Travel firms urged to embrace Artificial Intelligence after rapid rise of ChatGPT

Travel firms urged to embrace Artificial Intelligence after rapid rise of ChatGPT

Charisma-free robots not expected to take over from human agents delivering personal touch

Technology experts have encouraged travel firms to embrace rapidly-evolving artificial intelligence technology – and are confident the rise of services such as ChatGPT does not signal the end of the traditional agent.

ChatGPT, an “AI-powered chatbot” capable of giving complex human-like answers to questions asked in “native language”, has seen a meteoric rise in users prompted by Microsoft integrating it into its Bing search engine.

Some analysts believe the tool, along with rivals like Bard which was unveiled by Google last week, could cause major disruption to sectors including service industries such as travel.

However, travel technology specialists likened the concerns to those voiced in the early days of the internet, when it was claimed the emergent technology would negate the need for human interaction.

Jon Pickles, chief revenue officer of Inspiretec, said: “ChatGPT only knows what it knows. Its ability to learn fast and assimilate vast quantities of information is something not to be afraid of.

“We should perhaps even consider it an opportunity. Any mundane tasks that can be automated are perfect for improving working life where humans are reluctant to do those tasks.”

Free up time

Pickles added: “ChatGPT can generate content at scale very quickly so consider how your travel businesses can free up large amounts of both time and resources and now focus on the more important revenue-generating activities, for example in luxury travel sales where that human touch is how conversions are made.”

A trial carried out by Travel Weekly sister title Travolution found responses offered by ChatGPT were detailed but largely generic, with consistent reminders that the AI does not offer personal opinions or recommendations.

German company CruiseWatch develops AI technology for travel firms and this week launched call centre analytics to the wider sector under new brand AIntensify.

Personal touch

However, the firm’s chief executive Markus Stumpe said he believes in the personal touch.

“ChatGPT is extremely good at some things but has limitations and like every new technology can be used for good or to disrupt, just like the internet when it first came along.

“AI can replace less complex manual tasks like market research, finding the latest price change, or comparing data. It can help humans be more efficient but machines don’t have charisma.

“If agents get smart in how to use AI they can provide more personalised experiences because they won’t need to do the manual, often unpaid, processes they complain about.”

Cressida Sergeant, Traveltek chief commercial officer, said: “ChatGPT is the latest in a long line of buzzwords in travel. Move over big data, personalisation, hyper-personalisation. Will this kill travel agents? No, in the travel world there will always be a place for people and technology.

“ChatGPT is very much in its infancy but the take up has been phenomenal. In time this new approach to AI could really help agents when dealing with customer service and FAQ’s as it’s far more personalised and humanised than a standard chatbot.”

She added:“Will it ever replace years of travel experience and that high touch service? Highly unlikely. I see big wins in our sector in the customer service world, although mainly for larger players who have enough data to make this worthwhile and useful.

“I also see it being extremely helpful for language translation and automation. As it learns over time it will be extremely useful for marketing and content teams but a blend of automation and the personal touch will still be vital.”

Simon Goddard, chief information officer at travel search and booking technology provider Vibe, believes that while ChatGPT is a significant step forward for artificial intelligence, any major impact could still be a long way off yet.

He said: “I’d urge everyone in travel to try and plan a weekend break or family holiday using ChatGPT. For sure this is much better than anything to date and the potential applications are enormous, but for now don’t believe the hype. What you’re seeing in the news won’t be a reality in travel for a while yet – and to some extent the human element will never be 100% replaced.”