Is AI about to kill off the travel industry?

Is AI about to kill off the travel industry?

Is AI about to kill off the travel industry or is this the beginning of a brave new world?

Last week’s news was all about the collapse in the share price of on-line educational platforms like Chegg.

Students have discovered the latest versions of CHATGPT can help with their study, homework and revision in a way that on-line platforms can’t, and what’s more, it’s almost free.

There’s much talk about AI and how it will revolutionize the world we live in.

Mark Zuckerberg talks about having our own “AI agent”.

But what does he really mean?

It could be that many jobs we thought were safe could easily be done by AI.  Watch out accountants, solicitors and website developers as AI will soon be knocking on your doors and your customers won’t!

If we stop and think this new AI world through for a few minutes, then it doesn’t take long before you draw the conclusion that we’ll soon have our own personal AI assistant (or agent, in the words of Zuckerberg).

After all, many of us have become used to speaking to our friendly Google Alexa and no doubt the next step will be for Alexa to ask, “How can I help you?”.

“Alexa, the car needs a service and an MOT; can you check my diary to see when I don’t need the car and book these in for me?” How about looking for a new mobile phone contract?  Alexa reminds you your phone contract is up for renewal and asks if you’d like some research into the latest offers, and so it will go on.

All very helpful.

Going back to my opening question, will AI kill off the travel industry?

The simple answer is I don’t think so.

However, this is the wrong question to ask, and we should ask: how will AI CHANGE the travel industry?

Using the example of our Alexa AI personal assistant, it’s not hard to imagine where this could go.

The question might be: “We’re interested in visiting the Azores, we’d like to walk and whale watch and would like 7 nights in a boutique hotel with car and direct flights.  Please get back to me with three suggested itineraries, some images of the hotels and suggested walks that are available from the 14th July?“

In a few seconds you’ll have your 3 options.  Your credit card and personal details are no doubt stored on your mobile or computer, so all you’d have to say is:  “Alexa, thanks, please book option three and add dates to my diary. Oh, and please notify work I’ll be off that week”.

Couldn’t be easier.

So yes, how many people book holidays will change as AI will be able to search the internet and craft much of what you want. Like all advancements since the start of the industrial revolution there will be those who gain and those who are left behind.

If you provide group trips, AI will streamline much of what you do, if you’re a big player like Tui who controls the whole food chain (website, travel agency, planes and hotels), then AI will no doubt bring huge cost savings. For the rest of us AI presents us with more than a few challenges.

Our biggest challenge is not AI, but complacency.

Burying our heads in the sand pretending it’s just a fad or telling ourselves that it won’t change how we do things.

If you fail to embrace change, then you’re probably doomed.

Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be this way and many niche travel companies have a secret sauce that AI can’t compete with.  It’s our ability to travel and tell real stories about where we’ve travelled, using these experiences to build lasting relationships with our customers so they’re eager to hear about our next adventure.

This is the perfect environment for niche operators and true travel specialists to flourish.

It’s time to be a little more human.

By Ian Coates

Founder & MD of Archipelago Choice