AI and the Travel Industry: What to Know
Exploring the potential of artificial intelligence to change the travel industry forever.
You've likely been hearing quite a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) lately and its potential to alter how the travel industry functions in the future. From generating itineraries to helping with business planning, AI's capabilities are seemingly vast. But what else needs to be considered? For more perspective, we sat down with Corey Black, CEO and Co-Founder of GroupCollect, a tool built for tour operators, trip leaders and passengers.
Black, who personally has a high level of experience with implementing AI into his operations, has stayed in-tune with the topic ever since learning about it, knowing early on how big of a splash the technology would eventually make. He recently presented a PowerPoint on the topic, then revealed to the executives he presented in front of afterwards that the presentation had been generated completely through entering some points in ChatGPT—an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI—shortly beforehand.
"It was very solid and very similar to the presentation that I had previously created," Black said. "So, I think it was a little bit of a shock, particularly to some folks who hadn't yet been exposed to it."
Where and how AI is being used within the industry currently varies. Black speculates on where he thinks we'll see it focused most in the future.
"I think AI has the potential to revolutionize student and group travel," he said, noting its power in helping build itineraries and improve existing ones. "One area, I think, where we see AI being particularly useful is really just the basic trip planning process. We have all of this data—on itineraries, popular destinations, costs, and combinations and activities—and by running all of this existing data through AI, we can use machine learning (ML) and algorithms to help both group leaders and also tour planners bring more personalized, engaging travel experiences."
Black sees AI and ML helping onboard those new to industry, as well, with plenty of companies having welcomed newcomers who aren't familiar with group travel since the pandemic.
"Imagine you're a new salesperson and you've just been brought into the wonderful world of student and group travel ... this technology can help you come on board a lot quicker and help optimize a whole big world of unknowns," Black said, noting AI's potential to optimize data on providers, travel routes and schedules to hopefully reduce overheads and expenses while also improving the traveler experience.
AI also has the potential to help garner larger volumes of customer feedback.
"We can start to identify themes and areas for improvement much more easily than we would have been able to in the past," Black said. "This allows us to continue to improve the products and make a better experience for customers."
He also anticipates safety being greatly improved for travelers while out on the road.
"For example, we can monitor weather conditions and alert group leaders to potential hazards; we can look in real time at data on crime and other safety concerns, not only in the destination you're at, but globally," Black explained. "I think these are things we're going to be able to leverage in the long term to really give group leaders a sense of safety, but also help them make more informed decisions about where to travel, and perhaps even when to deviate travel, when these kinds of things arise."
Black also suggests using AI to assist in generating content for marketing purposes and for creation of business documents if you're just starting out.
"I think for folks that have used life-long learning to build these itineraries, AI seems a little bit scary. But I would caution them against being afraid of it, and really to use it as a tool to extend the great work they're already doing," Black said. "Because it can be a great time saver and second set of eyes checking the work they're already doing. From that perspective, it's really a powerful tool."
Ultimately, it's important to note that AI isn't the end-all solution—it's simply a tool to be used. Users of software like ChatGPT should be aware the program has its limitations and can often share outdated or incorrect information. It's always best to assume you need to edit and fact check each and every piece of information it puts out to you. If that sounds like it might not be worth your time, consider whether or not implementing AI would be right for you to begin with.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.