Like me, you probably remember that brilliant Apple 1984 commercial launching the MacIntosh computer. The one with the hammer thrower running through an audience of grey drones, smashing the screen representing the then big tech.
The fact that Apple is now firmly part of Big Tech is left for another time. Back then, it was an archetypical start-up about to go global. Although my first computing experience was learning COBOL and my first word processing experience was on an electric typewriter, things really took off sometime in October 1989 in the Blair Hall computer lab basement at Princeton when I had to turn in my first paper. We were using those little boxy Mac SEs, if I remember correctly, and I learned how to use both the Mac and Microsoft Word in a single coffee-fuelled all-nighter, writing my first of many history papers.
What impressed this week me was Internova Travel’s “Book Human” video. This takes on the idea that artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning will overturn traditional travel options selected by a travel agent, or by yourself.
The video features a frighteningly lifeless dummy in a $69 suit, pretending to care. I’d like to say how much this resembles so much of the modern travel industry, but it might be better not to.
Travel is a notoriously “sticky” service. Although we have managed to automate the process-driven part of reservations (airline tickets, hotel rooms, price comparisons, evaluations), we have definitely not managed to sort out the selection-driven part of the process.
How do you select a great place to go?
Chances are, you’ve already been there and are returning. Or someone recommended it. That recommendation may be from a friend, or a book like Eat Pray Love, which accelerated Bali, or a travel channel or platform like Afar.
Can you trust AI to decide a travel destination?
I think it’s unlikely. The AI has never been there. Never smelled the air or slept on the mattress or stood in the breakfast line. The AI doesn’t care about 24-hours door-to-door travel or mosquitos or food poisoning.
Can you trust AI to recommend a travel destination?
Yes, probably. Something like assembling a short list using a list of specific variables like:
Price of hotel
Star rating of hotel
Price of airfare
Duration of airfare
Door-to-door travel time
Type of holiday
Water temperature & air temperature
Strength of local currency
Attractions in specific categories (museums, opera, etc)
I can definitely see getting a list of priorities, which might also use data from my social media browsing, articles read, hotel profiles liked, etc.
In any case, I’m open to trying it.
In the meantime, I will decide human, but book online. Booking.com has saved my ass so many times when flights have been cancelled and I’m stuck somewhere, I just don’t see any way around it.