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Gen-AI in travel in 2024: game-changer or hype?

Gen-AI in travel in 2024: game-changer or hype?

Speculation about the transformative powers of generative AI for our travel industry were everywhere you looked in 2023, but real-world working examples were few and far between.

So as 2024 advances will the world slowly lose interest as the technology doesn’t deliver results?  In fact some top analysts are already calling the technology ‘overhyped’, even predicting it will get a ‘cold shower’ in 2024 because of unrealistic expectations, high costs and regulatory challenges.

We asked technology experts from across the travel industry for their thoughts on whether or not generative AI will really change the travel experience in 2024, or whether we are getting too excited, too soon.

Mike Coletta, manager of research and innovation at Phocuswright, disagrees with the analysts who are negative about the potential for generative AI. “The travel industry in on the cusp of massive change, and there’s huge potential for AI to transform the travel experience for both travelers and the travel provider ecosystem. Phocuswright research shows that nearly half of travelers in most countries would be extremely or somewhat comfortable using a GenAI tool to help them plan a trip. Between 13-22% of total traveler populations have used GenAI in some capacity. As the industry moves beyond the initial hype, 2024 will be all about leveraging what has been learned so far to focus on the most beneficial use cases – and avoid wasting resources on those without a clear ROI. Travel companies in 2024 are expected to accelerate investment in generative AI applications. But separating the winning use cases from the losers will be an ongoing process of trial and error. At this juncture, a results-based approach is needed to highlight the most relevant and impactful use cases in travel.”

The initial success of AI is likely to depend on the challenges people are applying it to.  As Haluk Kayhan, CEO & Co-Founder of B2B accommodation booking platform Bedsopia – which is powered by global distributor PrimeTravel – points out:  “AI could be hugely transformative for travel in 2024, but the industry needs to work out where it is most needed and avoid trying to solve problems that no one knows they even have.  Focus on the real headaches or high-cost / low return areas of your operations like staff shortages, flight disruptions, sudden waves of cancelations, payments processing and operational inefficiencies generally.  These are areas where AI could catalyze the most change, most quickly – perhaps even meaningfully in 2024.  AI technology needs to be essential at this stage, not just a gimmick.  Let’s be realistic – it’s not going to change the whole world overnight – people aren’t ready for that.” 


Access to data is a key consideration and one of the most impactful use cases for travel.  “The main way we’ll see AI make an impact on travel in 2024 is around data,” says José Arozarena at from Tour Review, a platform for tours & activities providers to manage their online reviews.  “Companies with the largest amounts of data available – or who offer services to clients who in turn have large data sets – will benefit most and the most quickly too.  AI will be able to make sense of that data more effectively, offering insights that result in them making services to travelers better and more personalised. Think of it like the revolution in consumer market research from the 1950s onwards, just happening over a few years and not decades.”

According to Sami Doyle from TMU Management, a data-driven insurance intermediary specializing in travel, generative AI could transform how financial institutions service the travel industry. “The travel industry is inherently risk based and that risk extends to consumers paying for goods in advance of service and to financial institutions providing services to travel companies for future delivery products. AI could be a powerful tool to assist financial institutions in providing services such as credit card acquiring and financial protection in a sustainable manner that alerts stakeholders to potential exposures before they happen. This has a knock on effect on the cost of these services and their continued provision to the sector, which would mean lower costs to consumers and comfort that financial protection is in place to cover failures.”

As with any new technology, the most valuable benefits aren’t always immediately obvious. Adam Harris, CEO of Cloudbeds – the provider of hospitality technology solutions to independent property owners – believes that hoteliers will see accelerated efficiencies in their internal operations. “In a perfect world, advanced AI would fine-tune revenue management for hoteliers and work on their behalf as a 24/7/365 GM. This year that’s the direction we’ll be moving in as forward-thinking vendors like Cloudbeds continue innovating on products that drive and streamline internal efficiencies. Technology companies like ours are already using advanced AI and machine learning to make guest communication tools more intelligent and help hoteliers quickly develop web pages and high-performing ad copy. Over the next year, hoteliers will continue to benefit from intelligent AI solutions that help them make better decisions and execute them.”

Meanwhile, Sergio Mendoza, CEO of pricing and airface intelligence firm Airnguru, believes the real game-changer for AI in travel has been the emergence of cloud technology. “Machine Learning techniques have long been used by airlines to forecast demand for Yield Management. However, the cloud revolution provided cost-efficient, democratic access to unprecedented, virtually unlimited storage capacity and processing power. The cloud catalyzed the use of big data for improving machine learning models and business intelligence, and the emergence of new breakthroughs such as generative AI. The cloud has empowered us to leverage off-the-shelf AI tools at a scale unimaginable a decade ago. Airlines already rely on artificial intelligence applications in several areas of their business. Generative AI is poised to substantially amplify the breadth of business functions for AI applications, increasing its impact across the enterprise. In particular, this revolution is enabling carriers to improve their pricing and overall commercial strategies substantially, driving revenue growth.”

As a final thought, the industry shouldn’t get too carried away with new ideas that are too futuristic warns Alex Barros, Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer at leading hotel revenue management platform BEONx. He believes that instead we should focus on what can be done right with this this new technology, “for AI to be transformative in travel, we need to start with how it can be applied to the things we’re already doing.  For example, we’re seeing many hotels use it to generate enticing and accurate hotel descriptions, leading to instant increases in conversation rates.  This is demonstrating real impact, and plays to consumer behaviour; the chances of a hotel offer being purchased will be much higher with AI, as there will be better and more attractive levels of personalisation and engagement.”