AI is ‘game changer’ but will not replace agents, says Inspiretec chief

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) can be deployed to “empower travel agents” and not replace them, according to Simon Powell, chief executive of travel technology firm Inspiretec.

Powell told the Travel Weekly Future of Travel Conference in London last week: “We need to augment travel agents, provide them with the technology and help them to do a better job.”

Speaking on a panel on AI, in which interest exploded after the launch of ChatGPT last November, Powell insisted: “This is a game changer, but it isn’t going to replace the travel agent.

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“We’ve been talking about the death of the agent for the 35 years I’ve been in the industry. We’re putting this [AI technology] in front of our users who are agents.”

He explained: “I sat for two days with my team showing me how we could benefit [from generative AI], and it blew my mind. You can ask it to write code, ask it to write code in the style of your business, ask it to write a test case and test the code, and then ask it to write the user documentation. This is going to revolutionise systems development.”

Powell added: “I recently started an online cruise business and all the content we generate has been through ChatGPT.”

He noted: “We’re not at the point where content is going straight out to the end user because it isn’t mature enough. We’re in the early days of this and curating the content, checking it’s valid, is safer.”

But he insisted: “As an industry we need to adopt it. We need to empower agents because if we don’t, we’re going to miss out on an awful lot.”

Deloitte director and digital and analytics consultant Ellena Ronca-Thompson advised attendees: “Allow your tech teams to get started with the technology to determine ways of working and the safety environments they want in place, and experiment internally before you [go to market].”

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