This year Destinations International placed a new item, the Evolution of Digital Platforms, on our annual list of 8 Significant Issues and Strategic Opportunities that affect destination organizations. We stated that “destinations must understand the next generation of technological advancements that aim to disrupt the travel and tourism industry – and will most certainly affect how destination organizations interact with residents and potential visitors.” Two leading examples of what we were thinking about with that statement are the creation of the metaverse, which many feel may be the new iteration of the internet, and growing development of artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, generative AI.
As new artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as ChatGPT, have captured the public’s imagination and corporate dollars, it seems to many that we are at another tipping point in technological advancement that will once again jolt the way the travel and tourism sector does business. Following in the footsteps of the internet, websites, search engines, mobile technologies, social media and others, the latest artificial intelligence technologies, specifically generative AI, is something that we will need to understand and adapt to.
Forbes magazine recently noted that the generative AI revolution is creating the next phase of autonomous enterprise. They reference an article in the Financial Times that stated investments in generative AI in 2022 exceeded $2 billion. They went on to point out that OpenAI, the creator of the current wonderkid of generative AI - ChatGPT, had a valuation for a potential sale of some shares set at an impressive $29 billion. This shows the immensity of the interest from investors in generative AI technology.
As the world continues to embrace technology and automation, businesses are beginning to explore the infinite possibilities of generative AI. This type of AI is on the cusp of creating autonomous, self-sustaining digital-only enterprises that can interact with humans without the active need for human interaction.
To learn more, I decided to go to an expert. I decided to have a conversation with ChatGPT to discuss the potential effect it would have on our sector. The following is a copy of my “conversation” with ChatGPT. Now I should point out that ChatGPT is still a work in progress. Most of its learning is from materials created before September 2021. I have spent a lot of time before this interview quizzing it about things I know a lot about and have found serious omissions or sometimes outright errors. But I also found a lot of good information that led to a lot of new questions. And given where this technology is going, I thought it still worthwhile to have this conversation and share it with you with no edits (note that links were inserted by us and not ChatGPT).
An Interview with ChatGPT
Q: How would you define generative AI?
A: “Generative AI refers to a type of artificial intelligence that is designed to generate new data, such as images, videos, or text, that is similar in style or content to the data that it was trained on.
Generative AI is typically based on deep learning techniques, which involve training large neural networks on vast amounts of data in order to learn complex patterns and relationships. Once the model has been trained, it can then be used to generate new data that is similar to the training data, but not an exact copy.
For example, a generative AI model trained on a dataset of images of flowers might be able to generate new images of flowers that it has never seen before, based on the patterns and relationships it learned from the training data.
Generative AI has many potential applications in fields such as content creation, design, and gaming, as well as in scientific research and data analysis. However, there are also concerns about the potential misuse or unintended consequences of generative AI, such as the creation of fake or misleading content.”
Q: How might generative AI impact the travel industry?
A: “Generative AI has the potential to impact the travel industry in a variety of ways, some of which are already being explored by travel companies and startups. Here are a few potential examples:
Content creation: Generative AI models can be used to create compelling travel content, such as blog posts, social media posts, or videos, that can help inspire and inform travelers. For example, a travel company might use a generative AI model to create personalized travel itineraries for individual customers, based on their preferences and interests.
Virtual travel experiences: Generative AI models can be used to create immersive virtual travel experiences that allow travelers to explore new destinations without leaving their homes. For example, a travel company might use a generative AI model to create a virtual tour of a city or landmark, using realistic images and videos generated by the model.
Customer service: Generative AI models can be used to improve customer service in the travel industry, by providing personalized recommendations and assistance to travelers. For example, a hotel chain might use a generative AI model to create a virtual concierge that can answer questions, provide recommendations, and assist with bookings.
Travel planning: Generative AI models can be used to help travelers plan their trips more efficiently, by providing personalized recommendations for flights, hotels, and activities. For example, a travel booking website might use a generative AI model to suggest itineraries based on the traveler's preferences and budget.
These are just a few examples of how generative AI could impact the travel industry. While the technology is still in its early stages, it is clear that it has the potential to transform the way that travel companies and consumers approach travel planning, content creation, and customer service.”
Q: Are there examples of generative AI creating tourism or travel content?
