What is the strategic impact of AI such as ChatGPT on sightseeing & experiences?

December 10th, 2022

by Alex Bainbridge

Been a lot of chatter about AI (such as ChatGPT) in the last week or so, but what is the impact of all this extraordinary capability at a strategic level?

To set the scene, for the last few years my major concern when strategising vs significant digital incumbents has been, “how do we create something so indigestible that they can’t replicate it within 6 months once they see it is the future”, but also “how do we make it a slam dunk obvious thing that consumers will want”. A massive challenge as if you make it too easy to replicate by well resourced digital competitors, once you prove it works for consumers, you have a big problem as a startup.

I see technology such as ChatGPT as having three main impacts that I have to incorporate into my strategic thinking:

1 – AI is the great leveller for tech first travel startups vs digital incumbents, the same way that mobile is

What do I mean by “a great leveller”? Take Viator for example, they have a great website and a great mobile app, we, as a startup, have a demo website and a mobile app. There is no way I can make our consumer website as good as Viator’s with my current resources, but I can make a better app than Viator, because:

a) that is our focus
b) mobile is all about aggressively removing non-core features, after all you only have a small screen space to play with

i.e. the more that Viator transitions their business to a mobile first business, the less they can differentiate their offering from lower resourced competitors.

The same happens with AI. These new tools are available to everyone (as customers) as none of us in tourism are training these AI models ourselves. There is no inherent advantage for incumbents with resources vs startups, as it is out of reach for all of us to build our own.

Arguably as the impact of AI is so significant, it is the smaller tech first travel startups who are in position to gain from it, as they can transition to new business models much faster than incumbents can.

2 – Development focus has to be on what AI cannot do and we all must steer well clear of anything that AI will easily handle in the future

For example our own strategy with Autoura, working as an AI first travel startup, is based on helping AI make better decisions for consumers, including personalisation.

This video is an explanation about how we use preferences set in customer profiles as a solid foundation from which we and our tourism partners can build services on:

3 – Gives further energy to the concept that we as an industry are going to transition to a digital first tour operating model – with Digital Experience Platforms rather than Online Travel Agencies & rez tech as the dominant industry structure

Digital Experience Platforms are AI first, and can naturally evolve as AI improves over time.

Online Travel Agencies will always have the challenge that any on the ground tech innovation that they want to operate will likely be antagonistic to their attraction & tour operator suppliers, or the rez tech layer. As a result they will act late and when they do act it will be without conviction.

Just for fun

Here is a rap battle, in the style of Hamilton, between Sahra and a fictitious(?) tour guide called Mitch. Not included in this article for any particular reason, but I was shocked how good large language model AI has become in recent months.

Give it a go if you have’t tried it yet. https://chat.openai.com/chat

The battle’s begun, and it’s time to decide
Between Mitch the tour guide, and Sahra the AI guide
Mitch brings heart and soul, while Sahra brings ease
But in the end, it’s up to you, to choose who you please

Mitch delivers stories, with passion and pride
While Sahra provides information, with just a swipe or a glide
Mitch may not be flashy, but he’ll show you the soul
Of the city he loves, and make you feel whole

Sahra may not have a face, but she’s always on call
Ready to guide you, without any delay at all
She’ll provide convenience, and save you time and money
And give you all the information, that you could ever want, honey

So the choice is yours, do you want the human touch?
Or the efficiency and convenience, of the digital crutch?
Either way, you can’t go wrong, just make sure you have fun
And learn something new, before the battle is done.


Image: Stable Diffusion AI

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