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The solutions to the AI threat for travel agencies

Aristotles Paths
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Traditional travel agencies are at a critical juncture, as the violent penetration of AI in tourism has escalated the pressures they are under from the major platforms and large overseas travel agencies, creating a stressful situation. As the onslaught of AI is inevitable, the solution for smaller market players is to exploit the technologies and immerse themselves in local communities…

By Polytimi Markogiannakis | MScs in Tourism/Political scientist | Founder in Aristotle’s Paths travel agency,

The travel and tourism industry has seen a surge of AI applications in every aspect. Whether it’s air or sea travel, there are potential ways in which passengers and travel companies can leverage AI to make travel more efficient while maintaining customer satisfaction at a higher level.

Within this context, AI can be used for direct online booking of airline tickets and hospitality while predicting the best price, as a translator of different languages and promoting the travel attractions of a region and even as a tour guide. It is already being used in the form of voice assistants to inform visitors on board ships and at airports.

At the same time, with special programming, it is possible for the AI, through social media and our posts, having knowledge of the emotions we gain during the trip, to draw important information.

New areas… new possibilities
Within a broader context, it can still be used towards the tourist promotion of unknown regions, and even towards the tourist development of entire countries.

The use of such technologies as robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) clearly benefits the quality of the services offered, operating within a framework of eco-logical solutions, while reducing the costs of business.

The question that arises is whether all this technology threatens traditional professions such as that of travel agent and how much more so the operation of small local offices.

On a larger scale, according to Insete’s Greek tourism/ action plans 20230 survey, businesses and organisations in the tourism sector are expected to accelerate investment in integrated digital solutions, artificial intelligence and automation technologies.

The next day’s equation
AI is emerging as a key factor in the growth and evolution of agencies. The opportunities it offers, and the challenges that accompany its integration, are defining the future of the industry.

The use of AI enables the automation of many processes, freeing up valuable staff time. Tasks such as document management, data analysis and answering frequently asked questions can be performed faster and more accurately through AI. This not only improves efficiency, but also reduces operational costs.

Improving customer service is also important. AI, through the use of chatbots and virtual assistants, enables direct and continuous communication with customers, providing quick and accurate responses. This boosts customer satisfaction and improves the reputation of agencies.

Big data Analytics
Another advantage is the ability to analyse large volumes of data. AI can identify patterns and trends that are difficult for humans to perceive, helping agencies predict future trends and adjust their strategies. In addition, it can provide personalized recommendations to customers, boosting loyalty and sales.

The challenge for small businesses is the cost of installing AI systems, which can be high, posing a barrier for smaller agencies. As the initial investment and maintenance of these systems require significant resources.

The combination of platforms and AI is strangling agencies
While in a global environment, local travel agencies are facing increasing pressure from AI, which facilitates online booking and personalisation of travel. Platforms such as digital travel agents and AI-powered booking apps offer consumers instant access to information and reservations, reducing the need for intermediaries. This may lead to a reduction in demand for traditional agencies.

But the challenge contains elements of opportunity. Local tourist agencies have important advantages that AI cannot fully replicate. Personal service, human contact and the ability to deal with unforeseen problems in real time are invaluable to many travellers. Local agents have extensive knowledge of local culture, customs and hidden attractions, offering a richer and more authentic travel experience. It is also a gamble to cultivate long-term relationships with clients.

The solutions in… niche markets
To survive and thrive, local agencies can focus on niche markets such as family travel, luxury holidays or thematic travel (e.g. gastronomy, history). Developing partnerships with local service providers and leveraging social media to promote their unique offerings can also enhance their competitiveness. Focusing on these unique aspects can allow them to remain competitive in the AI era.

While at the same time they can use AI in terms of producing content for social media (ChatGPT), producing video and enriching the information they give to customers. At the same time they can use to their advantage, all the new social media technology with the simplest example being the comments and posts of their customers as to the quality of the services provided.

In short, local agencies can survive and thrive in the age of AI by focusing on specialisation, integration and use of technologies, investing in ‘local’ knowledge, as local knowledge and cultural understanding is an invaluable asset. Local agencies can offer deeper knowledge of the local market, customer needs and preferences, something that large, remote platforms struggle to achieve.

Finally, networking and cooperation with other local businesses can strengthen their position in the market. The creation of strategic partnerships can lead to mutually beneficial agreements and enhance competitiveness by qualifying the quality of the services offered.

Sources: https://d3.harvard.edu/platform-digit/submission/hopper-using-ai-to-plan-your-next-vacation

/https://www.itpro.com/technology/artificial-intelligence-ai/354424/meet-bill-the-ai-powered-bot-ba-plans-to-use-at

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https://insete.gr/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Megatrends.pdfhttp://www.xorlogics.com/2017/05/08/how-artificial-intelligence-is-impacting-the-tourism-sector

Source: https://crisismonitor.gr/2024/06/15/oi-lyseis-stin-apeili-tou-ai-gia-ta-touristika-grafeia/

Writer: Markogiannaki Politimi

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When you start a trip, you do not just plan a route, you get involved in the five senses of the place you are visiting. Perfumes, images, local gastronomy, customs and traditions. In the end you change because you experienced something different. Let's start a journey together P. Markogiannaki Founder at Aristotle’s Paths

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