CES Asia-18

The travel tech innovation keynote on day two of CES featured Wong Hong, President, Greater China and Singapore Delta Air Lines; Helen Huang, President, Greater China, MSC Cruises and Michelle Toh, Programming Editor, CNN Business Hong Kong.

Travel is benefiting from innovations in technology, particularly in the areas of AI, IoT and 5G.

Although the cruise industry in China is only about 15 years old, it currently falls second after the US in growth. As for Delta, the airline may be 90 years old, but it’s still growing, with six flights a day from China to the US.

CES Asia-19

Why Invest in Tech?

Delta serves nearly 200 million passengers a year, which requires an investment in fleet, aircraft facilities and onboard products. Wong stated that Delta’s goal is to connect people, using tech to make life as stress-free as possible.

According to Huang, the cruise business is a complex one, managing about 6,000 passengers per ship. MSC Cruises has its eye on passenger needs (navigation and security) for the coming decades. Hospitality plays another big role, so the evolution of future tech is essential.

At Delta, the culture of innovation drives the way their operation. Three years ago, they created The Hanger — a core team that looks for solutions using tech.

One big factor is how to address weather conditions. Pilots were looking for solutions and two years ago, came up with a flight weather app using predictive analysis of airspace turbulence. Pilots can now map a cross section of the airspace in front of the aircraft to predict upcoming turbulence for passenger safety and comfort and additionally reduce fuel consumption.

The cruise industry is a perfect example of innovation. In Europe, MSC Cruises is number one in the marketplace. As different regions require different services, the company has five prototypes within their 16-ship fleet to help anticipate and meet passenger needs.

Their new MSC For Me app allows passengers to view the daily program as well as book activities and services.

When it comes to deciding where to invest its tech resources, Delta believes it still has to focus on the customer journey, addressing multiple touch points to make every passenger’s journey pleasant and problem-free.

The airline tracks millions of data to help gain insight on where to direct future issues. They’re also the first US carrier to use AliPay for booking flights and WeChat for communication. Through technology, all cabin classes currently allow customer upgrades, even after initial ticket purchase.

Although there’s still much to do on the tech innovation side, MSC Cruises also works with AliPay to allow easy communication – and payment options – for their Chinese passengers.

In order for MSC to attract younger travellers, they’ve invested in tech to help both broaden the customer base and recruit first-time cruisers. Each ship works independently as a service unit to help with connectivity, as WiFi at sea can be unpredictable.

Via the upcoming rollout of Zoi, a digital AI assistant (that can speak seven languages), each cabin will be able to get answers to questions they may have while on board.

Anticipated Travel Trends

In the airline industry, it’s going to be baggage. Delta’s invested $15 million in RFID capabilities for baggage handling, a tech aspect that the airline expects will become an industry standard in the future.

For cruising, the key is safety and security standards — anything that will provide additional visibility. For this, MSC is turning to AI.

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