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Artificial intelligence is becoming less of a possibility and more of a reality for the world, yet the majority of travelers don’t fully trust the technology when it comes to planning and booking travel.
A recent study completed by the National Research Group found that while 49 percent of those who have already utilized AI to help plan their trip found the tool very helpful (think Booking.com’s online chatbot service, which has been in service for a decade), the majority of travelers express concerns about the service.
Many concerns stem from security issues and a lack of trust. Eighty-one percent of travelers would want to double-check all the information given to them if they used AI to help them plan a trip; the same percentage are unwilling to share information about their children with an AI.
Furthermore, 77 percent of travelers are also not willing to let an AI service access important travel documents such as passport information or visas. Another 51 percent are worried mainly about personal data risks associated with AI services.
While there is a definitive lack of trust among travelers using AI, it’s already being implemented within the travel industry, to the point where travelers may not even realize they’re already using an AI service to help them plan travel.
The largest online travel agencies, such as Kayak, Expedia and Trip.com, have already implemented ChatGPT for their online chat services. The artificial intelligence is able to communicate to travelers and help plan itineraries, predict pricing and more.
Travelers may not even realize they’re already using an AI service to help them plan travel. (Photo Credit: undrey / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Some travel agencies are also hopping onboard. Stephen Scott, Founder and CEO of Travel Hub 365 and the Odyssey Travel app, uses AI programs to help create itineraries for travelers before they’re ready to book.
“We have created an A. I. Trip Generator that helps customers have an initial reference point on what they want to do, then they contact our team to pull all of it together with pricing, bookings, and customization,” said Scott. “That tool uses ChatGPT4 and OpenAI and has already generated over 1500 itineraries for clients. It has given our team valuable information as well about trends and questions travelers have post-pandemic.”
So while travelers are lacking in trust, artificial intelligence continues being implemented throughout the industry. The issue remains of how far the implementation should go, but many in the industry, especially travel advisors, believe it can’t be expanded to replace the personalization and feeling that comes from human interactions.
In fact, technology experts and travel advisors both agree that artificial intelligence in the industry is a game-changing customer service tool and that it can lead to great benefits when used as a tool, not as a replacement for human roles.
“Use of artificial intelligence within the travel industry is more prevalent than most advisors and consumers are probably aware,” said Jennifer Walker, owner of Jennifer Walker Travel. “All of us have likely communicated in an online chat to get assistance such as modifying an existing reservation, asking basic questions about a booking engine, or generating a search for flights and accommodations based on parameters we’ve entered on a travel supplier’s website. AI is here, and it’s not going away.”
Some travel advisors are already using the tool to help with a lot of back-end business tasks that come with operating their own travel agencies, giving advisors more time to provide the excellent customer service they’re known for.
Krystal Aziz, Director of Operations at Modern Travelworks, uses ChatGPT in a variety of ways, including in editing any written documents: “I personally find the implementation of AI in the travel industry to be incredibly exciting! It has revolutionized the way we carry out our daily tasks. At present, we leverage AI to enhance our marketing efforts, enabling us to craft captivating newsletters and campaigns. It assists us in generating compelling social media captions, identifying optimal hashtags, and curating photos and videos that align with the ever-evolving algorithms.”
Some travel advisors are already using AI-powered tools. (Photo Credit: Yuri_Arcurs / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
While artificial intelligence can help travel advisors in a variety of ways, many are cautiously optimistic about the technology. Many don’t believe that it’ll replace them, but instead worry that the advisors who don’t begin implementing it for themselves might be phased out.
“I think the same travelers that book their own travel today will continue to do so. There is and always will be a comfort level for many knowing they can get to a live human for support. Too many AI-driven service platforms put customers into an endless loop when the machine doesn't have an answer to your specific question or issue,” John Frazier, Owner of Polaris Travel Experts.
In fact, the frustrating parts about artificial intelligence, along with its potential use for criminal activity, might also turn travelers towards travel advisors.
“It's very frustrating when you can't get to a live representative to get help,” continued Frazier. “Expanding on concern about manipulation above, the technology already exists to fake a person's image or voice. An unscrupulous resort could use AI to generate a celebrity endorsement of their property. ChatGPT or similar services could be used to generate reviews that are not authentic. Trust could be an issue and work in favor of human advisors.”
No matter what, travel advisors will still be in demand, and it’s likely they’ll be the ones who utilize the new technology in ways that help them save time and manage their business to enhance their customer service, instead of hindering it.
“…While there may be concerns about AI eventually rendering travel advisors obsolete, I firmly believe that this won't be the case. Travel advisors offer far more than just pricing information; they provide invaluable insights into hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations that AI algorithms cannot replicate,” said Krystal Aziz. “They possess a wealth of travel hacks and insider tips that AI simply cannot predict. Moreover, travel advisors foster personal connections with local contacts in various destinations, ensuring seamless and memorable travel experiences. Despite initial predictions that online travel agencies (OTAs) would render travel advisors extinct, we have proven our resilience and continue to thrive in the industry.”
Artificial intelligence, like many technologies before it, will continue to change in the world in ways that even it cannot predict, but while travelers are wary of accepting its assistance in booking and planning their next trips, travel advisors should take note of its time-saving assistance to focus more on what their agencies are all about: providing excellent customer service and human connection.
Lacey Pfalz is a freelance Associate Writer for TravelPulse. When she's not writing about traveling, she's often found fussing...
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