Artificial intelligence and travel: a new combination

According to analysis by Stocklytics.com, the sector will be worth $1000 billion by 2031, with a CAGR of 48.05%. The travel industry is well prepared for this evolution in its sector. “We have been working on this new tool for at least ten years,” states Alessandro Callari, regional manager partner services Italy, Israel & Malta at Booking.com. “We have invested in machine learning to tailor the customer experience, making the booking process smoother and improving the conversion rate. Last year we launched AI Trip Planner in beta version on the US market only. Built based on Booking.com’s current machine learning models, it also relies on OpenAI’s ChatGPT API LLM (Large Language Model) technology to create a new interactive experience for people who want to plan their own trips. This integration minimises the margin of error to the maximum extent, ensuring there are no communication deviations and monitoring language moderation to prevent discrimination. The primary goal remains to facilitate trip planning, and Trip Planner will increasingly become a personal assistant that smooths out every element of the journey.”

A tool built around our needs

This technology has also been welcomed with open arms by Alpitour. “Our journey in this field began in 2018, with an acceleration during the pandemic when a bot was developed specifically for Neos that was capable of correctly and autonomously answering users’ questions in 33% of cases,” explains Francesco Ciuccarelli, CIO and CTO of Alpitour World. “Then, in 2023, we developed AlpiGpt, with a dedicated team of six people along with other partners accompanying us on this journey, who evaluate the business return from the adoption of this new technology. We have a team of nine travel editors who use a tool we built based on our needs, which not only has a positive impact on our staff’s work by optimising time, but also improves the user experience.”

A little-known ally

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being integrated into the travel industry. “Although often unnoticed, AI is already very much present within all companies,” says Marco Orlandi, chief digital consumer experience officer at Bluvacanze. “There is a high level of awareness of the tool, but it is often too superficial (3 out of 4 people know about ChatGPT, but only 1 in 2.5 know about generative AI). In the tourism sector it is only partially used, so what we need to ask ourselves is how can generative AI lead to profit? Specifically, it can be used for dynamic post-sale customer care, CRM and marketing automation, leads, click-to-conversion and commercial proposals. The goal now is to train new professionals who can interpret the generated content.”

The AI “trinity”

Buonacrociera.it is more cautious. “AI is a brain, but without robotics and the hype machine, we won’t go anywhere,” says founder and CEO, Gaetano Pistone. “In a few days, we’ll be launching a chatbot on our website that integrates all these elements, which will make it possible to make bookings but also to receive pre- and post-sales assistance, as well as to provide increasingly personalised offers. It is an added value that will not replace people because AI won’t lead to job losses, especially in the travel industry where empathy and interaction are invaluable assets. In the meantime, we are waiting for the implementation of the European law for the regulation of AI (expected in 2025). It’s an important step for navigating this jungle correctly, thanks to which there will be greater transparency, with careful control over everything that is introduced to the market. However, there are still question marks about how different countries will adopt the regulations.”

Sveva Faldella

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