A: “Yes, there are a number of examples of generative AI being used to create tourism or travel content. Here are a few examples:
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has created a website called "TABI LABO" that uses generative AI to generate travel content. The website features articles and videos about travel destinations in Japan that are created by an AI model trained on data about the country's culture, history, and attractions.
A company called AI Tour Guide has developed an AI-powered chatbot that can answer questions and provide recommendations to tourists. The chatbot is trained on data about popular tourist destinations and can provide information about local attractions, restaurants, and activities.
Booking.com has created a travel recommendation engine that uses generative AI to create personalized travel recommendations for customers. The engine is trained on data about customer preferences and behavior, as well as information about hotels, flights, and other travel-related data.
A startup called Travelshift has developed an AI-powered content generator that can create blog posts and other travel-related content. The content is generated using a deep learning model that has been trained on data about travel destinations, activities, and accommodations.
These are just a few examples of how generative AI is being used to create tourism or travel content. As the technology continues to develop, we can expect to see more innovative applications in this space.”
Q: What are examples of generative AI creating virtual travel experiences?
A: “There are several examples of generative AI being used to create virtual travel experiences. Here are a few examples:
Google Arts & Culture has developed a tool called Art Camera that uses generative AI to create ultra-high-resolution images of artwork from around the world. Users can use the tool to take virtual tours of museums and galleries and zoom in on the details of each artwork.
Oculus, the virtual reality company owned by Facebook, has developed a tool called Quill that uses generative AI to create immersive virtual environments. Artists and designers can use Quill to create virtual worlds that users can explore and interact with.
A startup called Trvl Porter has developed a tool called Immersion that uses generative AI to create virtual travel experiences. The tool allows users to create personalized virtual tours of destinations around the world, using 360-degree video, photos, and sound.
A company called Tour Creator has developed a tool that allows users to create virtual tours of any location using generative AI. The tool uses Google Street View to capture 360-degree images of a location and then allows users to create a virtual tour that can be shared online.
[EDITOIR’S NOTE – FROM GOOGLE: On June 30, 2021, we deactivated the Expeditions and Tour Creator apps. They'll no longer work on your devices, and tours can’t be downloaded again after they’re gone. You can find many of the tours from Expeditions at g.co/gacexpeditions.]
These are just a few examples of how generative AI is being used to create virtual travel experiences. As the technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more innovative applications in this space.”
Q: Are there examples of generative AI being used for tourism or travel related customer service?
A: “Yes, there are examples of generative AI being used for tourism or travel-related customer service. Here are a few examples:
Henn na Hotel in Japan is a hotel that uses robots for many of its customer service functions, including check-in, check-out, and concierge services. The robots are powered by generative AI and are able to communicate with guests in multiple languages, provide directions, and answer questions about local attractions.
Air New Zealand has developed a chatbot called Oscar, which uses natural language processing and generative AI to provide customer service to travelers. The chatbot can answer questions about flights, bookings, and baggage, and can also provide personalized recommendations for local attractions and activities.
Marriott International has created a chatbot called ChatBotlr, which uses generative AI to provide concierge services to guests. The chatbot can answer questions about the hotel and surrounding area, make recommendations for local attractions, and assist with room service orders.
Expedia has created an AI-powered virtual assistant called Expedia Bot, which uses generative AI to provide customer service to travelers. The bot can answer questions about flights, bookings, and hotels, and can also make personalized recommendations for local attractions and activities.
These are just a few examples of how generative AI is being used for tourism or travel-related customer service. As the technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more innovative applications in this space.”
Q: What are examples of generative AI being used for tourism or travel planning?
A: “There are several examples of generative AI being used for tourism or travel planning. Here are a few examples:
Kayak, a travel booking website, has developed a tool called Explorer that uses generative AI to suggest travel destinations based on a user's preferences. Users can input their budget, travel dates, and interests, and the tool will generate a list of destinations that match their preferences.
A startup called Utrip has developed a tool that uses generative AI to create personalized travel itineraries for individual travelers. The tool takes into account a traveler's interests, preferences, and budget, and generates a day-by-day itinerary that includes activities, restaurants, and accommodations.
Booking.com has developed a tool called Booking Experiences that uses generative AI to suggest activities and tours for travelers. The tool takes into account a traveler's destination, travel dates, and interests, and generates a list of experiences that match their preferences.
