Expert Speak Guest Column Opinion


Every time a new tech surprises us, sceptics have a field day.

I remember the day my dad came home excited- gushing over a new ‘electronic typewriter’ acquired by his office. He was excited that it automatically jumped to the second line without him having to manually crank the typewriter lever.

Ten to one I suspect very few readers will even know about a lever that had to be cranked to move to the next line while typing. As it is, most would prefer to say ‘writing’ instead of ‘typing ‘since no one writes anyway.

In the nineties, there were concerns over the dwindling role of travel agents and booking offices. This evolved into worries over booking engines trampling on travel aggregators and finally morphing into exasperation over keeping up with mutating traveller profiles and trends. All that would appear mellifluous compared to the tremors that AI might bring about in the travel business.

Wise (and optimistic) persons will call it ‘inevitable’ or a smooth transition into the future’. Yet while chatbots, which were merely irritating pop ups on various sites during off hours, just transformed themselves into almost sentient beings last December.

ChatGPT just became the new blue-eyed boy of our travel times (if the blatantly racist assertion in this expression is ignored). Globally customers want a hassle-free experience and seem to respond favourably to artificial intelligence as it makes things apparently simpler. Experts say that for a better user experience, 62% of customers are eager to even give AI bots access to their data.

Indeed ChatGPT can process large amounts of data and possibly help tour providers scale their operations without adding additional staff. Whether this can create a better customer experience remains to be seen.

Many aver that it will help reduce the workload of customer service staff and hence improve customer satisfaction. Now that could be a marketing spiel but the proof lies in the pudding. Sceptics warn that replacing human interaction could only go this far.

Travel destinations are now creating 360-degrees AI tours with augmented reality for potential tourists and it appears as an inviting selling idea.

So should we actually worry that future travellers could simply be content enjoying travelling, plonked on their sofas, popcorn in hand?

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