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Saturday,  April 20, 2024 10:11 PM 

Step aside, ChatGPT. Why Google’s Gemini could be the next AI supertool for travel advisors


Step aside, ChatGPT. Why Google’s Gemini could be the next AI supertool for travel advisors
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.

The global race to rule artificial intelligence (AI) is intensifying as Google evolves the overhaul of its natural language chatbot, Bard, which was first released in early 2023 to go up against OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT model.

Rebranded as “Gemini,” Google’s new and improved tool launched in Canada on Feb. 8, "putting the 'eh' in AI."

It arrives as a head-on competitor to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, which assists users with tasks like writing emails, essays, code, and even poems, in a human-like way.

ChatGPT, since launching in November 2022, has been praised for its detailed answers across many domains of knowledge. In some tech circles, it was lauded as being superior to Bard.

The consensus was that Google, last year, rushed to complete its chatbot. Critics, at the time, panned Bard for a range of inefficiencies, including its inaccurate responses to user prompts.

Apparently, Bard was so bad, employees at Google begged the company not to release the product, according to one report from Bloomberg

Gemini, however, appears to improve on the chatbot’s functionality, notably allowing access to an advanced service via a subscription that’s priced to compete directly with ChatGPT. 

There are similarities and differences between the two. Both Gemini and ChatGPT are based on large language models (LLMs) that are more advanced than anything the world has ever seen.

Both are powerful chatbots – computer programs that mirror human conversation, allowing users to interact with digital devices as if they were typing to a real person.

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

But the platforms can offer different user experiences.

ChatGPT (short for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer”) powers content that helps solve problems in a conversational way.

In the realm of travel and tourism, ChatGPT can take requests for flights, hotels, dinner reservations, and activities and turn them into customized itineraries.

(Although, as PAX has argued in the past, it’s no match for the personalization and service that a human travel advisor provides).

Gemini, meanwhile, processes information and automates tasks in a way that saves time. Depending on the subject matter, Gemini and ChatGPT vary in style when it comes to summarizing a topic. And in many ways, they’re close in helping users solve problems.

READ MORE: How will “Sora,” OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, impact the travel industry?

The big upgrade for ChatGPT was last September when OpenAI linked it to the internet so it could provide real-time information to users through Bing (Microsoft’s search engine).

Previously, ChatGPT was limited to information only up to September 2021.

ChatGPT analyzes and summarizes content from a vast set of information. (3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock)

But here’s the thing with Gemini – by default, it has the internet’s information at its disposal, through Google’s powerful search engine, along with other possible amenities.

Google and Microsoft’s Bing are the world’s largest search engines. But Google has the biggest market share (it handles more than 90 per cent of searches online).

This is the main reason why Gemini, as a digital tool for travel advisors, could potentially dethrone ChatGPT, says travel marketing consultant Frederic Gonzalo of Montreal-based Gonzo Marketing.

“It’s Google. It’s as simple as that,” Gonzalo said. “ChatGPT is integrated with Microsoft. You have a tool that can take notes for meetings, help write emails.  Now, imagine that in an environment like Google.”

“It will impact travel and tourism”

Because of Google’s advanced ability to identify and interact with locations (for example, through Google Maps), Gemini is well positioned to be a leading travel-planning tool, Gonzalo said.

“It’s potentially a game changer. And I don’t say that lightly,” he said. “It will impact travel and tourism.”

The impact lies in Gemini’s connection not only to Google’s vast search engine, but to the travel ecosystem. Flight and hotel searches are already built into Google’s interface, for example.

The Google Maps app, meanwhile, is used widely for directions and can recommend activities and restaurants in a destination.

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

“It’s the mere fact that you’re putting a tool into the realm of Google,” Gonzalo said of Gemini. “If I book a flight with Air Canada, I’ll get a confirmation sent to my Gmail account, and then it’s personalized. Google recommends things for me to do, where to stay. It knows where I’m going."

“Can you imagine the depth of information and personalization that will become available with that?”

Google follows us

Gemini’s full potential lies in the fact that Google “follows us in everyday life,” Gonzalo explained.

Factor in other amenities, such as Google Docs, Calendar and Gmail, and Gemini, as a chatbot, could have the ability to not only complete tasks, but track user behaviours, Gonzalo said.

This is the “biggest opportunity” for travel advisors, he said, as it makes room for personalization when it comes to answering trip queries for clients, for example.   

“They’ll be able to capture recommendations that are more personalized to what clients have done in the past. That’s more available in a Google environment as opposed to going through closed doors,” Gonzalo explained. 

Make no mistake – Microsoft, ChatGPT’s main investor, is a strong rival. A lot of people use Microsoft 365 products, including Outlook for email. 

But Google is Google, and from an information technology perspective, it has Microsoft beat, Gonzalo said.

Once Google fully integrates its products into Gemini, “I think they’ll have a leg up on what Microsoft can do,” Gonzalo said.

How travel advisors will be able to use Gemini, specifically, has yet to be seen. The technology is still evolving.

However: “Gemini will be more relevant to travel,” Gonzalo said.

Testing the limits

The jury is still out on how chatbots, like ChatGPT and Gemini, will shape the travel industry and the role of travel advisors.

As people experiment with artificial intelligence, the limits of such technology have become apparent.

But the travel industry is shifting, nonetheless, and preparing for the next big thing.

Expedia (owner of Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Vrbo), for example, announced a collaboration with OpenAI last year to simplify trip planning for ChatGPT users.

READ MORE: Chatbots have travel ideas. But they can’t replace the human heart

Previously, 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.

More travel advisors are also turning to artificial intelligence to speed up tasks like itinerary building and digital marketing.

TravelOnly, for example, became the first host agency in Canada last year to launch its own AI Assistant Tool for its coast-to-coast network of travel advisors.

And with the recent unveiling of Sora, OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, which lets users create super realistic videos, simply by typing a descriptive sentence, who knows what the future of digital marketing holds? 

From a content creation standpoint, Sora is set to expand an agent's digital toolkit, dramatically changing the way video is used to promote a destination, itinerary or service.

How will Gemini evolve as a must-have travel tool?

“With Gemini, we’ll have to see,” Gonzalo said. “Will it build itineraries, but also connect you with providers that can provide lodging? That will be the interesting part.”

“It’s still early days, but I can see it going that path.”


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