AI WAS not just the buzzword among word leaders at Bletchley Park this week.
At the Travel Association (ABTA) annual convention in Bodrum, Turkey (pictured), the hot topic was how the new technology would impact the travel industry. Some of the delegates in attendance were scared, others excited. All uncertain of what’s to come.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said we were ‘at a threshold of a new era’. ‘I can’t think of an industry so practised at adapting to change and to managing disruptions as ours,’ he continued, as we soaked up the last of the Aegean’s warm autumn air. An understatement if anything, after Covid, air traffic control chaos, endless strikes.
AI’s far-reaching tentacles are already impacting the travel industry. Tripadvisor announced last month that it had developed an AI-powered travel itinerary generator. Tui has started using ChatGPT in its app to provide tour guide-like recommendations.
But despite the huge change that AI will inevitably bring, for many, the human interaction experienced when booking through a travel agent is part of the joy of planning a holiday. After all, why do we travel in the first place? It’s to meet and see and touch and smell.
And as the travel becomes more complicated than ever, that human connection has never been more important. In fact, the traditional in-store travel agent seems to be having somewhat of a renaissance, with companies such as Barrhead Travel opening new stores.
Each ‘golden age’ of travel has been powered by new technology. Think of the railways in the 1830s, the big jet engines post WW2 which suddenly connected us to wherever we wished to go, and the introduction of the internet in the late 90s that enabled us to search, buy and share trips at the touch of a button.
Will AI bring about the next one? It’s certainly going be an age of change. Let’s just hope it will be a golden one.