Foundations and Principles of Generative AI

Head of Research and Insights
Published 4/28/23
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Part one of a blog series on what generative AI means for tourism and hospitality

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest iteration of machine learning that is creating both real excitement and concern around the world. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has called AI “the most profound” technology in human history and predicted that it will impact "every company".

In this blog post series, we’ll first describe the foundations of generative AI and a few core principles in thinking about its applications in the tourism industry. Part two will look at five types of practical applications in tourism and hospitality. 

Understanding the Foundations of Generative AI

Generative AI is a type of machine learning built on large language models - a highly evolved version of predictive typing where a computer generates appropriate content based on complex rules and prompts. These large language models powering generative AI are trained by ingesting and analyzing vast amounts of data. For ChatGPT 4.0, this means trillions of terabytes of data, analyzed across trillions of parameters including most of what was published on the internet prior to 2021.

Generative AI empowers applications that can answer highly detailed questions across almost any topic, generate a wide range of content and converse in complex conversations (via text or voice). It is a radical advance on the artificial intelligence of a few years ago when chatbots first emerged. 

Though generative AI can offer complex and often very human-like content and communications, it is still well short of the long-discussed artificial general intelligence (AGI) where machines can complete highly complex tasks, reason, understand context and apply judgment in truly human-like ways. 

Four Principles for Using Generative AI in Tourism & Hospitality

1. Generative AI should be seen a significant net positive for tourism.

Information is a powerful enabler for the desire to travel. Generative AI vastly expands the tourism industry's ability to deliver personalized information to current and potential travelers on where, how and why to travel. 

Summary: Commit time and resources to review the major opportunities with generative AI that apply to your organization and invest in testing and trialing solutions. Ensure key people in your organization are staying up to date on the overall trends (see our resource page for more on generative AI) but elect individual staff or partners to investigate specific areas and more specialized applications.

There are optimistic predictions for how generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, will support travel planning and booking. Read more in the article from PhocusWire here. 

2. Use AI, but check and verify.

Generative AI has powerful, transformational applications, but currently, it has no means of checking the authority and accuracy of its source data. This technology has no inherent sense of what is true or false. It will mix highly detailed, accurate answers with information that is wildly inaccurate - dubbed “hallucinations". Answers can also reflect biases or worse. Hence, any content or answers generated by AI needs to come with clear disclaimers and if necessary, a review and quality control system e.g.: the AI-driven information is checked and updated by a human. 

  • Note on ownership of content generated by ChatGPT: content generated by ChatGPT is owned by the user, which includes the benefits of the content along with the risks and liabilities for any incorrect information. Per the article, ChatGPT - Who Owns the Content Generated, "OpenAI assigns all its right, title, and interest in and to the output to the user.": 

Summary: Use generative AI tools as a start and assistant, empowering content creation by sourcing critical ideas, generating summary points and creating an early draft that is reviewed, checked and finalized by human creators. 

3. Stay high tech and high touch.

Generative AI will both impact some jobs in travel and tourism as well as amplify the importance of investing in staff. While some routine customer service and even marketing or communication jobs may be impacted, tourism should double down on valuing people overall. As AI-driven interactions become common in trip planning, booking and service, travelers will also seek out and value human interactions even more. A critical differentiator of any destination or business will be the quality of authentic, one on one interactions with staff and locals. 

As artificial intelligence becomes more ubiquitous in our lives, travelers will seek out even more authentic connections with people during their travels. 

Summary: As you invest in AI solutions, match this with even greater investments in your most important asset: your staff and local community. A warm welcome and authentic, personable interactions will be even more important parts of travel and a source of competitive advantage. For best practices in developing workforce and creating a welcoming local community, see “Time for DMOcracy,” a major global study on community engagement in tourism led by Miles Partnership and Group NAO. 

4. Prepare AI-related risks in tourism's future.

Finally, the far-reaching impacts of artificial intelligence is a significant external risk for tourism. A failure to appropriately manage and regulate artificial intelligence will likely fuel false information, add to more social unrest and further geopolitical divides. These divisions will impact tourism: an industry that needs an open, rules-based, and welcoming international environment to thrive.

Summary: The risks of generative AI add to a more uncertain, vulnerable future for tourism. Tourism is already at the front lines from the impacts of climate change (see our Earth Day blog post), growing geopolitical divides, and the risks of future global health crisis. The potential impacts of AI will add to these threats. A more risky future emphasizes the importance of building resilience into every part of your destination or business. This includes adding resilience into your revenue models and building reserve funds to help mitigate and manage the likely impacts and interruptions to travel and tourism.

For more on generative AI: