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Monday,  July 15, 2024 8:19 AM 

ChatGPT isn't going to impact travel agents or TAAP, says Expedia


ChatGPT isn't going to impact travel agents or TAAP, says Expedia
ChatGPT analyzes and summarizes content from a vast set of information. (3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Expedia Group says generative artificial intelligence, like OpenAI’s natural language chatbot ChatGPT, isn't going to impact OTAs and, by extension, its work with travel agents and TAAP (its travel agent affiliate program).

The company issued a statement on Wednesday (April 5), addressing the new technology, which analyzes content from a vast set of information to create original responses.

The chatbot has been praised for its detailed answers across many domains of knowledge. 

“Travel is still a highly-complex field where getting the details right matters,” Expedia wrote. “Furthermore, travellers still care about the end to end seamless experience and that's where our decades of experience, data and knowledge of traveller preferences is still important.”

The comment comes after Expedia (owner of Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Vrbo) recently announced a collaboration with OpenAI to simplify trip planning for ChatGPT users.

Until now, ChatGPT could identify what to do and where to stay, but it couldn’t help users book a trip.

Now, with a new plug-in, users can bring a trip itinerary in ChatGPT to life – how to get there, where to stay, and what to see and do – all powered by Expedia’s own data.

READ MORE: ChatGPT - What it is & why travel advisors should try it out

Once a user is ready to book, they’ll be sent to Expedia, where they can access their member discounts and rewards.

Expedia says its platform capabilities, like fraud, service and sort, are all now all powered by AI. The company’s virtual agent, it says, has powered more than 30 million virtual conversations, saving 8 million hours in agent time.

It’s also working to ensure its customers are seeing the most relevant information.

But this doesn’t mean the bot, which can plan travel itineraries in less than 10 seconds, is meant to replace human travel pros.

“Travellers still care about the end to end seamless experience and that's where our decades of experience, data and knowledge of traveller preferences is still important,” Expedia said. “ChatGPT might be able to plan an itinerary, but it can't help a traveller if something goes wrong.”

“The potential is tremendous"

PAX recently published a detailed article, explaining what ChatGPT is all about.

We also spoke to a digital marketing expert in travel and tourism, who endorsed the technology as a valuable time-saving tool.

“The potential is tremendous,” Frederic Gonzalo of Montreal-based Gonzo Marketing told PAX earlier. “It’s incredible what these tools will churn out.”

Gonzalo believes travel advisors who don’t explore the new technology to better understand its benefits are at risk of becoming obsolete.

“The travel agents who let this slide, who think it’s just a fad, are the ones in danger,” he said.

He used an example of a travel agent that has received 10 itinerary requests.

“That’s a lot of work. Do you want to work until 11 p.m., or use a tool like ChatGPT? The travel agents that use it adequately will have faster responses and better service.”

Of course, there’s something to be said about the relationships, accuracy and customization that a human travel advisor brings to the equation.

Which is why Gonzalo isn’t suggesting that ChatGPT replace all customer-facing content.

“It’s a brainstorming tool,” he said. “It can be used strictly in the backend to quicken up aspects of the planning process."


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