The Coronavirus chatbot 

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Japanese chatbot firm Bespoke is providing free help for travelers during the current coronavirus outbreak. Its chatbot, Bebot, is used daily by up 40,000 foreign visitors to Japan, offering real-time recommendations of places to visit and even making restaurant or entertainment bookings.

In response to news of the 2019-nCoV outbreak, the company announced, in early February 2020, that it would provide free information on the virus, in an effort to “alleviate anxiety and prevent the spread of infection by providing up-to-date information” via its chatbot.

Topics covered include ‘What’s happening’, ‘Prevention methods’ and ‘When you feel sick’. Information is gathered from a range of sources, among them Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Japan Tourism Board. Bebot is in use at Japan’s Narita and Sendai airports.

“Travelers’ contact details are held by airlines, which makes it difficult for airports to engage with them, even when they are at the airport. We make it very easy to engage with travelers,” said Bespoke chief commercial officer Tobias C Wessels, adding that in the case of a pandemic, early engagement, such as that offered by Bebot, is essential.

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Tara has worked for UKi Media & Events since 2013, initially as a freelancer. She has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a range of publications, including Personnel Today, Management Today and The Grocer.

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