The Future of AI and Travel: 12 Industry Leaders Explain the Impact – Skift Travel News

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Rashaad Jorden, Skift
October 1st, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT
Executives speaking at the Skift Global Forum 2023 had no shortage of opinions about how AI will affect travel. Here are their most noteworthy predictions.
Rashaad Jorden
Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.
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Artificial intelligence was a big topic of discussion at the Skift Global Forum in New York City. The biggest names in travel agreed: AI will create huge opportunities for how travel companies engage with their customers and also affect travel jobs. But the full impact won’t be known for years.
Here’s what they said:
“People are overestimating how much will change in one year and underestimating how it could change in 10 years.”
“I really look forward to the experience when I just say to my general purpose AI — who already knows everything about me, knows where I like to stay in New York, knows the restaurant, knows the view, knows the table — I just say, ‘Hey, next Thursday, book me the Standard.’ And it happens.” 
Regarding Meta’s announcement that it’s adding an AI chatbot to WhatsApp: “You’re not going to type anything in there. You’re just going to say to your Meta AI, ‘Book me the Air India flight next Tuesday at 9 a.m.’ And it’s going to do it. It has all your payment information as a direct API to Air India; it has everything it needs to know. We’ve been talking about this for 20 years.”
“We essentially now have personalized AI algorithms that are looking at you, looking at your occasion and determining what to put in front of you based on a personalized basis.”
“In the morning, we’ll know you’re going to work. So you have a work address there, get your ride. But we might offer you, for example, a cup of coffee at Starbucks on the way. And when you come home at night, then we’ll upsell you to Uber Eats.”
“Entire job categories are being made 30% more efficient, 20% more efficient, 50% more efficient in year one. And I think in year two, it speeds up. What’s getting hit right now: event planners, travel agents, a  lot of repeatable stuff … Anything that’s being business-process-outsourced will be done by AI.”
“The free-form search, like a conversation with a travel agent who knows your preferences, where you’ve been before and where you haven’t been before and works with you to make it much better travel experience is the killer app for AI in search.”
“We work in a competitive environment, we know we have to be cost efficient. AI is really concerning. I think our governments have to do a great deal of thinking about how to deal with this in terms of retraining.”
“AI is going to be an important tool for us to use. And I think that the overall vision that we’re on … is how do you use the digital tools that are available out there, the technology and systems, to connect things better.”
“I think that’s really cool that AI is going to help us unlock for what that experience is, whether you’re interacting with someone physically, or you’re taking care of something yourself on a mobile device. That’s the vision, though: How can you make that much more seamless, much more intuitive, much simpler. Don’t make the customer deal with the complexity that the airline is managing.”
“We’re going to be replaced by people who are using AI.”
“I think that sometimes people are confusing IT with engineering. The fact that you have an IT team that can integrate some stuff and develop some stuff does not mean you can hire an AI engineer.”
“It’s scary because a lot of jobs will not be relevant. But I think a lot of jobs will be created.”
“Travel as a means to meet new people, it’s a petri dish for how people make choices and the complexity is where AI comes in, it’s going to supercharge human-to-human connection — if your need is to help find people to hang out with.”
“You have this thing with AI where it’s supposed to replace a lot of people or be a replacement for human touch. So far, I haven’t seen that. I think it can make people more efficient. I think it gives better answers.”
“AI does a great job of making sure it follows rules … If you want a unique experience and everybody wants a unique experience when they travel, there’s some human touch that goes into this. So we view kind of AI as a partner for those kind of things.”
“AI will guide them to the perfect places of where they can see things, where they might do a food or macaron class, where they can have a quick river cruise.”
“It can stitch together the itinerary in a very dynamic way, leading them to the best food experience, the best local authentic things that are available that given day. And through that, (it) will transform the customer journey not with long text boxes but with immersive and interactive content.”

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Rashaad Jorden, Skift
October 1st, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT
Tags: artificial intelligence, sgf2023, skift global forum, skift global forum 2023
Photo credit: Eric Phillips, Ben Ellencweig and Wouter Geerts discussing AI at the Skift Global Forum in 2023 Skift
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