AI is expected to revolutionize the travel industry, with applications such as personalized trip recommendations, predictive maintenance for transportation and automated customer service leading to increased efficiency, cost savings and improved customer experiences. (As we know, AI is expected to revolutionize every industry — in fact, I had ChatGPT write that opening sentence for me.)
To have a greater understanding of how AI will impact travel, The Escape Home tuned into a talk from Skift’s Research Series about better understanding the opportunities and challenges generative AI will present in the travel industry.
First things first — in the case that you still don’t have a complete understanding of what ChatGBT is, allow us to explain. ChatGBT is a free tool that is intended to process an generate human language. While AI is nothing new, ChatGBT is more refined and consumer friendly. You don’t need to have a background in computer science or programming to us it and reap its benefits.
It’s also important to understand that the pace of innovation is rapidly accelerating. It took five days for Chat GBT to reach 1 million users. To put that into perspective it took Facebook 10 months and Twitter two years, respectively to do the same.
Skift, which just published a research report of generative AI’s impact on travel, sees an the biggest opportunities for change in operational efficiencies, customer support, reputation and review management and search. Its research found that AI in travel could be worth a baseline of $8.5 billion, and when looking at the bigger picture it could be as high as $20 billion.
At present ChatGBT does have limitations, including the fact that it can only fetch data up to 2021, so there are no real-time travel updates. In turn, travel companies like Expedia and Kayak are trying to feed in real time flight route and hotel inventory into ChatGPT, and that’s something customers should expect to see a lot more of.
And while AI has the potential to make things easier for travelers and more streamlined and cost effective for large travel platforms, it also comes with its own set of issues to be addressed. For instance, how will it play into overtourism? If AI is only trained on “best of” lists, it can only give you “best of” lists back, and there should be discussion around what this means in terms of dispersing tourists as opposed to congregating tourists (this is something Airbnb tried to do during the pandemic by allowing people to start their search with the type of accommodation they wanted (domes, mansions, farms), as opposed to a specific location.
In the meantime, AI is just getting its start in travel, and while it can be plenty useful (and entertaining), it’s best to taken with a grain of salt. As Skift’s director of research Seth Borko says, AI is also known to “lie confidently” at times.