Announcement: Flight Centre Travel Group Launches ‘AI Centre of Excellence’

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Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG), one of the world’s largest travel management companies, has announced the establishment of an ‘AI Centre of Excellence,’ a new global division that will focus on promoting, adopting, and integrating artificial intelligence technologies into the company’s corporate divisions.

The ‘AI Centre of Excellence’ will strategically harness the power of AI to revolutionise FCTG’s flagship business travel divisions Corporate Traveller and FCM, by enriching customer experiences, boosting employee productivity and more.

Bonnie Smith, GM of FCM and Corporate Traveller South Africa, explains the launch of the AI Centre of Excellence places the Flight Centre Travel Group at the forefront of technological progress in South Africa. She says: “AI is a game-changer, undoubtedly transforming how we approach business travel. However, the real magic happens when we blend AI’s efficiency with the depth and flexibility of human expertise. Our strategy is about creating deeply aligned, meaningful interactions that reflect each traveller’s unique preferences and requirements. The future of business travel is here, and it’s both exciting and promising, with AI and human insight working hand in hand.”

Heading the AI Centre of Excellence is Adrian Lopez who will step into a newly created role as Head of AI for Corporate. He will lead a dedicated team of technical experts responsible for laying out the shared corporate vision for AI within the organisation. He most recently served as Global Chief Technology Officer for FCM Digital.

Adrian and his team will set the overall AI strategy for FCTG’s corporate brands and ensure the company is maximising the potential around generative AI, while doing so effectively, responsibly, and in alignment with its business objectives.

The specialised team will implement best practices and provide research, support, and training around AI, with a focus on improving efficiency and driving value to new and existing clients. They will look to find ways to seamlessly integrate the technology into the operations of the company’s business travel divisions Corporate Traveller and FCM.

“In today’s ever-changing digital world, we recognise the tremendous potential with AI and ways it can transform our work,” said John Morhous, Global Chief Experience Officer of FCTG’s Corporate Brands.

“As we continue to evolve and grow as a business, we’re thrilled for the opportunity to open this new ‘AI Centre of Excellence,’ as well as appoint Adrian into this new leadership role. With his expertise, deep insights, and proven track record in technology innovation, Adrian will be integral to our success in this space, both today and in the years ahead.”

With the debut of the ‘AI Centre of Excellence,’ FCTG will aim to strengthen the relationship between the human workforce and hands-on AI applications. The incredible automation and machine learning that AI offers will prove to be a perfect complement to the personal touch and natural intuition of the human mind.

Furthermore, FCTG will leverage AI to enhance productivity and improve workflow optimisation, allowing its teams to focus on priority initiatives and more creative-driven projects.

“I’m beyond excited for this next chapter in my career with FCTG and to further push the boundaries of technology in travel,” said Lopez.

“The disruptive benefits of AI will enable us to work more efficiently, identify new ways to service our clients, and reach the next generation of business travellers. The launch of the ‘AI Centre of Excellence’ is another significant step and milestone to add to the company’s already decorated history of innovation.”

A travel technology pioneer, Lopez has over a decade of industry experience. In 2014, he co-founded the corporate travel tool SAM, a mobile AI-powered app that operates as a 24/7 virtual travel assistant, helping business travellers easily manage their trips.

FCTG made an initial investment in Sam in 2017, which was followed by a full acquisition in 2019. After the ownership transition, Lopez officially joined the FCTG team, where he has helped oversee the integration of Sam’s capabilities across various corporate travel products, while also leading the development of the new FCM Platform.

Located in Greece, Lopez will report into U.S.-based Morhous, with his role effective immediately.