AI in the Wild: From Content to Customer Service and Beyond

Industry experts and experience operators share tools, tips and tales of using AI in tours, activities & attractions, in latest Arival | Elevate session

Three friendly, cartoonish robots of varying sizes posed outdoors in a wooded area.

All the talk about AI brings to mind the title of the acclaimed 2022 film Everything Everywhere All at Once. There is so much happening, and so much changing on the AI front every day. As a busy tour, activity or attraction operator, where do you even start? 

“It’s been almost a little bit overwhelming for a lot of people in terms of how to use this, because it can do so much,” said Christian Watts, Founder and CEO of Magpie Travel and co-author of Arival’s recent report The Arival Guide to AI in Experiences

“For that reason I think people are using such a tiny percentage of its capabilities, which I think is the point of these case studies — to help operators think of areas where it could be useful.” Watts is referring to the Case Studies in Emerging Tech complied as a companion to the Guide to AI in Experiences.

In the latest Arival | Elevate session, Watts joined us to review the guide’s insights and discuss a number of questions about using AI in tour, activity and attraction businesses, and tips and tools for using it. Below are a few highlights from the discussion, including some of the tools operators have had success with using. 

Smiling group taking a selfie in front of a boat with camels and city skyline in the background, promoting The Arrival Guide to AI in Experiences by Fáilte Ireland and Arival.

Where Should Operators Start with AI?

In the year and a half since OpenAI first launched ChatGPT on November 30, 2022, making generative AI accessible to the general public at no cost, some 70,000 AI tools and apps have been developed. So where does one start with all this?

Magpie CEO and Arival Guide to AI for Experiences co-author Christian Watts shared some tips on where to start with generative AI, in the latest Arival | Elevate online session.

“Of the 70,000 [apps], probably 65,000 of them are just this wrapper around ChatGPT,” Watts explained. “For most people I think they should be going directly to ChatGPT or Anthropic or Gemini or Meta, which are all free, they all have free models these days.”

“As a place to start, go straight to one of those models, play around with it, test, think outside the box,” Watts advised. “And if you can’t think of ideas, ask it to think of ideas: tell it what you do and say give me some ideas that you can do for me. Once you get used to using this as your assistant, that’s where it becomes really useful.” 

What AI Technologies (Other than ChatGPT) are People Using in the Travel Industry?

Beyond ChatGPT and beyond content creation, there are many uses for AI in tour, activity and attraction businesses. Operators in the Arival | Elevate session shared a few of the ways they are using AI in their businesses now, ranging from customer service and chatbots to blogging and customer profile research to responding to reviews. 

Christian Watts offers some examples of how people in experiences are using AI beyond ChatGPT.

In terms of tools beyond ChatGPT, Watts mentioned ElevenLabs for voice, Midjourney and DALL-E for images, and Notion for organization. Operators can also check out some of the AI tools for operators compiled in the AI Resources for Experience Operators, 5 Ways to Use AI Beyond Chat, and the Arival Guide to AI case studies described in 5 Ways to Use GenAI in Experiences

“I think we are getting to a point where the AI will be in the tool you already use, so if you like to use Notion, or you’re using Hubspot, it’s going to have AI in it to make your life easy,” Watts said.

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How Can I Get My Experience to Show Up in the AI Recommendations?

With travelers, too, experimenting with AI, and the proliferation of AI trip planning tools, the question for operators becomes increasingly “how can I get my business recommended by AI?” Is this still a job for SEO (search engine optimization) or are we moving beyond that?

While Watts admits the answer to this is unclear, and there is no formal or official guidance (beyond Google’s stance on AI content), it helps to understand how the AI models are getting their information. 

Christian Watts explains how generative AI LLMs are trained, and what this means for operators in terms of how to potentially get included in the AI’s answers or recommendations.

“It gets back to doing the right things, and when I say right things I mean SEO for Google,” said Watts. “The large language models, when they train on data, they want quality data, and they’re definitely scraping it from Google, they’re definitely taking the top results… the rules haven’t really changed from everything that you should be doing for Google.” 

Focusing on a niche rather than general appeal may also help. “To be found you have to be unique as conversational UI only suggests 1-3 things,” added Alex Bainbridge, CEO of Autoura, in attendance at the Arival | Elevate session. “You have to be in the 1-3 for something, rather than mainstream tours today which aim to be good at a wider range of topics,” advised Bainbridge. 

Operators looking for more insights on Google and SEO can check out this recent interview and article, featuring Brennen Bliss, Founder of Propellic, an SEO-focused digital marketing company for the travel sector: SEO in the Age of AI.

Learn More about AI in Experiences with Arival 

The Arival Guide to AI Experiences is available at no cost to Insider Free Access members: simply log in or sign up for a free membership to download your guide today. The Case Studies in Emerging Tech are exclusively available to Insider Pro Access members: log in or sign up for a pro membership to access these companion case studies.

Smiling group taking a selfie in front of a boat with camels and city skyline in the background, promoting The Arrival Guide to AI in Experiences by Fáilte Ireland and Arival.

Arival Pro Access members can also watch the latest Arival | Elevate session on demand here. Everyone is also invited to listen to the conversation on our podcast, The Voice of Experiences

Join us at an upcoming Arival event to learn more about AI, how it’s being used in the tours, activities and attractions sector, and get the latest insights on what’s next with AI and emerging tech for the in-destination experiences sector.

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