Comment: Is ChatGPT an opportunity or a threat to the travel industry?

Comment: Is ChatGPT an opportunity or a threat to the travel industry?

The advanced artificial intelligence chatbot is currently taking the world by storm

The world of technology and innovation has always been trend-driven. In 2021, it was crypto, 2022 was the year of the metaverse, and 2023 is likey to be remembered as the year of ChatGPT. 

ChatGPT, which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a free artificial intelligence chatbot that has incredibly human-like communication skills. Users can type in a subject and format (for example 'Maldives' and 'travel guide') and the ChatGPT bot writes surprisingly human prose to brief based on a mix of content already existing on the internet. Some speculate that it will do away with the need to hire humans for certain tasks, such as copywriting. 

Does the growing popularity of the new generation AI chatbot present an opportunity or a threat for the travel space? To find out, we spoke to six different travel technology experts about where ChatGPT could take the travel industry in the coming years.

Oana Savu, Dohop
Oana Savu, chief strategy officer at travel connectivity technology specialists Dohop, sees the game-changing potential for travel. She says: “What ChatGPT highlights and reminds us of most is that technology continues to develop faster and faster, and that natural language processing, machine learning technologies, and AI are being adopted increasingly and will have massive impacts in many industries, including travel. Together they will bring about a more convenient and integrated multi-modal approach to travel planning – as well as offer personalised travel recommendations based on the traveller profile, history and preferences."

Consequently, this could also impact and increase travel demand as more people might be willing to travel more often – Oana Savu

Morgann Lesné, Cambon Partners
Speaking about investor sentiment for the travel sector, Morgann Lesné from travel investment bank Cambon Partners says: “A few months ago saying you had an AI solution was interesting to potential acquirers of companies – particularly if they were looking to purchase a company to integrate its technology. But it was far from high on the shopping list, so to speak, not least in an environment where profitability counts for much more than growth potential. ChatGPT has captured investor’s attention for sure and I'm certain that travel businesses who can convincingly claim to be doing this in some way will either raise easily or be acquired even if they are not profitable yet. Everyone is looking for that first mover advantage.”


Mark Ross-Smith, StatusMatch
Mark Ross-Smith from loyalty technology provider StatusMatch doesn’t feel that ChatGPT is going to impact the frequent flyer loyalty status space just yet. He says: “Many of the perks of being a status holding frequent flyer member of an airline are access to a lot of information and services that aren’t available online easily, often sitting behind password protected member areas or more simply ‘just known to insiders’ orally. There’s also the human touch of cabin crew who recognise you and bring you your favourite drink and so on."

Right now ChatGPT is only based on data available up until 2021 so it might be recommending lounges that are closed or even airlines that are no longer flying – Mark Ross-Smith

Janis Dzenis, WayAway
Janis Dzenis, head of PR for the subscription-focused online metasearch WayAway, says his business is already benefiting from the use of AI tools like ChatGPT. He explains: “In some small ways this is already a reality for us in our business. For example, we have found that ChatGPT can produce images for use in marketing campaigns that not only saves us the cost of a graphic designer, but also creates images that get significantly higher click-thru volumes – and I mean multiples higher, not just a modest 20% increase.

"Looking to the future we plan to use ChatGPT and similar tools to take over aspects of our customer support that right now are done by humans, freeing up the humans to focus on tasks that only they can do.”

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Emilie Dumont, Digitrips
Emilie Dumont, CEO of B2B travel technology provider Digitrips – who, among several other brands, owns France’s leading B2B OTA, Misterfly, sees huge potential in the long term. She says: “For sure we are witnessing the birth of a new way of searching for information, processing it and getting an answer: in 10 years we’ll probably wonder how we ever organised anything before ‘AI-powered search’ existed, like anyone born before 1980 talks about the pre-internet era.

"Will that be ChatGPT or another company or concept? The winner will probably be the one who has the highest financial firepower to invest quickly. When it comes to travel inspiration, I'm almost convinced that in the coming year some players will be able to develop ‘learning/customised’ AI for their own customers to give quite accurate and detailed personalised recommendations that are compelling. Equally, I see customer support potential for ChatGPT, answering all the but the most tricky questions from customers."

There are probably potential uses for ChatGPT that we can’t even imagine yet. Maybe AI will tell us what they are! – Emilie Dumont

James Jin, DidaTravel
James Jin, CTO of global accommodation distribution company DidaTravel, concludes: “A bit like when search engines first came along, whoever controls access to the information superhighways that ChatGPT and its competitors will create will be able to monetise them and we'll quickly see adverts appearing inside the experience. In that respect a whole new industry will spring up dedicated to helping people gamify the algorithms to ensure that their brands organically don’t lose out – very similar to search engine optimisation. No doubt we'll see legislation, regulation, consumer watchdogs and more coming into effect very quickly too. While it raises many questions that are unanswered, those who ignore this technology could find themselves falling behind, slowly at first but then quicker and quicker before it becomes too late to catch-up."

For more information, visit openai.com/blog/chatgpt and www.belverapartners.com 

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