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The Tourism Sector and Artificial Intelligence

#ai

The tourism sector (also called the travel industry) is a complex, dynamic industry. It is based on people traveling internationally or domestically for leisure, business, or social reasons. It has close ties to the hospitality, transport, and hotel industries. The tourism sector is one of the leading industries worldwide and significantly benefits countries’ economies. The tourists benefit the countries they visit through money spent during their stay and by promoting local businesses. Within the tourism industry, there are many sectors. They include the transportation sector, which encompasses car rental, airline travel, water travel, railway, coach services, and spacecraft travel. The accommodation sector comprises hotels, bed and breakfast, hostels, camping, shared accommodations, and cruises. Other involved industries include food and beverages, entertainment, financial, educational, and travel agencies.

Over the years, the tourism industry has experienced growth. Technological advancements have significantly contributed to the increase. However, the advances in technology are underutilized in tourism. The expansion of the tourism industry has led to the demand for the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to meet customers’ needs. First appearing in 1956, it has made significant advances over the years, and its applications range from chatbots to self-driven vehicles. The applications of AI are used to gain an advantage in the competitive market world. According to a survey, seventy-four percent of customers plan trips online, with forty-five percent using their smartphones. These statistics show the need to invest in AI technology. AI can accommodate a wide variety of information on all the vital components, including infrastructure facilities for tourists, destination tourism, and natural resources. It can exceed human capabilities in providing information on all essential factors in a short time. Therefore, AI can potentially outperform human services. AI applications in the tourism industry are currently underused. There is minimal research on AI’s impact on tourism. More can be done to include AI in the tourism sector as per the suggestions below.

Smart Customer Service

Choosing travel destinations and learning about different places before travel is vital for customers. Travelers need access to information on tourism destinations. The information may include climate, the attractions, the best abodes, safety and security, other people’s experiences and ratings, culture, transport services, and costs. Ninety percent of customers require relevant information on their desired travel destinations. Increased use of chatbots and navigation systems of AI can boost assistance and easy access to information. Customers also want timely feedback and obtaining information. Travelers thus prefer self-service options. Traditional services require customers to make calls or write emails that may incur costs and take longer to receive replies. The information obtained from calls and emails may be limited. The self-service apps aid customers in navigating through information and getting the help they need on a timely basis. The travel industry requires round-the-clock support in assistance provision. AI assistants and chatbots offer these services with added benefits such as improved efficiency in a timely and less costly manner.

Planning

Planning for trips is a hectic experience. It requires the traveler to engage in multiple service industries and tourism sectors. The planner must obtain the information, book transportation, accommodation, vaccines, activities and calendars, meals, visits to museums or parks, tour guides, and other factors. If AI is sufficiently applied to the industry, it can alleviate the pain of planning trips and make it easier. With personalized recommendations, AI can offer preferences in different categories and predictions based on the history and traveler’s needs. From business trips to vacations, AI can help plan trips and improve customer experience. In China, a WeChat applet allows users to find available vacancies based on price preferences and location, making booking accommodation services easier. Such services help tourists transition from one region to another during their travel. AI can aid in processing feedback, recommendations, and ratings of destinations from previous travelers to help other tourists identify the best places to book and places to avoid during travel.

The Experience

AI applications go beyond helping plan trips. They can promote an excellent customer experience and attract more travelers. Hotels can set up virtual services for customers to check in an out of the hotels or accommodation areas. These services can be done in three steps; scanning and confirming identification, finding order and confirming check-in, and providing room cards. Facial recognition technologies can be used to verify the tourists’ documentation during check-ins, improving efficiency. Virtual voice programs can be set up in guest rooms to enhance the comfort of travelers. These AI assistants can help visitors adjust lighting and temperature and turn on or off the entertainment systems as they desire. β€˜City Brain’ AI application scans traffic, road conditions, and real-time emergencies in tourist destinations, improving tourist emergency rescue and services in tourism. The suitability of such applications can significantly improve efficiency, adaptability, experience, satisfaction, and service delivery to travelers.

Efficient Service Delivery

During peak seasons, parks and tourist spots often serve large customer numbers. Entry to these spots requires the tourists to queue and pay a cashier to obtain tickets. The process is tiring for the cashier and the tourists alike. AI assistance can help regulate the process, improving customer experience. An example is Alipay, where customers can pay online, scan the code post-payment and obtain entry to these spots without queueing for tickets. Other applications using AI are itinerary planners. Tourists can feed their needs to these assistants, which then carry out intelligent optimizations to provide the most efficient organization. Smart cities, intelligent business ecosystems, and destinations promote tourism and attract investors. Smart AI hospitality systems can use constantly learning robots to enhance customer engagement and experience. Visitors can rent vehicles with AI-powered GPS technology during their travels to provide excellent experiences as they move from place to place. Google Maps helps tourists gather information on the general infrastructure of facilities and areas of visit, including accommodation, entertainment, and restaurants.

Language Barrier

During travels, tourists often encounter language barriers in their destination spots. To counter the difficulty in communication, some tourists engage in classes to learn the language of the tourist destination beforehand. Others opt to hire tour guides that can translate their languages. Both of these options are costly and require time. The outcomes are not guaranteed and can hinder the experiences of tourists. AI-based language translators can be employed in the tourism sector to help bridge the gap. These translators help the visitors communicate with the residents in their language, replacing the need for guides or human translators. These translators are widely applicable and easy to operate, thus saving time and cost. Residents can provide information to tourists regarding culture, meals, activities, and destination spots for optimized experiences.

There are challenges in using artificial intelligence that might limit its reach. They include illiteracy and lack of knowledge of technological advances, data security and safety, malware attacks, and the replacement of human labor. These factors can hamper the AI efficiency in service delivery or tourists’ satisfaction. AI advances reduce the need for human labor, leading to increased unemployment rates which adversely affect the economy. These challenges can be overcome by improving current technologies, raising awareness and education, and training people on how to create opportunities for work using AI.

Conclusion

Tourism is one of the largest and fast-growing sectors worldwide. It connects many industries and significantly benefits the economy. AI technology applications are making headway in tourism, but there is still room for improvement. Sectors that AI can be applied to improve the tourist experience and tourism industries in different tourist destinations include customer service, planning, virtual experiences, service delivery, and the elimination of language barriers. AI assistance enhances efficient, timely, cost-saving experiences for tourists. There are challenges in implementing AI, such as malware attacks, data security, lack of technological know-how, and promotion of unemployment. These challenges can be overcome through modifications, education, and training.

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