations from the UAE region our travellers are going to are London, Riyadh, Cairo, Paris and Beirut.
We have seen an increase in First Class and Premium Class travel amongst our clients year on year in comparison to 2018 year to date and in turn a 1 per cent shift from Business Class to Economy Class. Companies are consolidating more of their travel programmes in the region than ever before.