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Tuesday,  April 23, 2024 4:51 AM 

Travel Agent Day: Chatbots have travel ideas. But they can’t replace the human heart


Travel Agent Day: Chatbots have travel ideas. But they can’t replace the human heart
Sure, artificial intelligence can pump out ideas. But has a robot ever tried a waterslide? (PhonlamaiPhoto’s Images)
Pax Global Media

If you ask a natural language chatbot, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, what Travel Agent Month is all about, it might tell you that it’s an annual celebration that honours professionals in the travel industry.

It might say that during the month of May, travel agents everywhere are honoured for their hard work, expertise, and dedication to helping people realize their travel dreams.

It might acknowledge the work of a travel agent in a world where travel has become increasingly complex, where customers need more advice to navigate through the different options available.

Artificial intelligence (AI) – in particular, chatbot software that mimics human conversation – recognizes that travel agents are experts who can help clients choose the best destinations, packages, hotels, transportation and more.

This technology will probably tell you that Travel Agent Month is an opportunity for industry pros to come together to share their experiences, challenges and ideas for improving their work.

Yup, chatbots seem to have it all figured out. Or do they?

What this technology doesn’t know is that travel advisors are maestros of human connection who make people feel seen and valued.

Artificial intelligence doesn’t have the personal relationships with suppliers that travel advisors have.

Can a robot create a customized experience that isn’t in the brochure, specific to a client’s interests, with exclusive perks? Can it plan a wedding for a group of 200 people, from multiple countries, in a chateau in the French countryside? Or how about a full-day food tour in Portugal. Are chatbots capable of vetting the guide that day? Do they know if tours truly run in small groups?

Can artificial intelligence communicate the value of an experience? Do they know if the money generated by tourism is staying in a destination? Does it personally understand the profound impact that travel and tourism has on a community?

Technology doesn’t know which way the light falls in couples’ suite at a luxury all-inclusive resort at sunrise. Or why a family of five with small kids with lots of energy are better off at Resort B instead of Resort A. Has artificial intelligence ever tried a water slide?

Chatbots may have suggestions for a beach, but does a robot know what it feels like to have sand between its toes? Has AI ever felt an ocean breeze? Has it tasted Jamaican jerk chicken or a fresh Mexican taco?

Sure, chatbots can suggest all kinds of cruise lines. But do they know why an active millennial couple will enjoy one brand over another? Can robots truly qualify a customer for a river cruise in Europe or a polar expedition in Antarctica?

And if and when sh*t hits the fan, like if a strike shuts down an airport, or if the borders of a country suddenly close, or if (god forbid) a global pandemic is announced, can a computer-generated tool navigate a crisis like a human travel advisor can?

Human connection is the lifeblood of travel agency success, and in this era of creative shortcuts, biased computer-generated answers and unreliable content, there’s never been a better time to “go human.” The world is aching for living, qualified talent as it catches on to the pitfalls of synthesized information.

AI presents a future of endless possibilities, and in the realm of booking travel, it can be a useful brainstorming tool. But robots can’t replace the fundamental DNA of a service-based business: the human touch and, above all, the human heart.

On this Travel Agent Day, and Month, Pax Global Media salutes all the travel professionals who work day and night to make their clients’ travel dreams a reality in meaningful and authentic ways.

You have more brains than a robot will ever have. You are the real creators.


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