Can ChatGPT Replace a Travel Agent?
Last updated on 07/18/2023
These days, you might be feeling uneasy with artificial intelligence (AI) making its way into the travel industry.
It’s understandable to feel concerned. This isn’t the first time travel agents have been thrown for a loop; who could forget when online travel booking burst onto the scene? It was the first leap toward empowering travelers to directly plan trips online for themselves. Now AI, specifically the famed ChatGPT, is poised to turn every industry on its head, including travel.
But will consumers really be able to rely on a ChatGPT travel agent? Will using AI to plan travel replace the living, breathing travel agent experience?
The answer is no. To understand why, we explored ChatGPT’s strengths and weaknesses, asked the platform itself what it thinks about replacing people with a ChatGPT travel agent and looked at whether you can effectively use AI to plan travel for your clients.
How Does ChatGPT Actually Work?
According this comprehensive guide, ChatGPT is technology designed by the company OpenAI to have conversations with its users. For example, you could say "I think it's important for my clients to protect themselves and their investment in the trip they're about to take. How can I convince them to buy travel insurance?" ChatGPT might then respond with a numbered list of persuasive talking points to help you make your case.
This is true of almost any topic. Do a brief search and you can find stories about users turning to ChatGPT for writing rough drafts of email responses, developing tips for navigating difficult conversations, creating nutritional plans and even whipping up recipes using only what a person currently has in the fridge.
However, despite those amazing capabilities, ChatGPT frequently risks running up against its significant limitations.
First, ChatGPT (now on its fourth iteration) is not connected to the rest of the internet and does not have access to current information. The platform only has access to data up to 2021 and makes special note of the fact that it may not have current information on flight schedules, hotel availability or travel restrictions.
In addition, the platform freely admits when asked that it can struggle with grasping context. In other words, it can easily misinterpret something you say to it, even if you feel that what you're asking is simple or quickly understood. Getting the best responses from AI means learning how to best make specific requests, or prompts. There are excellent resources for mastering prompting online, but for the average tourist planning a trip online, this can be a long, arduous learning process.
Finally, and most obviously, this incredible tool lacks emotions and subjectivity. ChatGPT can be excellent for discovering facts about a locale, but without personal experiences or preferences, it's a poor substitute for travel agents who can offer specific viewpoints and tailored solutions.
Can There Really Be a ChatGPT Travel Agent?
To answer that question, we asked the source. Check out this brief conversation we had with ChatGPT below:
Q: Can ChatGPT replace a travel agent?
A: ChatGPT can provide information and assistance related to travel, but it may not completely replace a travel agent. While ChatGPT can offer recommendations, answer questions about destinations, and provide general travel advice, it lacks the personal touch and tailored expertise that a human travel agent can provide.
Q: Why is that?
A: Travel agents have experience in booking complex itineraries, negotiating deals, and handling specific customer requests. They can offer personalized recommendations based on their knowledge of destinations, hotels, airlines, and other travel-related services. They can also provide assistance in case of unforeseen circumstances or changes to travel plans.
Q: Do you think there will ever be a true ChatGPT travel agent?
A: A future iteration of ChatGPT could potentially incorporate personalized recommendations, advanced itinerary planning, and even negotiation and booking functionalities. However, it's important to consider that human travel agents possess unique qualities such as empathy, subjective judgment, and deep industry knowledge that might be challenging to replicate fully in an AI system.
While the idea of a true ChatGPT travel agent is intriguing, it's crucial to maintain a balance between the convenience and efficiency of AI and the human touch that travel agents can provide. It is likely that future travel planning solutions will involve a combination of AI technology and human expertise to create the best possible experience for travelers.
You Can Be the ChatGPT Travel Agent
That need for balance means you can emerge as a premier, cutting-edge travel agent who stays informed using the latest technology while bringing clients only the expertise another person can provide.
To begin using AI to plan travel, first be aware of all the tools you have at your fingertips. While simple ChatGPT is far and away the most popular, another option may work better. Try researching with Google's Bard alternative, a paid subscription to ChatGPT Plus or Microsoft's Orca as it becomes more accessible to the public.*
Next, use your conversations with clients to inform your AI research. For example, if someone going to California tells you they want sun and sand but not too many crowds, use that as inspiration for how you write your request in ChatGPT. Consequently, your prompt could be "I need a bulleted list of secluded beaches in California." Then, once you have your results, fact check to make sure what AI tells you is current and accurate information.
Finally, use that information to help create caring recommendations only a real travel agent can provide—like discussing the benefits of purchasing travel insurance. When helping vacationers finalize their plans, using InsureMyTrip can help determine the right coverage for your unique trip.
*Note: Both Bard and ChatGPT Plus have internet connectivity (ChatGPT Plus integrates Microsoft's search engine Bing), but the other limitations of AI still apply.