By: Susan Sherren for Couture Trips
Published: June 19, 2023 3:08 PM CST
Artificial intelligence is just that- artificial. We often foolishly embrace enhanced and new technology at warp speed. We must understand the long-term implications before applying the blanket approach to its implementation. AI has profound benefits in some sectors, such as healthcare. Researchers are using AI to develop better treatment modalities that will extend life which will benefit us all. But it isn't brilliant to think AI will aid us in every sector.
Have we used AI to obtain some information for our clients? The answer is yes, but you actually need a human to decipher and determine whether the information is valuable and accurate and how the data can be applied, in this case, to the travel context.
A few weeks ago, I asked my AI GPT Chat App to generate a Barcelona, Spain, 7-day itinerary. The results were sterile, straightforward, and bland. I have been in Barcelona multiple times and have professional suppliers we collaborate with that deliver far beyond what AI provides. The restaurant recommendations were acceptable but, once again, were typical, as expected, and omitted some Catalonian musts.
Too many people take computer-generated data as gospel and miss out on quite a lot. I make the analogy that AI gives you a giant block of marble. We take that block of marble and carve and sculpt a beautiful itinerary that perfectly matches our client's needs and desires. Yes, we also add a few surprises and enhancements that add value and uniqueness to their trip that AI can only dream of at this stage of the game.
In general, one of the tragedies of AI technology and our modern era is the space it has created between humans. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety rates are skyrocketing. Studies reveal that people need real, in-person interactions to combat the negative impacts of loneliness. The authors of a recent Cigna study say," The more we rely upon technology – both at home and in the workplace – to socialize, complete daily tasks and perform work duties, the less time we spend meeting face-to-face with our friends, family, and co-workers, leading us once again to the question: Does technology make us feel more alone?"
According to recent data from Morning Consult commissioned by Cigna, more than half of U.S. adults (58%) are considered lonely. This is consistent with pre-pandemic reports that showed 61% of adults experienced loneliness in 2019, after a seven percentage point increase from 2018. So why aren't we hitting the pause button with AI?
Nothing can replace what the human touch and interaction can mean. At Couture Trips, we are committed to a never-ending obsession with customer service and engaging with our clients. Remember that adage the customer is king. Yes, we are old fashion in that sense of the word. In some corporate leaders' minds, the customer isn't king, and most of us have been relegated to the servant's quarters.
I smile at headlines suggesting AI will transform and take over the travel industry. Who wants a sterile, computer-generated trip identical to your neighbor's trip to Paris? Corporate giants in the travel industry are leaning big into this concept. It means being greeted by a kiosk at your hotel check-in. Room service will also be transformed. I prefer being welcomed by a friendly, customer-oriented hotel employee with actual flesh and bones. I always like to pick the brains of my taxi driver too. They know their cities backward and forward. If I was being driven by a driverless car, I can't imagine how boring it would be. The sterility and lack of human contact inherent with AI technology will inevitably lead to more isolation and loneliness, which are endemic in our modern era.
So why accelerate and compound these issues? People aren't perfect, and we will never live in an ideal world. Remember the saying, "To err is human, to forgive divine," a quote from Alexander Pope's poem An Essay on Criticism. We gain knowledge and can learn from our mistakes; it is simply part of developing into better human beings- elevating our human intelligence or HI. The modern German spiritualist Eckhart Tolle says, "It is through the mistakes that the greatest learning happens on an inner level." So will AI diminish our knowledge and growth or HI as a human race? Unfortunately, these questions will be answered and studied in the rearview mirror as we hit the AI gas pedal. The future looks like HI vs. AI, and I am still undecided in the long run about the ramifications. That is the frightening question that we should all be looking at now. More importantly, we should focus on how AI can improve HI.
We all know what's driving this AI obsession- profits. Eliminating real people in the travel sector is the goal. Less 401k's to match, no medical insurance to pay for, no wage disputes, no disability claims, and fewer overall headaches if you are the CEO. People can sometimes be a real pain and profoundly expensive for the employer.
In the travel industry, we have seen how embracing this sophisticated technology has decreased overall customer satisfaction. How many of you sigh when you realize your phone call to the airline to sort out a canceled or delayed flight will be handled by a computer-generated assistant? Most AI voice-generated assistants can't spell your name correctly either because voice technology needs to improve. Yes, I have been there myself, trying to speak clearly, loudly, and accurately so the "tool" could try to find my reservation. It's incredibly frustrating, and don't you feel a tremendous sense of relief when a real person picks up the phone?
Is our constant need for change and speed taking us where we need to go? Our business goals moving forward involve competing where AI can't compete but where HI can.
1. Developing a lasting and long-term relationship with our very loyal clientele.
2. Crafting sophisticated and unique itineraries that match the client's vision for their travel experience.
3. Connect our clientele with our local human supplier network globally, who are also committed to delivering unparalleled customer service.
Yes, we are in the relationship-building business. This is a foreign concept to the sterile, profits-first AI-obsessed developers. We anticipate welcoming even more clients as AI is forced upon the travel industry.
If we are slated to compete against computer-generated itineraries, we will always be the victor. Yes, nothing replaces the warm "welcome to my city" of a local and being greeted by an actual caring human who is there to help orient you to your new surroundings; yes, that's the HI we all need and crave. We are determined more than ever to keep it real with real people. Yes, we answer our phones night and day while you are traveling, and your travel itinerary won't be computer generated; that's one thing you can count on.
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