Hopper, a travel booking app, has developed a tool called Flex Watch that uses generative AI to suggest the best times to book flights. The tool analyzes data on flight prices and trends to predict when prices are likely to be at their lowest, and provides users with alerts when prices drop.
These are just a few examples of how generative AI is being used for tourism or travel planning. As the technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more innovative applications in this space.”
Q: Which travel and tourism companies are making big investments in generative AI?
A: Several travel and tourism companies are making big investments in generative AI, recognizing the potential of the technology to transform the industry. Here are a few examples:
Expedia: In 2018, Expedia launched the Expedia Group AI Lab, which is focused on developing AI and machine learning solutions to improve the travel experience for customers. The lab is working on a wide range of projects, including natural language processing, image recognition, and recommender systems.
Booking.com: Booking.com has made several acquisitions in the AI and machine learning space, including the acquisition of hotel booking platform Hotel Ninjas and the AI startup Evature. The company is also investing in the development of its own AI tools, such as its virtual travel assistant, the Booking Assistant.
Airbnb: In 2018, Airbnb acquired the AI and machine learning startup Trooly, which focuses on identity verification and background checks. The acquisition is part of Airbnb's broader efforts to use AI to improve the guest experience and enhance trust and safety on the platform.
Amadeus: Amadeus, a global travel technology company, has invested heavily in AI and machine learning in recent years. The company has developed several AI-powered solutions for the travel industry, including its travel intelligence tool, Amadeus Travel Intelligence, and its chatbot for travel agents, Amadeus Travel Bot.
These are just a few examples of travel and tourism companies that are making big investments in generative AI. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more companies investing in AI and machine learning to improve the travel experience for customers.”
Q: Are there examples of generative AI being used in the convention and meeting sector?
A: Yes, there are examples of generative AI being used in the convention and meeting sector. Here are a few examples:
MeetingPlay is a company that provides a mobile event app that uses generative AI to personalize the event experience for attendees. The app uses AI to suggest sessions, speakers, and networking opportunities based on a user's preferences and behavior.
Freeman, a global event planning and production company, has developed an AI-powered chatbot called Concierge Elite that provides event information and assistance to attendees. The chatbot is able to answer questions about the event, provide directions, and offer personalized recommendations based on a user's interests.
A startup called Sherpa is developing an AI-powered networking tool for events and conferences. The tool uses generative AI to suggest potential matches for attendees based on their interests, skills, and goals.
A company called Attendify offers an event app that uses generative AI to personalize the event experience for attendees. The app suggests sessions and activities based on a user's preferences, and offers real-time recommendations for networking opportunities.
These are just a few examples of how generative AI is being used in the convention and meeting sector. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovative applications that benefit event planners, attendees, and other stakeholders.
Q: How can destination organizations like Tourism Bureaus or Convention and Visitor Bureaus make sure their content is reflected in the data you are trained on?
A: “Tourism Bureaus or Convention and Visitor Bureaus can take several steps to ensure that their content is reflected in the data that AI models are trained on:
Provide access to their data: One of the most important steps is to provide access to their data. By sharing data on tourism trends, visitor preferences, and local attractions, these organizations can help ensure that AI models have access to the most up-to-date and relevant data.
Optimize their website and social media presence: Another important step is to optimize their website and social media presence for search engines. This can help ensure that their content is easily discoverable by AI models that are crawling the web for relevant data.
Use metadata to describe their content: It is important for these organizations to use descriptive metadata to describe their content. This includes information such as the location, type of attraction, and other relevant details that can help AI models understand the context of the content.
Work with AI companies and experts: Tourism Bureaus or Convention and Visitor Bureaus can also work with AI companies and experts to ensure that their content is being accurately reflected in AI models. This can involve providing feedback on the accuracy of AI-generated recommendations, or collaborating with AI experts to develop new AI-powered tools and services.
By taking these steps, Tourism Bureaus or Convention and Visitor Bureaus can help ensure that their content is being accurately reflected in AI models. This can help improve the accuracy and relevance of AI-generated recommendations for travelers, and help these organizations better understand the needs and preferences of their visitors.”
Q: How can people correct incorrect information in the content you create?
