How artificial intelligence is changing the world of travel – DW – 12/04/2023

Ask ChatGPT to recommend places in Majorca that tourists haven’t passed yet, and it will suggest famous landmarks and traditional restaurants that appear in every travel guide. An artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot recommends a visit to Palma Cathedral, the famous and picturesque town of Soller, and the centuries-old Ca’n Joan de s’Aigo ice cream parlor. In other words, don’t rely on ChatGPT if you’re looking for hidden gems off the tourist trail.

“When it comes to insider tips, it’s usually down to personal preferences and experiences that I don’t have as an AI model,” ChatGPT tells me. “If you need more specific and personal recommendations, my advice is to consult local guides or locals who can give you insider tips.”

Will software like ChatGPT become mainstream in the tourism sector?Photo: Avishek Das/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire Alliance/picture

No silver bullet

However, the simplest and most obvious queries are usually “what” ChatGPT excels at . Asking a chatbot how to get to Placa d’Espanya in central Palma de Mallorca by bus produces a quick and accurate answer. Likewise, ChatGPT’s question about Sobrasada, a typical Mallorcan paprika sausage, gives an equally valid answer. The same can be said of my inquiry as to whether tipping is customary on the island – it is, and 10% is generally considered very generous.

“It won’t be long before tourism chatbots guide us through cities,” he says. Wolfram Hopken, Professor of Business Informatics at Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences, adding that “the technology is certainly advanced enough.” Not only that, “artificial intelligence applications are already widely used in other areas of tourism,” says the expert.

4 ways artificial intelligence will reshape society

To view this video, please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

Artificial intelligence is already widespread

Artificial intelligence is mostly used today to improve company operations, although travelers will not always be aware of this. Airlines, for example, use artificial intelligence to predict how many passengers will cancel or miss their flights. Other companies rely on this technology to detect fraudulent online reservations. In Venice, AI is being used for crowd control. “There are already applications of artificial intelligence that are being used by travelers, service providers, tourist destinations and online travel platforms,” says Höpken.

Vacationers or those planning vacations may have encountered AI systems in other contexts as well. Often, they say, contacting a major tour operator is more likely to put you in touch with an online chat program, rather than with a real person. Then there are intelligent systems, used for example by hotel booking platforms, to provide customers with offers tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Last but not least, robots are slowly taking over tasks once performed by hotel and restaurant staff.

A robot waits for customers at the Nakoyashi sushi restaurant in Cologne.
A robot waits for customers at the Nakoyashi sushi restaurant in ColognePhoto: Henning Kaiser / dpa / picture alliance

But the robots that collect dirty dishes from restaurant tables and bring them to the kitchen, for example, are not so complicated. Such robots don’t really navigate autonomously through restaurants, Hopkin says. Regardless, not all patrons may want to interact with the automation. This is why AI applications will be used in some areas of the tourism trade and hospitality sector, but not in others, Hopkin says.

Don’t blindly trust ChatGPT

Höpken is convinced that technologies such as ChatGPT will become increasingly important. Especially because when it comes to tourist inquiries, chatbot responses that are inaccurate or outright wrong are likely to have less severe or serious consequences than in other areas. Anyone who follows ChatGPT’s advice on visiting Majorca’s Marivent Palace—the summer residence of the royal family—on the outskirts of Palma, for example, will be disappointed, because the building isn’t actually open to the public.

A man is seen carrying a guide book.
Will physical guidebooks become obsolete?Photo: Marijan Murat / dpa / picture alliance

It remains to be seen if chatbots will actually replace the tried and tested guidebooks, or actual travel guides. ChatGPT herself seems to think it will take over anytime soon: “Although I could be useful as a digital assistant, I don’t think I could build on the experience and opinions offered by travel guides and locals.”

This article has been translated from German.

Leave a Comment