Sabre to test ‘virtual travel agent’ chatbot with two agencies

Sabre Corp. is planning to test a white-label chatbot with two travel agencies.

Sabre is developing a “virtual travel agent” powered by Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services, a set of tools organizations can use to add intelligent and conversational features to their applications.

It includes Language Understanding Intelligent Service, which provides simple tools to build language models that allow any application or bot to understand commands and act accordingly.

Customers of the agencies — Dallas-based Travel Solutions International USA and San Francisco-based Casto Travel — will be able to access the chatbot via Facebook Messenger.

Mark McSpadden, vice president of emerging technology and products at Sabre Corp., said chatbots can play a role in providing travelers with the autonomy they want for routine requests, such as changing an existing flight reservation.

That can free up travel suppliers to provide more personal service for more complex needs.

This is not Sabre’s first foray into chatbots.

Sabre Hospitality Solutions is building a chatbot prototype that would allow travelers to shop, book and engage with hoteliers through the most common messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and SMS text messaging, as well as voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Home.

Sabre hopes to learn more about the best way to engage travelers by understand their preference for how often and when they engage the bot and are most likely to speak with a live agent.

The chatbot will be beta tested with some of Sabre’s hotel customers when it is ready.

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