A: “As an AI language model, I don't create content in the traditional sense, but rather generate responses to user input based on my training data. However, if you come across incorrect information in the responses I generate, you can provide feedback and corrections to help improve the accuracy of future responses. Here are a few ways to provide feedback and corrections:
Use the "feedback" or "report" feature: Some platforms or websites may include a "feedback" or "report" button that you can use to report inaccurate information. This feedback is often sent to the developers or moderators of the platform, who can review and correct the information if necessary.
Comment or reply to the content: On social media or discussion forums, you can comment or reply to the content to point out any inaccuracies. This can help raise awareness among other users and potentially prompt the original poster to correct the information.
Reach out to the content creator: If you know the person or organization that created the content, you can reach out to them directly to provide feedback and corrections. They may be able to update the content or provide a correction or clarification.
Consult other sources: If you're unsure about the accuracy of information, you can consult other sources to verify the information. This can help you determine whether the information is accurate or whether it needs to be corrected.
By providing feedback and corrections, you can help improve the accuracy and reliability of information in the content generated by AI models like me.”
Q: What are the biggest concerns people have raised about using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector?
A: “As with any new technology, there are concerns about the potential risks and unintended consequences of using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector. Here are some of the biggest concerns that people have raised:
Bias and fairness: There is a risk that generative AI models could perpetuate biases that exist in the travel and tourism industry, such as biases based on race, gender, or nationality. It is important to ensure that AI models are trained on unbiased data and are designed to be fair and equitable.
Privacy and security: There is a risk that the use of generative AI in the travel and tourism sector could compromise the privacy and security of travelers. AI models may collect and use sensitive personal data, such as travel itineraries or credit card information, which could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks or data breaches.
Reliability and accuracy: There is a risk that generative AI models may not always produce reliable or accurate results. AI models may make mistakes or produce misleading recommendations, which could lead to a negative travel experience for customers.
Unemployment: There is a concern that the use of generative AI in the travel and tourism sector could lead to job displacement, particularly for workers in customer service and support roles. It is important to ensure that AI is used in a responsible and ethical manner, and that it is integrated into the workforce in a way that is sustainable and equitable.
These are some of the biggest concerns that people have raised about using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector. It is important for companies and policymakers to address these concerns in a responsible and ethical way, in order to ensure that AI is used in a way that benefits both travelers and the travel industry as a whole.”
Q: What are the biggest hopes people have expressed about using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector?
A: “There are several hopes that people have expressed about using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector. Here are some of the biggest hopes:
Personalization: One of the biggest hopes for generative AI in the travel and tourism sector is the ability to create personalized experiences for travelers. By using AI to analyze data about a traveler's preferences and behavior, companies can offer customized recommendations for hotels, activities, and other travel-related products.
Efficiency: Another hope for generative AI in the travel and tourism sector is increased efficiency. By automating routine tasks, such as booking flights or answering customer service inquiries, AI can help travel companies reduce costs and improve their operations.
Innovation: Generative AI has the potential to drive innovation in the travel and tourism sector, by enabling the creation of new products and services that were previously not possible. For example, AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots can provide travelers with real-time assistance and recommendations, improving the travel experience.
Sustainability: Some people have expressed the hope that generative AI can be used to promote sustainability in the travel and tourism sector, by encouraging more responsible and environmentally friendly travel. For example, AI-powered travel planning tools can suggest low-carbon travel options or recommend activities that have a minimal environmental impact.
These are just a few examples of the hopes that people have expressed about using generative AI in the travel and tourism sector. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovative applications that benefit both travelers and the travel industry as a whole.”
More to Come
Now I would be remiss at this point if I did not acknowledge how Microsoft's current experiment in AI technology recently backfired. Their new, A.I.-powered Bing has many features including a chat feature that allows the user to have extended, open-ended text conversations with Bing’s built-in A.I. chatbot. The AI platform was created by the same people, OpenAI, who have created ChatGPT and apparently the function was not really tested with personal questions as opposed to traditional search related questions. In one example, a two-hour conversation with New York Times columnist Kevin Roose resulted in Microsoft’s new chatbot saying it “would like to be human, had a desire to be destructive and was in love with the person it was chatting with.”
This is a funny, perhaps worrisome story. It is also a learning opportunity for Microsoft and OpenAI. But it is in no way a sidetracking of this tech trend. More to come on this and other aspects of the continuing evolution of digital platforms – next time from human subject experts and human led travel and tourism entities doing work in this area.