How ChatGPT could change the way we travel
What is ChatGPT? What are the drawbacks? And is there a benefit to using it for your next trip?
In today’s newsletter: ChatGPT and what it means for how we plan our trips. If you’ve found your way here but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:
Chances are you’ve heard of ChatGPT. The program has been snagging headlines for its ability to churn up everything from a travel itinerary to a news article to a book proposal in a matter of seconds. As a writer, ChatGPT’s arrival feels conflicted. On the one hand, the program represents an impressive leap in artificial intelligence capabilities, while on the other, it can generate content with the click of a button, threatening multiple industries—including travel.
So, let’s get into it. What is ChatGPT? How could it change the way we travel? What are the drawbacks? And is there a benefit to using it for your next trip? Read on.
What Is ChatGPT, Anyway?
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) language model that was developed by the company OpenAI, an American AI research lab. In layman’s terms, ChatGPT is a program that can generate human-like responses in mere seconds. From language translation to writing a complete story, the program combs the internet for information, allowing it to whip up contextually relevant responses in no time.
I’ve tested the technology myself, which looks a lot like an online chat room, and you can ask ChatGPT just about anything and send it follow-up questions. As impressive as that may sound, there are kinks—as is the case with any new technology.
On its homepage, it very clearly outlines the program’s limitations: “Limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021; may occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content; and may occasionally generate incorrect information.”
Since ChatGPT pulls from the internet—which we already know to be riddled with inaccuracies, biases, and downright scary stuff— it’s inevitable it may pull in some incorrect data. Knowing what ChatGPT does, how can it help you plan your next trip?
How ChatGPT Can Change Travel
“The travel industry may never be the same,” wrote writer Julie Weed in The New York Times. She was referencing how travelers can now turn to ChatGPT, as they would a friend, for tips and advice on planning their next adventure.
Rather than perusing the internet, scouring a combination of blogs and travel websites for information on the best time of year to visit, say, Norway—travelers can simply type their travel questions into ChatGPT and get all the information they need. What’s more, the program can drill down into specifics. Looking for vegetarian eateries in Trondheim? Wheelchair-accessible attractions in Oslo? Kid-friendly hotels in Bergen? ChatGPT can generate nuanced and unique-to-your-needs itineraries instantly.
ChatGPT can also help travelers save money and avoid travel hassles. By analyzing user data, ChatGPT identifies deals, promotions, and discounts on flights, hotels, and activities that are tailored to a traveler’s interests and budget. You can not only generate an instant trip itinerary with money-conscious suggestions, but the platform can provide updates on flight and hotel availability, allowing travelers to make changes to their trip in real time. ChatGPT promises to make travel planning such a breeze that companies such as Expedia, have already made moves to incorporate the technology into their services.
Imagine Better Customer Service
Beyond travel planning, ChatGPT is changing travel planning by providing instant customer service. We’ve all had the experience of sitting on the phone for 40+ minutes, waiting for an airline customer service representative to help change a flight or recoup costs from a canceled trip. ChatGPT can streamline this process by providing instant responses to customer inquiries.
So, What’s The Downside?
Remember what I said about ChatGPT’s limitations? Because the program’s information base doesn’t go beyond 2021, it lacks access to updated travel-related data, like new airline routes and schedules, country-specific restrictions, or weather forecasts. This is problematic, especially for an industry that has changed (and continues to change) dramatically post-pandemic.
There is also the concerning issue of its inability to discern between reliable and unreliable information on the internet. If you trust ChatGPT to build your trip, you risk having an itinerary that is riddled with inaccuracies. As if that’s not concerning enough, ChatGPT’s maker, OpenAI, warns that its software may also produce biased content.
In the end, the benefits of using ChatGPT are undeniable—as are the risks. ChatGPT represents a big stride in artificial intelligence technology but also comes with drawbacks that can lead to biased misinformation and threaten the jobs of travel advisors, agents, and planners.
As ChatGPT technology continues to evolve, I’m sure we can expect to see significant changes in the travel industry in the coming years. But for now, when planning my next trip, I’m happy sticking to travel websites, blogs, and trusty advice from a human friend.
Mixed berry bars, the cost of being a writer, and an inspiring listen
A good friend sent me this episode of Armchair Expert to listen to this week, featuring cookbook author Alison Roman. In the episode, Roman—whose new cookbook just released—speaks candidly about her public cancellation and subsequent recovery. It’s an eye-opening listen about mistakes, growth, resilience, and learning to move forward. This week, I also read this article in Esquire about the costs of being a writer. Written by Nicole Chung, whose memoir just dropped, it’s a poignant and honest look at the sacrifices we (and our families) make when chasing a creative endeavor. Finally, I recommend these oatmeal mixed berry bars. I currently have a batch sitting in front of me as I type this (real-time image pictured above), and they’re fabulous as a dessert, a breakfast snack, or as a midday treat.
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