Sunday, July 14, 2024

ChatGPT, the new travel disruptor or distractor ?

As new tech innovations continue to revolutionize travel as we know it, ChatGPT  has found its way from being an unknown interface to the next big thing.

So what is ChatGPT? Developed by Sam Altman, ChatGPT (which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer), is a large language model developed by OpenAI, allowing people to interact with computers with more human-like communication skills.

While we have been talking about chatbots taking over the human conversations, there was nothing that came so dangerously close, until the release of ChatGPT. So this is the big disruptor we have been waiting for? And what does it mean for the travel industry?

We did a little one-on-one with ChatGPT to understand how it works. We asked for a travel plan, itinerary, trips and suggestions for a trip to Vietnam and its evident that from suggesting new and popular travel destinations, describing in detail what travelers can expect to find at each of these destinations including popular hotspots, off-beaten paths, provide restaurant recommendations, travel tips or simply create an entire itinerary to suit your travel dates and budget, the AI-powered app can do it all.

Some travel companies like Journeai have connected ChatGPT to Google Maps to allow their customers to automate trip planning or itinerary planning.  All this, together with its easy conversational interaction makes the AI-platform truly impressive.

It is also evident that the key area of expertise for AI tools like ChatGPT is in accelerating the ‘experience’.  By providing accurate and natural responses to any question, it offers a more fun, interactive, convenient and comfortable experience for travelers.

So does this means that it is ready to take over tasks that were meant to be skill-centric?

Not really. And definitely not so fast. While ChatGPT’s technology continues to advance , it is still in the state of infancy. The information it provides, while valuable, has been created out of content that is already available out there. It can at no point bring the finesse and know-how or the ‘human element’ in tackling real issues that customers may face. Human instinct and ability to creatively evolve is something machines have not yet learnt to emulate.

AI- powered Chatbots in the travel industry, providing customer service for OTAs, Airline and major hotel websites is not a new concept. There is also good-ol’ Google, which provides a highly efficient AI-powered chatbot, a tried, tested and valued chatbot.

Travel is known to be a super dynamic category where information is fluid and often relevant for a few hours. So, technology that can actually make a change, actively solve a customer concern, think out-of-the-box and adapt to the customers changing requests will always have a spot on the table. Machine learning and artificial intelligence is core to that and innovations that can support it with finesse is what is the need of the hour.

With ChatGPT, the understanding that the travel industry now have access to tools that can elevate trip planning like never before and that (travel) companies can use these tools to accelerate their own knowledge and enhance their product offering for customers, means new and bigger opportunities.

How well they adapt, embrace and leverage this Generative AI is left to be seen.

Today, AI is a key factor for most brands looking to enhance their technology but how they integrate tools like ChatGPT into their existing systems, remains to be seen. Data compatibility will be key to ensure companies can hyper- personalize search results and take the booking experience, one step forward. There is also the issue of privacy and security. Strict protocols will be the need of the hour as ChatGPT will be used to analyze large amount of personal data.

As a language model, ChatGPT seems ready to take the role of a travel assist for travelers looking to generate itineraries but whether it can match the experiences of a travel advisor, seems a long shot. As the AI-tool humbly says “ChatGPT can complement the services of a human travel advisor by providing 24/7 support and instant access to a vast amount of travel-related information but it cannot replace the role of a human travel advisor in its entirety.”

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