You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot that can create original academic essays that aren’t flagged by plagiarism detection software.
Of course, this can do a lot beyond confusing educators and delighting students. He can, for example, write computer code. And, I found out, give travel planning advice.
To see how helpful his travel suggestions might be, I started by asking what there was to see in Uturoa, the main town on the Polynesian island of Raiatea. It wasn’t because I wanted to test it against a somewhat obscure destination but rather to see if it could jump over a rather low bar and return a better result than what Google picked up shortly after I arrived on the island last summer. I had researched what there was to see and do in the surroundings; Travelocity was among the top results and, in part, offered these suggestions:
“Visit a county fair and let childhood memories wash over you as cotton candy melts in your mouth. Taste handmade jam at a stop on a forgotten highway or leave the hustle and bustle of modern life get carried away as you get lost in the organized chaos of a modern metropolis.”
If you were, perhaps, a member of the Yanomami tribe who lived in a remote rainforest village in northern Brazil, Uturoa might strike you as a modern metropolis, but even if you were, your memories of childhood include melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy?
The response generated by ChatGPT, on the other hand, accurately pointed out that there is a Unesco World Heritage Site with a Polynesian temple just outside of town. Diving operations, boat trips and beaches were cited. Bike rentals have been referenced, although there is no mention of dogs which can make cycling less than enjoyable. ChatGPT called the island a “hiker’s paradise” but did not warn that many trails pass through sacred sites that require local permits.
Upping the ante, I asked ChatGPT to create a “10 day itinerary for four active people to visit Italy”.
The response was very generic, including nothing beyond the major cities and their well-known sites. But ChatGPT encourages you to add as many details as you want when asking it to create a document, so I modified my request:
“To generate a 10-day itinerary for Italy for a family with a 6-month-old boy, a 3-year-old girl who loves dolls, a 10-year-old boy interested in video games, a 16-year-old girl interested in shoegaze music, a 35 year old man with a passion for yoga, a 35 year old woman interested in cooking, a 65 year old retiree who collects stamps and a 63 year old pediatrician. light footprint.”
The answer was a little more interesting, but also showed its limits. He recommended a day trip from Rome to Pompeii, “where kids can learn about Roman history.” Two cooking classes were included. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence was recommended for 10 years. A yoga class was recommended to – somewhat randomly, I thought – in Genoa. More impressive was the suggestion that Grandfather visit the Philatelic Museum in Genoa.
ChatGPT decided, reasonably, that the 3-year-old would like to watch glass blowing on the island of Murano, but I don’t know how he concluded that “the 16-year-old interested in shoegaze music might enjoy the island art galleries and workshops. I guess “could” is the program’s CYA auxiliary verb.
A safe bet was her recommendation that “the 63-year-old pediatrician might benefit from a visit to the Museum of the History of Medicine.”
There was no nod to the family’s desire to travel sustainably.
For now, I don’t think travel advisors need to consider ChatGPT as competition. Machines can’t tap into the kind of expertise that humans who have in-depth experience visiting an area — and advising customers who provide feedback — can.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will improve and can even generate a detailed and up-to-date itinerary that truly matches the desires of travelers. But there’s one thing they’ll never be able to do, something that was perfectly summed up by Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch when he introduced Embark Beyond’s Anne Scully before she received her Travel Weekly. Lifetime Achievement Award last month.
Upchurch recounted that an arrogant potential client doubted Scully could do anything for him that he couldn’t do himself.
If you hold back, she retorted, “you can’t tell them God is coming.” This then evolved, Upchurch said, to “you can’t become a VIP yourself”.
And indeed, there is a bridge that machines will never be able to cross: cultivating relationships of trust equivalent to those between large travel advisors and hotel general managers, cruise line business development managers and tour operators. Suppliers would view automated assurance that a guest is “God” with the same level of credibility they would give to a webpage portraying Uturoa as a bustling metropolis whose streets are lined with shops selling melting cotton candy. in the mouth.