3 winning ai strategies

Plus Holiday Extras hits the big time with OpenAI and much more

Last week I went camping and was totally off grid for a week. No ai out there, just a bunch of caravans with electrical issues (seems like a market).

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"If you told me back in 2020 that we would be where we're at in the company today, I would have cried and then slapped you."

Kyle Potter, Executive Editor, Thrifty Traveler"

That is the quote from Propellic customer who had their organic traffic increase by 1300% over two years (yes, that is the correct number of zeros).

The Challenge

As travel tanked during the pandemic, Thrifty Traveler needed to adapt and strategize

A small team of 6 members meant little time for SEO

The Solution

A comprehensive SEO audit that uncovered major problems

A massive restructuring of over 7,000 URLs

Ongoing content strategy

The Result

1300% increase in organic traffic volume

700% increase in top-ten ranking keywords

IHG teams up with Google for ai

One of the bigger stories of the week was the announcement that IHG were teaming up with Google as partner to help build out their ai capability.

You see a few of these types of announcements which I think probably works well for both companies as a PR exercise, but it’s less clear of the tangible outputs happening right now.

3 winning ai strategies

The favourite thing I read this week was this piece by Clint Chao who is a General Partner at Moment Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund based in Palo Alto, CA.

Chao succinctly outlined the categories of ai startups that were of interest to himself and the fund he represents. They come in 3 categories he labels as; Venture Down; Venture Out or Venture Deep.

The “Down” category talks about becoming an infrastructure layer that “makes it simpler or more efficient for others to build their AI applications on top of, and selling it to them in the most efficient way”. In the travel space I would consider someone like Tripian to be in this category. Tripian for example can provide to others the infrastructure required to get accurate and verified POI’s with the tagging already done to build personalisation around.

The “Out” category Chao describes as those who “can venture out into uncharted industries or domains to gather valuable data”. Chao actually name checks travel as a domain where this can be valuable. Arguably Tripian also fits here, given what they have to offer is data but I’m sure there are other great examples also.

The “Deep” category is defined as picking “an interesting niche market or affinity group, and show that you understand the unique challenges of that space by developing AI-enabled services tailored to address them.” This is where we will likely see the most action. Chao has chosen his own example here for our sector, and it was a company I was previously unaware of. Their solution of AI powered robo calls to do hotel reconfirmations, I can definitely see the need for from my DMC days but surely someone needs to build the other side of this as having humans answering robo calls seems like it will have a short shelf life.

If you have to squint and hold your mouth in a funny way to see how what you are building fits in to any of these categories, then you should also probably expect a tough funding road ahead. You might also expect this might happen to you (first 30 secs is enough to get the message).

If you think someone (or everyone) you know or work with could grow from being more informed on the topic of ai + travel (or could use the training above) then please forward this email to them and they can click the button below:

Peak Travel Planning

ai travel planners fail to stop grabbing attention, especially around the predictions that they are all doomed to failure.

If you aren’t up with the latest then the indefatigable Christian Watts has been pumping out the video summaries to help you catch up.

Here is the Gemini one (which you’ve probably never seen because it was only ever posted to Youtube and not Linked In

Watts has also done a fab 2 part series on both the theory and practical of GenAI - so if you are still new to all this - go spend an hour listening to Christian and you’ll know as much as any of us.

Another great piece this week came from Fritz Oberhummer, Vice President, Travel & Hospitality at Intellias. Fritz laid out how you can utilise ai for:

  • Insights-led business decisions

  • High-quality customer care

  • Smart travel assistants and chatbots

  • New revenue streams

Got a tip or seen a story I’ve missed? Let me know by simply replying to this newsletter.

Bite me Bezos!

My favourite expose this week came from Stuart McDonald from Travelfish who outlined a scenario of LLM’s getting dumber over time. Two instantly admirable features of the piece were its official title of “Why you take golf clubs to the moon” and the second was that it’s URL string has “bite-me-bezos” in it. Surely that is something you’ve just got to read.

The crux of the argument is that the information that LLM’s are trained on was the blood, sweat and tears of content creators over a long period and for which they have been compensated zip. And now if everyone rushes to LLM’s for their info instead of seeking out, genuine and locally written and updated content - then that type of content will die away. And if that content dies away then what will future versions train on…………..

Simultaneously we are being flooded with ai created content which on top of being soulless and boring, is also often just wrong. But it gets published regardless. So is this what the next versions of LLM’s get trained on? That isn’t going to be good.

The argument from the LLM makers side as succinctly outlined in this interview with Dario Amodei, CEO of Anthropic is (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Why did you just leave that stuff lying around freely on the internet?”

People like McDonald hold treasure troves of information (or as some like to call it, data) that essentially no-one else has. I expect that might be something that is actually pretty valuable in the not too distant future.

He finishes “My fever dream on this is that the AI mobs fess up and admit they screwed up. They delete their entire repositories and re-start the process on an opt-in model with agreeable licensing terms.” An alternate scenario would be for those that want to differentiate, by exclusively having the correct trove of information, to tie up an exclusive license even sooner, similar to the opportunity that Google saw in Reddit.

If you are a band, you want to get on the cover of Rolling Stone. And if you have anything to do with building with ai, you want to see yourself getting mentioned by the kings over at OpenAI. For the crew at Holiday Extras that happened this week in the “customer stories” section.

If you missed our previous story about the fantastic workshop that Tom McGarry from Holiday Extras did at Arival, then fear not because we are getting Tom on the podcast very soon to go through some of the highlights.

