Barely a day goes by without some news about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots are changing the way businesses operate and consumers are serviced. AI is here to stay and will only expand, so the faster travel advisors can wrap their heads around what this means for the travel industry, the better.
Let’s start at the beginning. Just what is AI, anyway? AI is any technology that can perform the function of a human. It has been in existence for decades. What has taken the spotlight now is generative AI, a specific type of AI technology that uses machine learning and large language models to quickly generate marketing content and handle routine customer service functions.
How AI can assist travel advisors
Generative AI has enormous power to help in ways that we do not fully realize yet. It is still so new and its potential is just being discovered. But overall, AI is a tech platform that can help travel professionals save time and work more efficiently.
More specifically, AI has the potential to be a superstar assistant for travel advisors. It can create content - such as social media posts, blogs, and client emails - with the touch of a button and a few words. It can generate a marketing plan; analyze the typical customer for a style of travel, such as luxury or experiential; or even create a list of the best coffee shops within walking distance of a client’s chosen hotel.
The biggest draw is that AI-empowered tech can handle these tasks in minutes, rather than the multiple hours it would take a human to implement.
AI creates personalized experiences and content
Generative AI is adept at producing personalized travel experiences and content - and travel advisors can then use the time they gain back from automating those tasks to better serve their clients. For example, let’s say you have booked two foodie clients into the Four Seasons in New York. You can ask an AI tool like ChatGPT to create a spreadsheet of all the brunch restaurants that are within walking distance of their hotel. You can tell it which columns to create, such as restaurant hours, price, and distance from the hotel.
Or let’s say you want to sell cruises to customers who have never taken a cruise before. AI can create a typical customer – a persona – for that specific market. It can list reasons why that person does not buy a cruise. And then create content, such as blog posts and marketing emails, that address and resolve those issues in a compelling way. This would take hours for a travel advisor to go through their files, tap the expertise of colleagues and other contacts, search for relevant research, and then tackle writing and designing the marketing pieces. AI accomplishes it all within minutes.
AI can also help with social media. For example, ask the AI tool for five posts about vacationing in Italy; or why you should use ABC Travel Agency (fill in your agency name) for your next vacation. You can even submit examples of images for the posts, or ask AI to supply you with a link to free imagery.
Giving effective prompts is key
The real success with AI is determined by how requests (called prompts in AI lingo) are worded. A general query will not deliver the desired results. The user needs to be very precise in their wording, and it may take multiple steps.
An AI guru in the travel industry said she uses a particular formula with the ChatGPT generative AI tool. As an example, she commands it to, “Act as a travel advisor. Create three blog posts on why people should travel to Mexico.” Or she gives the prompt, “Act as a copywriter. Write me a social media post based on this supplier offer. Summarize it in 75 characters.” Or she prompts the AI to, “Write me examples of 10 spam-proof email subject lines.”
Understand AI’s limitations
It is important to know that generative AI has limitations. It works well at supplementing a travel advisor’s knowledge by generating ideas. However it was only trained with information up until September 2021. It cannot provide real-time, present-day insights (although there supposedly is a plan in place to rectify this). So, if your client is going to Rome and wants to know which concerts, festivals, or performances are going on, AI cannot tell you that. It does not know if a museum or theme park is temporarily closed, because its database of information is not current.
AI gives travel advisors the help they need in a creative and effective way – and it frees up their time to offer even more personalized service to clients. But be forewarned that you must deliver the task prompts clearly, supervise the work, and review it to ensure that it is accurate and meets your needs.
AIso, AI cannot build relationships or provide the personalization that a travel advisor can. Great advisors love to plan detailed, complex itineraries collaboratively with client input and their networks. AI is a tool that can help travel advisors with itineraries, but it cannot produce a perfect, polished, professional itinerary or marketing piece on its own.
First step to using AI
To dip your toe in the AI waters, first create an account using a free tool like ChatGPT, and start tinkering with it. It is not recommended to initially use it for time-critical business tasks, because you have to learn to use the system.
Most importantly, keep in mind that AI is a resource, not a replacement. It has great functionality in select areas of travel, once advisors and suppliers alike discover how to use it most effectively. But remember that a great travel advisor will always be invaluable for their knowledge, contacts, and customer service.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
“AI has become the hot topic in the travel industry, but it’s a tool Hotelbeds has been using for some time, particularly to assist with customer service via chatbots,” said Nicolas Huss, CEO of Hotelbeds. “There’s no doubt that the whole travel ecosystem can benefit from this technology. It can not only improve customer service, but also provide an elevated personalized experience by remembering preferences and automatically implementing them each time an individual books their next trip.”
Hotelbeds is a global leader in the TravelTech space, connecting and empowering businesses by facilitating bridges in the ever-changing and expanding travel ecosystem. Their cloud-based technology platforms offer fast and simple access to a global network of travel products, from accommodation to ancillaries and payments, while rich data and intelligence helps to generate demand. By operating exclusively in the B2B arena, they are uniquely placed to drive growth for their partners without competing for the end customer. Their teams of 3,000-plus experts on the ground provide local expertise and support to boost trading even further, even in the most hard-to-reach spaces. Their unique blend of technology, data, and passionate people serves as a catalyst for B2B travel players aiming to unlock their full potential.