Travel firms must see generative AI as ‘friend not foe’

Travel companies should consider generative AI as a “friend” rather than foe, the Aito Overseas Conference was told.

Mark Thompson, chief information officer of the Palatinate Group, a group of specialist tour operators and technology consultancy, urged Aito companies to embrace the emerging systems.

He said: “Don’t be scared of it, embrace it, learn about it. Think of it as being your friend and not your enemy.”

Generative AI can be categorised into three types of output: natural language, audio and images, said Thompson, who hailed the technology as a time-saver for travel companies and a tool to create content and reduce business administration.

He admitted it would not provide all the answers. “Clearly it’s not perfect. It will save you time, but it will not complete a task for you. It provides a great start and saves time,” he added.

Thompson said travel companies which had started to test out generative AI, such as Tui’s pilot of a ChatGPT-powered chatbot on its UK app, should be “applauded” even if there were setbacks.

“The first true AI hotel in China had to close down after six months because robot cleaners keep getting stuck in the corridors,” he said.

But he agreed there was a need to consider regulation. “I think there is an awful lot of concern about where it could go and Elon Musk’s statement about [the need for] regulation is incredibly important. There is absolutely a need for a degree of regulation.”

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