Nine bold predictions of ChatGPT’s impact on tourism

ChatGPT is the most popular IT topic of the moment, and the buzz it has generated is rare in the Internet industry in recent years. It marks the return of artificial intelligence technology, once overwhelmed by more new concepts (such as the meta-universe), to the public eye with the aplomb of the return of a king. At a time when there is a general lack of excitement in the Internet and capital circles for a variety of reasons after a 3-year epidemic, ChatGPT has become a phenomenal consumer-side Internet product. Its monthly active user size has reached 100 million since its launch in November last year, making it the fastest product of all Internet applications to reach a billion users. This shows that the rapid development of AI technology in recent years in terms of large models has brought revolutionary changes, making AI truly capable of passing the Turing test (machines can imitate humans with fakes).

ChatGPT very intuitively allows users to perceive its extraordinary practicality and maturity in problem solving, which completely changes the rigid, stereotypical and replicative broadcasting of the previous voice assistant era and truly allows intelligent combination and formation of solutions close to human thinking ability. The more technology and Internet revolution it brings is exciting, and many Internet giants have entered the game.

On March 15, OpenAI released the latest generation version of GPT-4, which is another evolution of ChatGPT. GPT-4 not only shows more powerful language understanding capability, but also can handle image content. In the face of the huge wave ChatGPT has set off in the whole Internet industry, it is of some practical significance to predict its possible impact on the tourism industry – after all, the tourism industry may face a new wave of leap from digitalization to intelligence even before it has fully completed its digital transformation, and this leap seems to be just around the corner.

First, the form of tourism information services will produce significant changes. It is foreseeable that the current major mobile information public service platforms for destinations, such as One Machine Tour, various OTAs, small programs, APPs, etc., will be replaced by ChatGPT or similar applications. Whether it is the earlier website, the official website of the destination, or the current prevalent various mobile apps, including the latest content platforms such as Xiaohongshu and ShakeYin, the cost for tourists to screen valuable information and make travel decisions in them is still not low, and it often takes a lot of effort for users to read the content and make decisions. If ChatGPT-type applications can really provide destination tourism information accurately with a question-and-answer approach, it will have a significant impact on tourists’ information access experience.

Second, the tour guide profession is facing more urgent transformation pressure. A part of the tour guide to repeat the simple memorization of guide words way to lead the tour may first face the impact of the future primary knowledge and content will become cheap, the introduction of the destination or even the cultural display, ChatGPT will not be inferior to the general tour guide, and with interactive and almost borderless knowledge, not subject to the limitations of time, space, price, language; tour guide career may be more about personal charm, emotional mobilization, aesthetic tonality etc., the guide may develop in the direction of KOL (Key Opinion Leader), and the trend of ordinary cheap-type guides being replaced seems irreversible.

Thirdly, the value of travel agencies in terms of poor information will be greatly weakened. At present, a great value of travel agencies is in fact the value of information difference arising from the asymmetry of information in the process of traveling to different places. Often, the more distant, inconvenient and unknown destinations are visited, the greater the value of travel agencies (such as outbound tours, etc.), and this value will probably be greatly weakened after ChatGPT matures. Of course, ChatGPT may still only be used as a tool for information inquiry, but in the future, it will form a service model based on ChatGPT-like AI, which may completely go from online to offline to provide impeccable service, which has been fully proved in the mobile Internet based on search and recommendation.

Fourth, the AI-based travel personal assistant will become a reality. In earlier years, there were actually several AI technology-based self-guided personal route planning assistant APP (such as Myoji travel, etc.), but the travel industry was not highly digitalized and the market acceptance was not enough, and the whole market did not believe in such products. Only when disruptive applications like ChatGPT happen in the general purpose space will users truly accept the use of AI for itinerary planning in the travel industry.

Fifth, the paradigm of tourism destination marketing will be disrupted. Imagine if the volume of users of ChatGPT-based applications reaches the order of one billion, and AI models like ChatGPT become a basic service, the logic of Internet information search will then be overturned. Then, the current mobile Internet advertising model based on search and intelligent recommendation will also be overturned. The marketing of tourism destinations will be more adapted to the set of recommendation mechanisms and information retrieval methods defined by ChatGPT. The way destinations do marketing in the future may be based on ChatGPT’s AI learning algorithms to design standard ways of information outreach so that it can be better discovered and recommended to users by ChatGPT as a basis for influencing their travel decisions. How to leave more valuable, accessible and distinctive information captured by ChatGPT on the public web may also breed a new group of digital marketing companies.

Sixth, the services of travel OTAs will be transformed into how to adapt or introduce AI engines. On the one hand, they will actively develop ChatGPT-like product engines themselves. For example, Ctrip has already announced that it will access Baidu’s ChatGPT-like service “Wenxin Yiyin” to develop AI-based route planning and other services. On the other hand, it is more conceivable that OTAs will become part of the universal AI engine (or consumer Internet portal), and users may book scenic spots, hotels, air tickets, etc. directly from ChatGPT.

Seven, a new AI-based data sharing model may emerge in the tourism field. chatGPT ultimately needs to rely on online data for information retrieval, and if a tourism intelligent assistant does emerge in the future, how the government, platforms and scenic spots can regulate the data sharing method to ensure both data security and a certain AI user experience may be a problem that the industry needs to think about.

Eight, the high real-time nature of tourism information will give rise to the deployment of more offline sensors. chatGPT, if it is really used as an intelligent tourism assistant to appear in the tourism scene, will probably be an unprecedented revolution in the tourism industry. The offline property of tourism determines that it is almost impossible to synchronize destination data in real time in the form of Q&A, but there may be more private area ChatGPT applications based on the scenic spot’s own sensors, which also depend on the deployment of more offline sensors and data sharing, similar to today’s regional or scenic spot’s version of ChatGPT.

Nine, the tourism management and consulting industry will also produce changes. Today ChatGPT can help programmers write code, and in the future, in an interactive mode, ChatGPT can even help the tourism industry with its primary work of management and consulting, thus putting at least higher demands on tourism think tanks, experts, consulting, etc. Tourism planning, market analysis, and even policy making could start by getting basic advice and direction from ChatGPT. Probably by then, how to better use ChatGPT-like AI tools to improve the quality and efficiency of their work will also be a necessary skill for consulting professionals.

Of course, there are still many problems to be solved to achieve the above points, both in terms of technology and the feasibility of realistic data sharing.

First, the improvement of communication fluency. At present, ChatGPT Chinese answers are obviously lagging, and there is still a long way to go if it is to become a real travel assistant-type application with high real-time requirements. Secondly, the shift from text to voice and image, ChatGPT may enrich tourists’ experience in the future with the voice of a digital person, combined with the diversity of output forms. This is perhaps the easiest of the many difficulties to overcome. Again, data opening and sharing among super APPs. The non-sharable nature of data among Internet giants may determine that the future role of ChatGPT as a travel assistant can only exist within the product. Platforms with rich content and obvious data advantages have a greater advantage. The fluidity of open data and the quality of the data itself is also a determining factor for the future development potential of AI-type applications.

Finally, the paradox of open data and privacy protection, the extent to which ChatGPT can be used for travel information services, and the unclear and difficult boundary between open data and privacy protection may become the main determining factor.

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