Making Friends with Artificial Intelligence

Hello Nexion Canada Members!

I wanted to take a moment today to touch on something we’ve all likely heard about, read about, or maybe even felt slightly alarmed by recently. Or you may have also joined me on Hot Topics Tuesday calls this year when we have demonstrated and used these tools (see more at bottom).  Generative AI tools like Tobi and ChatGPT are taking the world by storm, simultaneously generating a lot of different hot takes on whether they’ll be used for good or ill. It’s a big topic with many implications across many different industries, but I’m quite comfortable saying that I believe this will be incredibly beneficial to travel professionals.

Before I go further into this topic, let’s do a little thought experiment. Imagine it’s 1979 (whether or not you can actually remember it as I can), and the world of popular music is being swept by a remarkable new technology called the synthesizer. It looks more or less like a regular keyboard with some funny knobs and dials on it, but it’s actually a more complex tool that allows the user to create a multitude of different sounds and rhythmic patterns. This makes a lot of legacy musicians and music fans quite nervous. According to them, this machine was taking all the artistry out of songwriting. Someone with virtually no musical training at all can now come in and write an entire album with the help of this one little device. “There goes the music industry,” they said.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a synthesizer, one thing you’ll notice is conspicuously absent is a button that says, “push here to write a hit single.” Songwriters still had to learn how to master this novel tech before they could use it to create interesting new music. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the time, this technological advancement didn’t kill the music industry (that would arguably come later with the advent of streaming services), it actually opened the door for a “new wave” of musicians to come in and create an entirely original musical genre. I believe that generative AI tools present us with many similar opportunities. The old ways of doing things are never completely over, we’re just using different tools, ones that can save us a great deal of time and energy.

There are plenty of other examples like this that could be made. If you were a travel advisor in the 1990s saying something like, “I don’t need one of these fancy new-fangled computers to do my job,” chances are you’ve either left the industry behind or reluctantly adapted to the change. I can understand the reluctance. Change can be intimidating, especially once we’ve gotten used to doing things a certain way.

But as Jackie and I often say, adaptability is a key component of any successful travel business.

In order to help all our members become more comfortable with AI, and to learn from others as to how they have adopted AI into their businesses, we will be making it a focus of upcoming Hot Topic Tuesday calls, as well as a tool we use as we cover other topics. We want to help you to make it a part of your toolchest too!

In fact, I am excited to share that we will be welcoming one of the driving-forces of bringing AI to the travel agency community to our Hot Topics Tuesday calls. I hope you’ll join me as I welcome Richard Earls – Publisher, Travel Research Online – a terrific website! He will share more about Tobi as a tool now also being featured through Travel Leaders Network. If you have joined me on calls this year, you will recognize Tobi, but if you have not, do make a point of joining me on this call!

Mike F. President Nexion Travel Group-Canada