Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning could cost Somerset visitor economy up to £100 Million in 2023 and beyond

01 Feb 2023

Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning could cost Somerset visitor economy up to £100 Million in 2023 and beyond
1st February 2023
Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning could cost Somerset visitor economy up to £100 Million in 2023 and beyond
We need a new digital levelling up agenda says John Turner, CEO of Visit Somerset
As the CEO of Visit Somerset prepares to go to Oxford University’s prestigious Said Business School to study Artificial Intelligence, also holding the prestigious title of Industrial Fellow of the Institute for Mathematical innovation at Bath University, he is calling on local government to support the local Visitor Economy and many other service sector-led industries with Big Tech ideas, as part of a new digital levelling up agenda in the local visitor economy and beyond.
John Turner says: “I am amazed by the number of businesses and councils that are still doing things the way they always have, while consumers have moved on, driven by Cloud-based businesses. These businesses are not only influencing people’s buying behaviours, but also the way we communicate. The County of Somerset needs to see a seismic change in the way we do things, otherwise, our regional economy will be left behind. We can already see this happening in many areas of our economy, as silent data-driven industries hollow out what we see as ‘traditional’ sectors. Technological advancement is right, and we must move with the times. Sadly, it’s adoption by certain areas of business and the public sector is not happening quickly enough, this delay will be to the detriment of the small businesses community, which is so vital to our economy.
“I am not against advancements in technology or the ‘Big Five’ tech giants, however, local government must do more to level up the digital agenda. If not, I expect to see even greater inequality and marginalisation in our economy and the collapse of further sectors. But it doesn’t need to be this way. With the right investment locally, we can bring those tech advances to the regions, driving greater equality and community connectivity and support for producers, retailers, restaurants and pubs, accommodation providers and many more service led industries, that currently make up 80% of our UK economy.
“A good example of this is the development of online travel agents, who take up to 20% or more in commissions from bookings. These sophisticated, highly automated digital platforms can use dynamic pricing to manage rates based on demand. The Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning they use rely on access to vast amounts of data on individuals to understand their interests and behaviours to tailor their marketing communications – even to the degree of influencing buying decisions.  Price drops can be considerable, meaning the independent hotels, B&Bs, and holiday rental properties that characterise Somerset’s accommodation sector struggle to compete as they battle increased overheads and the cost-of-living crisis. 
That commission base equates up to £100 Million* annually – and all of this is leaving the Somerset economy, making it far poorer. “I believe we are sleepwalking into the demise of our excellent tourism sector which provides 24,000 full time jobs and generates £1.3 Billion annually – and has so many other local business sectors relying on. Once it has gone, we’ll never get it back”.
Today I am calling on local government to meet with business leaders from tourism, hospitality, and service sectors to discuss how we can harness the best technology to help Somerset’s visitor economy to survive and thrive long into the future. I look forward to hosting. “ 
Note to Editors
*Based on a normal year. Accommodation revenue in Somerset generates £500 Million annually – with up to 20% of that going out in commissions to online travel agents. Turnover generated taken from Southwest Research Company combining all five areas of the county’s visitor economy.
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