AI for the Travel Industry - Friend or Foe?

by Carmen Davids
AI is as big as the Industrial Revolution in it’s impact” – Strive Masiyiwa

“This is 1850,” Mr Strive Masiyiwa says in his interview with James Manyika on Google Interviews, this last September, when referring to the impact of AI on our age. Not the internet, not the Search Engine wars, not technology in its silos but the collective impact that AI will have on the world. This is only eclipsed by his next statement. He goes on to say something a little more scary or exciting, depending on which side of the fence you are on.

He says, “…Where it compares to the internet is the speed…This is going to be 5,10 years. All that change (is) compressed. Now it compares with the internet.”

To the outliers, namely myself, and the little knowledge I possess, this is exciting. Distilled, to me, this means that entire industries will change, and must change, to ensure their survival at the advent of the greatest equalizer our age will ever see. My industry, the Travel Industry, must meet this access and face its historical perceived competitive advantage. It is with this excitement that trepidation sets in. One then wonders, as the Travel Industry, and in my perspective, the gatekeepers of access to worlds and travel markets that exist only through the facilitation of information, does this not mean the end of the Travel Agent, the end of the Travel Industry as we know it? A strong argument could be made that this is, in fact, the case.

This is unless we as an industry meet the change at its advent without becoming its victim. Within the very short time frame allotted to us by the inevitability of change, it is the knowledge that we possess that will allow us to re-imagine the opportunities that will keep the barbarians at the gate and allow us the runway to build a new world of margin through leveraging the tool that we know as AI. The question is how.

How are we improving the customer experience, how are we positioning the information we have to create a profession that is recognised as invaluable to the market, how are we facilitating seamless booking to create a frictionless future, how are we ensuring trust and inclusion through the technology that Open Source offers us. These are some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves with urgency.

The Tech and Tourism Africa 2024 seeks to be the conduit for these discussions. Where are the additional opportunities and who are the partners in the technology industry that we need to enlist to hold our hands through their expertise within the robust technologies we’ve built and maintained from yesteryear that serve us today. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, simply that the Customer has more power than ever before; and in addition – more information. Who are the tech innovators that see travel as a worthy opponent for their attention to build a world where the industry succeeds as a collective and not in their individual parts. And what are we doing with the attention and power we have in a world that recognises our worth but fails to ensure our longevity.

Join us at the Tech & Tourism Africa 2024 and be a part of the conversation.

Recent Articles

Scroll to Top