If you don’t know Holiday Extras, they started in airport car parking and now hold pride of place in ai - for this week at least! A remarkable journey.

McKinsie deep dives into airline maintenance

Consultancy McKinsey took a deep dive into airline maintenance and the opportunities the GenAI brings to that corner of our our industry. I got GPT to give us a summary:

Here's a concise summary of the key points from the article "The generative AI opportunity in airline maintenance":

- Essential Role of MRO: Aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) is critical for airline operations, ensuring safety and reliability as airlines manage increasing passenger demand and a constrained supply of new aircraft. The industry faces challenges from a global shortage of aircraft and a backlog of maintenance due to COVID-19.

- Workforce and Cost Pressures: The MRO sector is experiencing severe labor shortages, rising costs due to inflation, and a workforce becoming less experienced due to retirements. By 2033, about one-fifth of aviation maintenance technician positions are expected to remain unfilled.

- Generative AI Applications: Generative AI (Gen AI) presents opportunities to enhance MRO productivity and efficiency. Applications include virtual AI maintenance experts, AI-augmented tools for reliability engineering, and automated assistance for back-office tasks. These innovations aim to reduce manual workload, improve maintenance quality, and optimize supply chain management.

- Implementation Challenges and Strategy: Successful adoption of Gen AI in MRO requires overcoming technological integration challenges, maintaining strict safety and regulatory compliance, and developing a clear strategic vision. Airlines and MRO providers need to focus on creating quick wins and building necessary infrastructure to leverage Gen AI effectively.

These points highlight the transformative potential of Gen AI in airline maintenance amidst significant industry challenges and the critical steps needed for effective implementation.

In similar vein, Fiji Airlines this week talked about how they are using ai to improve their own operational efficiency. They have partnered with Assaia’s TurnaroundControl which uses “innovative computer vision event detection technology, the specialised tool allows airlines and ground handlers to monitor, manage, and optimise their turnaround operations efficiently.” A great example of the “Deep” approach mentioned above tackling a real and known industry wide issue.

Slack Group!

The Slack group has never been so vibrant as it is right now. With Alex Bainbridge bringing us a “Debate of the Day” most days from posts he spots on Linked In to questions being asked in the group - it is really taking off. To join please reply to this email or hit me up on Linked In.


The ai + travel market in Vietnam

This not very good and probably somewhat spammy report no doubt picked up directly from a PR release, caught my eye mainly because of its subject matter.

The report (which I haven’t read) shows just how fast things are moving. It is a big niche down by looking only at Vietnam and the size and influence of the ai market specifically in travel. So that is a double niche down.

Having worked with a Vietnamese team for all our tech at Urban Adventures, I am acutely aware of the serious level of talent and skill in that nation when it comes to technical development but I wouldn’t have expected to see a report covering just travel as a vertical and just ai as a technology just yet. Presumably someone thins there is a market for this report right now.

How to work with Tony

As things have started to get busy in a few different areas I’m going to now change the way I work with people:

Please email me if interested in a 2 hour session with your leaders and ai forward team members to get your business started on its ai journey. Each workshop has a cost of $3000 AUD (+ G.S.T. if in Australia) and dives into the background of ai, what is good and not so good at and then some fascilitated brainstorming on opportunities specific to you. From the workshop we then have the option to deep dive into the specific opportunities within your business. By interviewing key internal stakeholders we can identify which of your bottlenecks are most ripe for an ai powered fix and the approach to take to fix those across a month long project. For the fully committed business who now understands the transformative power of this technonology, the final phase is to move to build your own internal “AI centre of excellence” which is combination of building an ai culture in your business by taking a human centric approach as well as building out or buying in the best solution to each identified issue. Please email me for more details on any or all of these phases.

Want to follow in Propellic’s footsteps and get in front of a highly engaged audience of travel decision makers by sponsoring the newsletter? We are book Q3 & Q$ sponsorships now. Also email me on that one for rates and details.

Always happy to chat to anyone looking to engage either of the two travel related startups:

  • HandbookFM.com for those looking to up their training and onboarding game such as DMC’s who want to show prospective customers how they will train their local teams on the customer brand values and safety criteria

  • Customised Trip which is an ai that mimics the human travel agent to build out a bespoke itinerary for a client before the human sales team gets involved. It comes also with a fulfillment option so the whole process from conversation to travel experience is taken care of. Great if you have an engaged audience and looking for something to really add some big value and big revenue.

Most clicked last week was the link from the post from Gilad Berenstein (whose name I misspelled in the emailed edition - sincerest apologies Gilad) on what lessons you can learn from the big boys of travel. That’s it - you’ve made it to the end of this edition. I’ll be putting the result of the most clicked post in next week’s edition so you can see where others are focussing. If I’ve missed something, you’ve got a tip or any feedback at all - you can simply reply to this email and it will come straight to me. I’m doing this for You so please don’t be shy to tell me what you think


Artificial Intelligence (AI) Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. (source IBM)

Generative AI (GAI) is a type of AI powered by machine learning (ML) models that are trained on vast amounts of data and are used to produce new content, such as photos, text, code, images, and 3D renderings. (Source Amazon)

Large Language Model (LLM) is a specialized type of artificial intelligence (AI) that has been trained on vast amounts of text to understand existing content and generate original content.

ChatGPT - Open AI’s LLM; sometimes referred to by its series number GPT3; GPT3.5 or GPT4. These are used by Microsoft & Bing.

BERT - Google’s suite of LLM. BARD is the most common of these.

If wanting to go even deeper into the AI lexicon - check out this handy guide created by Peter Syme for the tours & activity sector