once in a while, a tech innovation develops seemingly overnight – and suddenly
everyone, everywhere is talking about it. Examples that come to mind include
Clubhouse and TikTok. But the pace at which ChatGPT has gone from unknown to
ubiquitous seems unprecedented.
on November 30 by OpenAI, ChatGPT (which stands for Generative Pre-trained
Transformer) is a free artificial intelligence chatbot that has incredibly
human-like communication skills (and a fee-based
premium version in development). A Google search of the term “ChatGPT” turns
up nearly 280 million results – with examples of its ability to write poetry,
compose lyrics, play games, take tests and even code an entire website.
and co-owner of Mint Mobile Ryan
Reynolds demonstrates its use in a new ad for the mobile communications company.
Microsoft is reportedly considering a $10 billion investment in ChatGPT owner
Open AI according to multiple
media outlets. And social media is saturated with posts arguing why ChatGPT
is or isn’t the most powerful tool in the world.
what – if anything – will ChatGPT and other generative AI chatbots mean for the travel industry? Will
companies and individual operators use this technology in meaningful ways or will it fade
into the background once the hype dies down (see past reference to Clubhouse).
has reached out to a handful of brands and individuals for their perspectives. Some
of the comments have been edited for brevity.
In addition, PhocusWire hosted its first LinkedIn Audio event on the topic of ChatGPT. Listen to the full 40-minute discussion with input from Expedia Group's Rajesh Naidu, Microsoft's Shane O'Flaherty and Kayak co-founder Paul English.
senior vice president and chief architect at Expedia Group
Recent breakthroughs with
ChatGPT show that enormous opportunities still exist for technology to solve
real world problems. For a long time, AI has been approached as a technology in
search of a use case, and we’re starting to see this trend turn around as
economic conditions put pressure on tech leaders to demonstrate a real return
in investment for integrating AI. Because of this, tech companies are
seeing value in data-driven personalization solutions and ChatGPT fills that
need. It can help save companies time and money to allocate resources to
solve more complex and specific problems.
AI has ushered in a new era of personalized
experiences, which ChatGPT can make even more sophisticated. AI tools need
large data sets to feed off and our platform is massive; we have over 70
petabytes of data that powers six billion AI predictions annually. With a large
dataset already in place, integrating this technology into our platform could
hyper-personalize search results for travelers and supports our vision of
offering open-ended, flexible search options.
Conversational capabilities have come a long way over
the past decade, but there is still a huge opportunity to improve on it by
training chatbots to understand and predict traveler preferences. In just a few
years, our platform has powered over 29 million virtual conversations, which
saved more than eight million hours in agent time, allowing travelers to
resolve issues faster with self-service.
Another real opportunity for ChatGPT in travel is trip planning. Imagine if
travelers could use it to create a trip itinerary or identify top hotels for
their trip and have AI automatically add these recommendations to their Expedia
trip board. It can simplify an extremely manual planning process involving
sifting through lots of options down to minutes.
Arjan Dijk, senior vice president and chief
marketing officer at Booking.com
ChatGPT really captured everyone's attention when it
launched, but the technology is still in a relative state of infancy - it's
already dividing opinion with responses that can range from entertaining and
creative to glaringly inaccurate. There are some interesting potential use
cases should its efficacy evolve and, as with all emerging and
fast-growing technologies, it's certainly something we'll potentially look to
explore, especially if we see that it's adding value to our customers'
[Regarding marketing use cases] Marketing is at its best when it combines both science and art. We
look to technology, data and the rigor and precision those can bring to guide
us, but there is still much to be said for the creativity and intuition of our
experts. It's too early to say whether the likes of ChatGPT can truly emulate
those very human instincts. So for now, we're watching with interest, but it's
not something I'd expect to see informing our work any time soon.
We don’t experiment with technology for its own sake:
it must actively solve a customer problem, remove friction and make it easier
for everyone to experience the world - otherwise it’s not something
we spend our time and energy on. That said, machine learning and
artificial intelligence are already very much part of the Booking.com
customer's journey, and these
innovations will continue to pave the way to seamlessly connect all aspects of
the travel experience. From AI-powered instant translation services that make
it easier for travelers to negotiate last-minute changes of plan directly
with accommodation hosts and rental car providers who don’t speak the same language
to machine learning models that automatically inform our host about a late
arrival to their beach cottage due to a delayed flight, technology will
continue to smooth out the unforeseen bumps in the road with increasing finesse
and proactivity. Whether ChatGPT or similar innovations add to that
experience remains to be seen!
Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper
I think it shows we’re on the cusp of a significant change in the way society interacts with computers, which will lead to big changes in work, education and commerce. We think it has the potential to impact how we interact with our own customers. There’s some interesting use cases that we hope to explore such as improving automation and responses for common customer service requests through chat (and eventually even speech and video), as well as concierge-like services to recommend travel destinations, create personalized itineraries and the like.
It will also have a big impact on how we work, particularly in product development as we learn to use these new tools to improve the speed and quality of delivering our products and increasing our own efficiency and productivity. We will be able to experiment with how this can assist software development, as well as other use cases like making job descriptions more attractive to specific audiences. And I suspect this is just the beginning - we’ll need to go back to first principles and rethink a lot of how and why we do things the way we do. This will mean big opportunities for organizations that can adapt quickly and embrace change; something we’ve always prided ourselves on at Hopper.
founder of 1000
There will be a big impact on productivity and content production. You can’t
deny that. Every single tour operator,
even single hotel, every transport company now has the same opportunity to be
as productive as a company much bigger than themselves. I see that as a
commodity – everyone has access to it therefore, in some ways, where’s the
value. But it’s the most productivity-enhancing thing I’ve ever seen.
However I don’t
think that’s the real impact. I think that’s just the start of the game. Once
AI starts to get into the actual experiences – not just tour experiences but
hotels, airports… the ability to speed up and enhance the actual experience,
especially in something that is not a good experience at the moment like an
airport, is going to be quite dramatic.
And the real game
changer... is once the general public has it, it changes everything. You are a tour
operator, and you create itineraries. The consumer can now do exactly the same
thing as you and do it in real time. And 1,000 people can create 1,000
different experiences tailored to what they like. So the creation of a travel experience
on the ground, which tour operators have dominated, is going to be disrupted by travelers
being able to do it themselves.
The weakness at
the moment is it’s only scraping data through 2021. So it’s not the live data,
it’s not up to date, the facts may not be 100% and it doesn’t have geolocation. It
can give you an itinerary that doesn’t make sense. But take companies like
Tripadvisor, Google - all the people with that data can put a wrapper around it,
connect facts and geolocation and bang. I’d imagine Tripadvisor’s strategy team
is awake all night at the moment trying to figure out if we’ve got all the
unique data, how do we connect it with the power of this and then how do we
This could make entirely
new businesses or it can destroy businesses. The speed this thing is developing
is a thousand times faster than the internet developed. And all these people
using it is speeding its development. And if the internet proves anything to
us, it’s that once consumers find something really useful and that makes daily
life better, they stick with it. So there are threats and opportunities there.
Barker, founder and CEO of Horizon Guides
I've seen early adopters grabbing it with two hands, as well as the laggards
who are barely aware it exists. For the early adopters there are certainly big
opportunities but also some big risks. I'm working with a cruise brand who has
decided to use ChatGPT for virtually all their new website content and
will save hundreds of thousands of dollars on freelance costs, so there's big
disruption to come. The written quality of the output itself is good and
will get better, probably better than most people can write. For basic service
copy – simple product descriptions, basic articles, email campaigns, that sort
of thing, it's going to be very useful for brands and very painful for content
But there are a couple of
big caveats. First, people need to recognize that it's not generating anything
new as much as scraping and regurgitating the internet. So there are issues
with accuracy and truthfulness, and it needs human expertise to fact-check
the output. This also means it can't add any novel details or insights,
which is important for lots of content formats. The biggest risk is how Google
responds, and if they'll accept AI content in the results. I doubt their
ability to identify AI content in the long-run, but they can certainly further prioritize
verified human expertise as a ranking signal. So you may not get “penalized”
for using AI content, but you could be boosted for using expert human authors
who can provide novel insights.
As far as
Horizon Guides is concerned, you might think AI is an existential threat to a
specialist publisher that invests heavily in new content creation. In actual
fact we're doubling down on human contributors, and will soon be launching a
Q&A feature for readers to ask our contributors questions directly. ChatGPT
might herald a revolution in automated content creation, but I also think it
could create a new premium for genuine human expertise too.
