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Monday, 22 February 2010

Tina, Lisa and the future of hotel booking

In this age of austerity, many travel bookers will have become more familiar with Tina and Lisa. As travel budgets have been cut, many companies have decided to restrict their travel policies, making company travellers stay in lower rated hotels than they did in the golden age of the noughties when the mantra was often “anything goes”.

So who are Tina and Lisa? Anyone who has tried to make a Premier Inn or Travelodge booking over the phone will know them only too well. They are the automated telephone booking agents of the two budget chains. Tina, whose acronym means Travel Inn Now Automated, referring to the company’s former brand name, is based on technology from ScanSoft and Voice Genie while Travelodge’s Lisa is based upon speech recognition technology developed by a company called Fluency (now Syntellect).

Yet Tina and Lisa may eventually be forced into retirement. Online booking systems such as Conferma’s Hotel Booker interact directly with the reservations systems of the two companies through an API, bypassing the dulcet tones of Tina and Lisa. Luckily, Tina and Lisa are not easily upset and will probably go off to pasture without a whimper.

Indeed, the process may already have started. Just try to find the telephone booking number for Travelodge on its website. As with other travel companies who see the web as the future, such as easyJet, finding a telephone number is quite a challenge.

We should not be too worried. Tina and Lisa are both clever girls, but just try to get them to do something a little unusual and they will protest. Take our Rate Analyser tool. This will monitor the hotel rates for booked hotels. If the price dips, it will cancel and rebook at the lower price. Just try getting Tina and Lisa to do that.

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