Research from Euromonitor International indicates that consumers will be turning to chatbots to plan their holidays instead of humans. Jenny Southan reports
Travellers using artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT to plan their travel itineraries is set to boom, according to market research company Euromonitor International. AI-authored fake reviews of hotels and restaurants will explode in parallel.
The massive increase in AI travel planning can be narrowed down to convenience and 24/7 accessibility, says Caroline Bremner, head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor International.
Travellers can access AI tools from various devices, including smartphones and computers, at any time and from anywhere with an internet connection.
A resounding 98 per cent of travel executives in the Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: Travel Survey stated that AI would have an impact over the next five years.
AI could disrupt travel bookings industry, which is already highly digitalised.
Bremner says: “ChatGPT is taking travel and the world by storm. With travel highly digitalised where 66 per cent of all bookings are conducted online in 2023 and mobile accounts for 35 per cent of all online sales, disruption from generative AI is already rife.”
The travel industry is already adapting. Expedia announced in April 2023 its collaboration with OpenAI, offering in-app trip planning powered by ChatGPT for iOS, as well as offering a plug-in to ChatGPT Plus users.
The Expedia ChatGPT experience provides personalised recommendations, acting like a virtual travel assistant, delivering relevant results for hotels and what to do in destination.
Booking Holding’s Kayak and OpenTable also announced ChatGPT plug-ins. Other travel brands like TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide and Klook followed suit.
Trip.com integrated ChatGPT into TripGen, its newly released AI chatbot that provides real-time assistance, itinerary planning and booking tips in the pre-trip stage. Hotels and airlines meanwhile are turning to generative AI for customer service, while automating menial tasks.
More integration will inevitably follow so that ultimately the trip planning to booking stages will blend seamlessly, dependent on access to real-time booking functionality. Generative AI is only at the beginning of its journey, giving consumers what Airbnb called “the ultimate concierge”.
AI access to “real time data” can be a game-changer.
Bremner says: “The path of AI adoption will not run entirely smoothly as there are major concerns over consumer privacy with countries like Italy temporarily banning ChatGPT. There are also concerns over large language models being reliant on out-of-date internet knowledge, with a lag of two years in the case of ChatGPT with no access to current events or real-time information. However, access to real time data has been enabled thanks to a new plug-in with Microsoft Bing.
“The risks of amplifying misinformation, bias and inequality are all too real. Safety and security of consumers must be of paramount importance. Tech leaders like Elon Musk recently demanded a pause on AI development to avoid risks to humanity including possible extinction from superintelligence, stating that the AI race was out of control and time was needed to enable government policy to play catch up.
“Travel agents faced mass disruption due to the rise of online travel three decades ago, that led to mass store closures and job losses. Now, the sector is ripe for more disruption as generative AI accelerates automation of tasks across every stage of the customer journey, before, during and after the trip.
“With Microsoft planning to integrate generative AI into its Microsoft 365 Copilot software, it will become ever more prevalent in consumers’ daily lives and work whether we like it or not.
“As before, travel brands will take the rough with the smooth to navigate this new phase of digital transformation with a test and learn approach. However, only those that ultimately celebrate the human touch of travel and hospitality will thrive.”
You can read more in Euromonitor International’s report on Revolutionising Travel with ChatGPT and Generative AI, which includes a detailed analysis on the impact of future technology on travel brands and destinations.