As I continue to strategize, explore, and observe AI (and its impact on travel), I finally came up with a substantial consumer-initiated AI use case: Travel Natural Language Searches. The bigger point is that future travel will be less consumer-initiated, it’ll automatically come in various ways, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
Travel Natural Language Search Generation Gap
The good news is that I can see AI helping with natural language search, mainly if (and when) a new generation of travelers changes their travel search behavior.
The rest of us may try it, may even use it regularly, but most of us are too accustomed to the ubiquitous to/from city pairs, date selection, and search results. It’s similar to the difference between a generation born before the internet and the generations born after.
The earlier the generation you belong to, the less likely you are to use natural search (on average) and nowhere near as much as a generation who only knows natural language travel searching. The travel equivalent of a “digital native” generation.
Travel Natural Language Search Capability Is Here
The ability for AI to accurately interpret consumer-initiated natural language travel searches is finally here — a milestone that many in travel have wanted and worked hard for over a decade.
The average travel startup can now use AI to understand a natural language search (“I want a flight to Houston for next week for my wife and kids leaving in the morning and arriving back before 6 pm on any airline except ABC Airways”) and display appropriate search results (ChatGPT already does this with extensions).
Capability Is Different From Use
The ability to perform natural language travel searches is separate from travelers actually searching this way.
Use Based On Generation Gap
I propose that natural language travel search use will depend on which generation you’re from. Those born today will look back on to/from search forms the way we look back on dial-up internet – we needed it to get to where we are today, but that’s about it.
Cue the “when I was young we didn’t have AI that thought about travel for us, we had think for ourselves and enter city pairs, and choose dates, and wait for results to come to us” nostalgia.
I’ve struggled to think of substantive consumer-initiated travel AI offerings. I posit, as I write this on December 22, 2023, that the majority of AI’s power and impact will be behind the scenes in what AI enables, empowers, accelerates, enlightens, replaces, and invents across every aspect of travel in some form or another; not substantively in a consumer-initiated context.
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