Markus Stumpe of Germany-based travel tech start-up Cruisewatch assesses how ChatGPT and rival Bard could impact the industry
As a travel agent, you know that providing excellent personalised customer services is key to success. However, recent breakthroughs in AI technology services like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard are changing the game.
They offer data-driven personalisation, insist they help companies save time and money so they can allocate resources to more complex issues. However, it’s still early days, and travel agents play a major role in selling travel. It’s a balance, and everyone needs to think about how to react to AI driven technology and how to and make the most of it.
Status quo of ChatGPT and similar services
ChatGPT is a free AI language model that can perform various tasks related to travel, such as answering customer enquiries, recommending travel packages, helping to book travel arrangements, providing travel tips and advice, and even handling customer complaints.
The interesting part is that sometimes it can help provide better customer service, save time, and increase efficiency. It can also support creative tasks, like writing a travel post or article. This is made possible by the computing power of AI, which is now capable of solving real problems.
Risks and opportunities for travel agents
As with any new technology, there are opportunities and risks associated with ChatGPT and other AI services. On the positive side, it can reduce manual work for travel agents, cover a wide range of topics, and requires no technical knowledge to use. It is also free to use (for now) and scalable.
However, the data used by ChatGPT is from the end of 2021, so it may not include the most recent data. Furthermore, it lacks human interaction or touch, and may create non-fact-based answers when it doesn’t have enough data. Perhaps most importantly, ChatGPT is a black box, meaning you ask a question and get an answer, but don’t understand the algorithm behind it.
Cruisewatch and other AI driven technology companies use ChatGPT, but develop their own secure algorithms in order to check results and the processes leading to them. This creates accountability.
What to do as a travel agent
ChatGPT and similar services will not disappear, and they will continue to get better and more sophisticated over time. As travel agents face a shortage of qualified staff and some parts of the job are manual and laborious , there is an opportunity for synergy between technology and travel agents. The key is to make use of the opportunity without ignoring the trend.
ChatGPT will not do the complete job of a travel agent because customers want a personal touch and someone human who can offer first-hand experience of a cruise or other services. Being a specialist in travel or parts of it is essential for any travel agent.
If you just swim along with the crowd based on half-knowledge, you won’t find your sweet spot and you’ll be replaceable. You have to be particularly good at something, e.g. be a specialist in group travel, a certain luxury cruise brand, etc.. This cannot be replaced by a machine.
ChatGPT can help solve simple and low-margin requests and sell easy travel arrangements, which can better qualify customers. It can also be used by customers to collect information and get inspiration. However, when customers identify what they want, it’s time for the agent to take over and provide that personal touch and first-hand experience.
In other words, the technology can assist travel agents and help to make their jobs easier. But it’s important not to panic or hype the tech too much. It will take time before it reaches great levels of accuracy, but it will happen and we must embrace rather than fear technology, as history has shown us before.
AI technology is changing the travel industry. ChatGPT and similar services offer new opportunities for travel agents. While there are risks and challenges associated with this new-ish technology, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and make use of the technology to improve customer service and efficiency.
At the end of the day, travel agents will continue to play an essential role in the industry. The best approach is to make use of the opportunity, play around with the possibilities, and find the right balance to engage.