Alex Bainbridge, founder and CEO of Autoura
Fundamentally, my main thought is, I find the
scope of what we have to think about quite intimidating, and that is coming
from someone who has been working full time on the impact of AI on local
tourism since 2018! Mainly this is because I don't really understand the core
logic that is underneath all this generative AI. I graduated 25 years ago
with a degree in computer science, all changes that have happened since have
been understandable within the scope of what I learned then as an
undergraduate. Now as a digital entrepreneur I am thinking that I don't really
get this AI technology as much as I need to, in order to innovate with it. For
the first time in my life I understand what it feels like to be made obsolete
by a new technology.
My secondary main thought is, if you can generate
infinite itineraries (for tours), you need to be able to operate infinite
itineraries (for tours). That requires digital tour operating, which is where
(long term) autonomous vehicles come in. (I call this "tour operating
AI"). That will be the breakthrough that makes generative AI a consumer
scale product in tourism & hospitality.
My third main thought is that personalization
is now a high priority requirement, in order to make generative AI usable
within tourism. This is where SSI comes in - we need to collectively share
preferences over the industry, otherwise tourists are going to have a cold
start with every AI they interact with. The hospitality group from DIF now has
an important purpose.
Max Starkov, hospitality and online travel tech consultant and strategist
ChatGPT has been trained with information
existing until end of 2021. Travel is a super dynamic category where this
morning’s information is no longer relevant a few hours even minutes later.
Inventory availability, prices, category of rooms/seats/cars change by the
minute. You need good old-fashioned technology like CRS, WBE, RMS, etc. to
handle these dynamics, not ChatGPT.
On the other hand you have chatbots in the
industry that are highly trained and have been providing customer service,
issue resolution and reservations on OTAs, Airline and major hotel websites for
years. These chatbots are also AI- powered, highly specialized and
self-learning, and much smarter and experienced than ChatGPT. So if I were
a travel consumer, I will play for fun with ChatGPT, ask some silly questions,
but if I want to dream about, research, plan and book travel, I will go to a
travel brand or OTA site.
A very heated discussion is raging on
LinkedIn about whether the launch of ChatGPT marks the beginning of the end for
Google’s near monopoly on finding the right answers about anything. Google is already the most-advanced AI
company in the world, actually much better than any other company or government
on this planet. Their search algorithm has been using AI for more than a decade
now. In a way, Google already provides an AI-powered chatbot via its
Google Answer Box, which provides quick answers to questions (not silly ones!)
without the user needing to click to read further.
Google can provide a much better
AI-powered chatbot than ChatGPT that spews much better answers in milliseconds,
but how are they going to make money? This is Google’s main problem today, not
the AI technology. Charge users a fee every time they use the AI chatbot?
Charge them a monthly subscription fee? There is a general “subscription
fatigue” as many streaming and other services have discovered lately.
Dave Goulden, vice president of product at Sojern
AI can do amazing things and ChatGPT is a great example of
that. For travel, there are some exciting use cases in terms of customer
service, trip planning, and personalized customer experience. For example, it
could help travel businesses analyze customer feedback and identify trends or
patterns, providing valuable insight into customer sentiment and opportunities
We think of ChatGPT as a fantastic example of where AI is
heading to be more conversational, but there is a lot that we already do with
AI. For example, Sojern leverages AI within our platform to drive marketing
performance and personalization for users. In short, we process vast amounts of
travel search and booking data, and then distill it into models of user
behavior that we can use to predict future travel search and booking behavior.
It’s what powers our clients’ success and continued growth. We’re able to
provide travelers with relevant information based on what they’ve booked
previously -- that level of scaled personalization isn’t possible without
underlying AI to make sense of the data.
Specific to ChatGPT, I believe that this technology will
eventually be used in conjunction with a brand’s own content, in addition to
the internet as a whole, so that it can be trained and customized by the brand
to answer questions.
Mike Coletta, manager of research and innovation at
I’m very interested in seeing how travel companies leverage
Generative AI for all the obvious uses in the coming year (marketing copy,
sales copy, itinerary generation, customer service, optimization of backend
processes) but like with most new breakthroughs, I’m most looking forward to
the uses no one has even thought of yet. The longer-term implications of a technology
like this are very difficult to anticipate
What’s also really interesting is how this once again
demonstrates that the most disruptive innovations often come from outside the
travel industry. As an example, for itinerary generation there is no shortage
of AI travel planning tools, but it’s difficult if not almost impossible for
them to gain trust among a critical mass of relatively infrequent travelers.
ChatGPT is gaining that trust in its ubiquity and daily usage, so I think
travelers could be much more likely to accept its itinerary recommendations
without nearly as much research and shopping around. This has implications for
human agents too.