Will AI change travel planning and bookings?

Will AI change travel planning and bookings?

According to TUI manager Pieter Jordaan, generative artificial intelligence (AI) will have a major impact on the tourism industry. “Those using the technology will be faster and more productive than those not using it,” said the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of the travel company.

Generative AI that can create new content will very quickly replace tasks. This also has consequences for end users. “It will fundamentally change the way people plan and book their trips in the future.”

Are employees becoming redundant?

In the future, employees in travel agencies could use AI themselves to advise customers, explains Jordaan. “Generative AI will very quickly replace tasks, but not jobs,” the company says. The so-called generative AI, which also includes text robots such as ChatGPT, is able to create new content based on existing information and user specifications.

In Great Britain, TUI now uses the text robot ChatGPT in its app. Around half of the customers have so far been able to access the offer in a test. ChatGPT uses generative AI to provide users with personalized suggestions for trips and to answer questions about vacation destinations. With more than 10,000 users, the demand for the offer is higher than expected.

“Human gut feeling irreplaceable”

According to the opinion of the tour operator Schauinsland-Reisen, qualified specialists will remain essential in the future. The company is currently testing ChatGPT. The software helps, for example, with the creation of customer newsletters. “However, AI cannot replace the experience and expertise of our specialists, but only serve as support,” said a Schauinsland spokesman.

An AI like ChatGPT could simplify and automate individual time-consuming work processes in the long term. “The human gut feeling when putting together our products cannot be replaced by AI,” said the spokesman. A fully automated use of ChatGPT is not an option for Schauinsland in the future either.

The industry association DRV also assumes that travel professionals will not become superfluous: the experts in the travel agencies know the wishes and preferences of their customers well and make tailor-made offers. “Today, the AI ​​cannot offer this content – which is not freely available online – with all the expert tips.”

Customer data will not be passed on

The travel group TUI is not only planning to use AI in Great Britain. In the future, customers in Germany will also be able to use the text robot in the app. “If all tests are successful and we are satisfied with the safety, we aim to launch the product by the end of the year,” Jordaan said. In Germany there are already several travel companies that use ChatGPT for various applications.

In order to prevent incorrect answers from ChatGPT, TUI has taken precautionary measures according to the information in the app. This allows answers to be checked before they are shown to customers. The group pays a rather small fee for each request, said the CIO. At no point does TUI pass on customer data when ChatGPT is used in the app.

Personal customer contact remains important

DER Touristik top manager Mark Tantz (COO Central Europe) sees opportunities to cushion the shortage of skilled workers. Automation – whether simple or artificial – is a way of relieving employees of simple tasks so that they can concentrate on more interesting activities, for example. “This is a relevant issue, especially when there is a shortage of skilled workers,” said Tantz.

The special travel provider Chamäleon Reisen, which has been using ChatGPT for accommodation descriptions on its homepage since this year, continues to attach great importance to direct contact with customers. “We continue to deliberately rely on direct contact with our customers. They should be able to reach those responsible for the individual destinations directly in the future,” reported Ingo Lies, founder of the organizer for sustainable travel.

The travel group Alltours sees it in a similar way: “Personal contact with our customers remains important for us, and AI cannot replace it.”

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