How the travel and hospitality industry is already leading the way in Generative AI

How the travel and hospitality industry is already leading the way in Generative AI

The subject of Chat GPT and other AI platforms is discussed on a daily basis in the news. There are concerns surrounding the fast pace of the technology but there will always be benefits when companies choose to use it. The travel and hospitality industry is building on new ideas to improve their AI capabilities and how this will impact the way we book our travel. Tim Hentschel, Co-founder and CEO of leading digital booking platform, HotelPlanner, discusses how Generative AI is going to affect the hospitality industry.

In recent months, we’ve heard a wide range of predictions and warnings about how Generative AI is going to change the way we live, work and travel. On the extreme end, some have said this moment is like ‘Sky Net’ becoming self-aware in the movie Terminator 2 and that robots are going to kill us all. (Let’s hope not.) While others have said that AI has been around for decades, and that tools such as ChatGPT are more akin to a next-generation calculator that still requires human inputs.

What we know for sure is that the AI race is now on, and the competitive landscape is a bit like the Wild West. Companies across all sectors are launching Generative AI tools into their products and services as fast as they can because there is incredible power in being one of the first to market. But as this race plays out over the next few years, there will be winners and losers, and a lot of lessons learned.

Let’s talk risk and reward

For example, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report, 300 million jobs could be affected in the coming years ‘if Generative AI delivers on its promised capabilities’. For example, the media industry is already facing a torrent of layoffs as some content creators are being replaced by ChatGPT tools.

In other news, the ‘Godfather’ of Machine Learning (ML), Geoffrey Hinton, announced his resignation from Google so he can speak more openly about AI’s dangers, such as fake imagery, sounds and text that make it impossible to discern ‘what is true anymore’. His concerns may be well-founded. For example, an AI-generated song featuring Drake and The Weeknd went viral on TikTok last month before being removed due to copyright claims. Since copyright law has not yet caught up with how to regulate this new technology, it’s likely a case will come before the Supreme Court in the coming years. The CEO of OpenAI, which owns ChatGPT, echoed these concerns recently when he said that his biggest worry was that the technology could be used for disinformation or offensive cyberattacks.

Simply put, society and the law will need to figure out the regulatory guardrails because the potential for good is enormous, but the potential risks are real depending on the user’s intentions and inputs. In the coming years, society will have to determine what AI tools will be universal vs what will be tailored for the individual. We need time for people to get used to this new technology, what works, what doesn’t, what people like and don’t like and what the risk mitigating measures will be.

Streamlining the customer search and booking journey

The entire travel, tourism and hospitality industry is working to add more automation, customisation, personalisation and localisation into their services using Generative AI tools. The travelling public will greatly benefit by having their questions answered much faster and their search and booking journey streamlined and simplified. Their travel experiences will be shaped by AI-driven decisions in the future as well. For example, ChatGPT can already pump out a detailed travel itinerary with specific activities and places to go and that will improve with their next version.

By the end of the decade, it’s likely that any traveller will be able to access their own personal travel concierge expert that’s entirely AI-powered through a generative AI tool like ChatGPT or similar products. This could drastically reduce the need for human travel agents in brick and mortar offices. Those experts will still be available for a premium. But if ChatGPT can eventually answer every possible question one could have about an upcoming trip, in addition to creating detailed itineraries, that will revolutionise the traveller search and booking journey and trip planning writ large.

In the future, based on customer data, online travel agencies and hotels will be able to micro-niche market down to the individual traveller level and offer personalised deals, offers, services and support that are catered for each traveller’s unique needs. For example, someday you may check into a hotel room and the temperature is pre-set to your liking, your favourite channel is already playing on TV and the room is set up for your unique needs (i.e. business meeting space, playpen for baby, exercise area, etc.)

Frictionless travel is the goal

We believe that the hospitality and travel industries will use next-generation AI to enhance the guest experience, improve efficiency and drive revenue. And that these enhancements will eventually deliver a more ‘frictionless travel’ experience for consumers that’s more turn-key and stress-free.

For example, some hotels will start using AI tools to personalise and customise their service down to the unique needs and wants of every customer. AI will also be used to engage guests throughout their travel journey using AI chatbot messaging apps and contact check-in and payment systems. Some hotels will start to offer Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality tours of their lobby, rooms, amenities and local attractions.

Online travel agencies and hotel booking sites are already exploring how to incorporate AI open architecture into the search and booking process. In recent months, Expedia, Kayak, have begun to embed ChatGPT search capabilities into their platforms. We at HotelPlanner chose to take a different approach. We integrated ChatGPT into our new loyalty programme, Hotel Buyers Club, as an additional membership benefit. We thought that was a fun way to combine two of our industry’s hottest trends: loyalty and AI.

These are just a few of the changes that AI will bring to the world of travel, tourism and hospitality in the coming years and beyond. We are in the nascent stages of how next-generation AI will revolution all industries. It could be a few more years before we see how each industry will incorporate these tools, but the AI revolution is here and the race is on. Much like the introduction of the calculator, the Internet or smart phones, Generative AI tools will eventually become ubiquitous and impossible to ignore.

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