Can AI Replace Human Travel Agents?
Thanks to the conversational approach that generative AI introduces to web-based travel planning, numerous individuals, as reflected in media coverage and Google search volume, are questioning if this technology could supersede travel agents.
It’s undeniable that AI’s recent remarkable advancements carry the potential to substitute some elements of travel agent roles. However, as of now, human travel agents considerably outperform even the most advanced generative AI trip planning tools in aiding you with trip planning. We can attribute the inability of generative AI to completely replace human travel agents to five key factors.
The initial factor is personalization. While generative AI-powered travel planning tools are noteworthy, they don’t offer the personalization level you’d receive with human travel agents. Put plainly — AI misses the unique human touch that travel agents can provide.
The second consideration revolves around accuracy. Generative AI can sometimes give imprecise details about individuals, destinations and any other fact, and even fabricate information entirely. Independent generative AI systems, not linked to an Online Travel Agency’s (OTA) database, have a knowledge cut-off (September 2021 for OpenAI-based systems as of today), depriving them of the up-to-date information that a travel agent can furnish.
Thirdly, in its current state, generative AI is incapable of making flight, hotel, rental car, restaurant or any other type of travel reservations on your behalf. This shortcoming is considerable when considering it as a replacement for travel agents.
The fourth factor involves support throughout the booking process. Generative AI cannot guide you through each step of travel booking, and importantly, it cannot provide assistance if issues arise during your trip, a service where travel agents excel. Relying on ChatGPT for immediate help in these situations, at least in the current state, would be quite a gamble.
Finally, do not anticipate generative AI offering discounts or travel package deals anytime soon. Travel agents are renowned for their access to exclusive deals, pricing options, discounts, and promotions, an advantage that generative AI currently lacks.
The issue of travel agents becoming obsolete due to technology, including innovations like Google Search, has been raised repeatedly. The past response, and most likely the future approach, involves travel agents adopting the new technology to expedite their work. Expediting workflows could lead to increased competition, potentially reducing the number of travel agents. However, it’s improbable that generative AI will entirely supplant the industry, both presently and in the foreseeable future.