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#TBF24 Q&A: Farewell to FAQs, Cheers to Chatbots!

With TheTicketingBusiness Forum 2024 coming next week, we caught up Pete Patel, head of digital & ticketing at Assembly Festival, which has been described as “the jewel in the crown of the Edinburgh Fringe”.

Having worked with the Fringe since the early 1980s, Assembly Festival is the longest running of the curated multi-venue operators. Based at Assembly Roxy, the company also tours with the best of its theatre, music, comedy and events programme.

Patel oversees the development and operation of a joint venue website for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, curating the best shows and creating exclusive daily offers for customers. He also works with the Edfest and Showcatcher websites.

Here, Patel discusses chatbot development, AI brainstorming and early plans for Hogmanay!

What have you been focused on over the last six months?

Pete Patel: “I handle various projects, mainly for the Assembly Festival, Unique – Assembly,, and Showcatcher. My primary focus has been and Assembly Festival. Currently, Assembly Festival is the largest leading venue, and it plans to bring over 200 shows from over 25 countries (not including the UK). As the head of ticketing and digital, my job is to ensure the best experience for our artists and customers.

“Our website, along with other fringe venues, caters to customers’ needs when booking tickets and providing information. However, we offer a unique experience at our location. Our beer garden and street food vendors are just as much a part of the experience as the shows. We have a variety of street food vendors and bars and the best-curated programme within the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year, I have been working with our web developers to provide that experience online as more and more people are moving towards the internet.

“We are using AI to develop a chatbot that can provide consumers with clear and direct answers. Whether it’s about recommendations for shows, where to eat, any access needs or any festival-related questions they may have, if successful our, the chatbot will provide straightforward answers instead of requiring users to sift through pages of FAQs.”

What are your expectations for 2024?

PP: “We currently hold Edinburgh’s Hogmanay contract for 2024 and are looking to deliver a superb event in the city of Edinburgh one more time. Currently, our tender is being considered by the City of Edinburgh Council for Christmas festivals for the next four years. I hope all goes well. We look forward to delivering world-class Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations along with the Fringe in the summer of 2024.”

What’s the next challenge for you and your team?

PP: “I believe that organising this year’s Christmas and Hogmanay events will be a positive challenge for me and my team, as we have successfully delivered them for the past two years. However, there is always room for improvement, and we have evolved a lot in the last two years, including the ticketing system that we use. I am excited to incorporate more technology to enhance the customer experience and make it seamless for them.”

What are you evaluating for future adoption?

PP: “I am very excited and interested in the application of AI in events, particularly in ticketing. Integrating AI into the events business is worth investing in, whether answering general FAQs, providing event recommendations and directions, or planning a curated experience. I am already brainstorming new ideas with our web developers to make this a reality.”

For you, what’s exciting in ticketing and entertainment eCommerce right now?

PP: “I came across an article about AI dynamic pricing and am keen to learn more about it. We must improve accessibility and utilise technology to streamline our customers’ experiences. Some ticket agents have already established this. Personalised experiences, curated programmes, and integration with multiple other systems are interesting and exciting to see.

“I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

Explore the future of ticketing with Pete Patel and hundreds of industry leaders at #TBF24 at Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, from April 16-17. BOOK TODAY