I bet the 'AI' caught your eye. You're astute, so you know what AI stands for...artificial intelligence. There are many different forms of AI, but for this I'll be talking about the one most people have access to in the form of chatbots: ChatGPT, Bard, Microsoft's New Bing and so forth. I'm not here to praise or pooh-pooh the brands, their use, or any aspects thereof.
TA...that's me, your travel advisor. The subject of this newsletter: can AI replace your TA? Will it? That's two questions, so let's dive in.
What could a chatbot do for your vacation? Well, in response to your prompt, it could suggest destinations, hotels, activities, the weather.
What can does a TA excel at that a chatbot NOT do?
Your TA is an expert in YOU. That is the job. Knowing how to match you to the experiences that meet your expectations; being aware of your sensitivities and which cruise line bends over backwards to accommodate them; knowing which tour operator has fantastic opportunities for your grandchildren's age group; which resort can accommodate your mom's mobility issues; these are the skills your AI chatbot doesn't have. This is where there is no competition between your TA and AI when it comes to designing your luxury travel itinerary.
Your TA has excellent connections. I have hundreds of sources to draw on when planning your tailor-made vacation experience, the VAST majority of which are not known by, nor accessible to the public. This is a BIG WIN FOR YOU! I build relationships with luxury supplier groups all over the world. Through my agency, you have access to upgrades, perks and credits; you can get VIP’d at a 5-star hotel because we know the general manager personally. We know which cruise line among dozens is the right cruise line for you. Don't you crave a touch of luxury and/or VIP status? This means something different for everyone, but if going on vacation doesn’t feel any different from being at home you likely wouldn’t go to the trouble, right? Your advisor is the travel expert – a chatbot is not.
The chatbot doesn't manage any aspect of your vacation so you will have to do EVERYTHING yourself. Of the hotel recommendations listed in 'bots response, which is right for you? Which one will provide the experience, the ambiance, the levels of service and cuisine you want for your long-awaited vacation? You will have to do the research to figure that out by reading the reviews on all the websites, separating the reliable and objective, comparing, deciding. You'll have to book everything, wait on the phone, follow up with every reservation or airline change or custom request; live on the computer searching for activities...you get it. Very importantly, everything to make your vacation perfect is not online, so how can you book things you can't see??
Complicated and/or customized itineraries - How do you feel about leaving a complicated itinerary to your favorite ' bot? An itinerary with a variety of schedules, multiple transfers, unfamiliar destinations, foreign languages, customized experiences, and several traveling companions with opinions to be entertained, whose input and long-held hopes and dreams must be satisfied, then the personalized attention from an advisor that gives the traveler peace of mind before, during, and after the trip is not within the capability of 'botville.
The chatbot won't be there to help you when any slight variation from your plan arises; it won't make reservations, arrange your transportation, or call the hotel to alert of tardy arrival, food allergies or ask for restaurant recommendations. AI does not prepare your itinerary in minute detail on a convenient and easy-to-use application for your electronic devise. Oh...it won't answer the phone when you call! Your TA is also your advocate and I'm one million percent sure the chatbot is not to going to do that.
So, can AI replace your TA? No. Especially, not until it acquires the "expert in you" feature that is built into your TA's modus operandi. Will AI replace the TA? Not for the savvy traveler that knows and expects the benefits of expert planning, VIP access, service and attention that their TA provides.
'til next week.
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