The founder of US-based, ‘Magpie Travel’ has told Australia’s tourism industry to embrace the AI revolution and learn how you can best benefit from the new technology.
Speaking at the ATEC Meeting Place held in Adelaide today, Christian Watts has been involved in the tourism and activities industry for over 25 years operating the first Hop On Hop Off sightseeing service to San Francisco, and knows firsthand the complexity of running a tourism business.
The key theme of the talk highlighted that although Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) is, in the short term, unlikely to change the human input needed for the end delivery of tourism products, the potential to streamline the complexities of the booking process and increase internal business productivity is a major opportunity.
“GenAI is a massive social shift and it will be better for tourism businesses to get on top of it quickly as it’s here and not going anywhere regardless of if we think it’s good or bad,” Watts said.“As a collective, industry businesses think we are tourism, but what tourism businesses are doing is helping a person visit a destination and what we actually provide is all the stuff in the middle while tourism is what the visitor comes for. “The visitor doesn’t want to know about all the layers of interactions their booking had to go through to get to the final experience – the many middle layers of tourism – and if we can simplify these processes, we can find efficiencies and cost benefits for businesses and travellers. “GenAI is hugely accessible and is available to everybody to use, helping to simplify what has become a very complicated tourism booking process with many levels and prices. “Very soon AI will know how to manage your product and will do things you’re currently doing, like responding to emails, writing policies and marketing, and it will do it better. “The good thing is everyone has the same access to these Large Language Models (LLMs), so there are few barriers to entry. It’s what everyone must do now to be competitive, because it is delivering massive efficiency, and you can be sure your competitor is using it too.” While GenAI is hugely disruptive and involves unprecedented change, Watts remains optimistic about its future and ability to add value to the industry while allowing tourism businesses to focus on their core purpose. “The final delivery of our tourism product in our industry is the last thing that will get touched by AI as humans will continue to need to be where we want them to be, and that is in the service – the most important part of the tourism experience.”
If you’re not already sold, the reviews from travel industry are very positive.
“Magpie has been a game changer for us,” Alicia Ward from Sea Sight Tours commented.
“We operate dozens of tours all over Canada and the US and work with many OTAs making updates time consuming.
“Magpie made it much easier by having our content in one place and pushing it directly into the OTA extranets.”
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