AI is making travel quicker, simpler and cheaper but we could lose what truly makes a holiday great - analysis by Sarra Gray

Couple on holiday and online travel booking

AI travel agents can design an entire holiday

Sarra Gray

By Sarra Gray

Published: 08/02/2024

- 09:00

Updated: 08/02/2024

- 09:17

AI travel agents promise to make booking a dream holiday a breeze, but is it really better to take the human out of bookings?

A quick search online and you will find a list of different AI travel agents ready to help, no matter what time of day.

Many of these operate with a chatbox function where you simply say where and when you want to go and within seconds you could be paying for your flight.

Not sure of your destination yet? Allow the bot to give you a range of suggestions based on the type of break you want.

AI travel agents help you book flights, pick the perfect hotel and even put together an itinerary, all while finding great deals that could save you a bit of money.

Old couple booking holiday

AI can take a lot of stress out of booking


Whether you want a week spent by the beach, an action-packed city break or a long-haul trip with the family, AI agents will be able to give you the best suggestions for your destination.

The benefits of this are obvious. It can open you up to new experiences and save you the time and stress of planning your next adventure yourself or waiting for office hours to speak to a traditional travel agent.

But taking the "human" out of the booking could have its drawbacks too.

AI can predict what you might want, but - unlike a traditional travel agent - it has not been to the destination.

Travel expert and founder of Taiwan Obsessed Nick Kembel spoke about what AI could mean for the future of travel.

He told GB News: "Travel agents using AI [or AI travel agents] can really change how we plan trips and explore places. These chat programs are quick to give ideas about where to go and make schedules of what to do each day.

"They can even help pick things to see or do while on your trip. For simple bookings, AI agents save us a lot of time."

This is ideal for those looking to plan a last-minute trip but it leaves no room for compromise or taking recommendations from friends.

Some of the best experiences I've had on holidays have come from taking advice from locals or stumbling across a hidden gem on a day with no plans.

This just wouldn't be as easy to do if following a step-by-step guide by a bot.

Nick agrees, stating: "While AI can spit out facts and make logical picks, human guides learn so much from years of actually going to places.

"We get to know each person's likes and style to suggest stuff computer programs might miss.

"Our local friends give access to hidden spots, insider tips and real cultural hangouts. Just last week, for example, I helped a couple get into a party that was nowhere online, they could get there only through word of mouth.

"AI only picks up what it has access to online, remaining a general, surface-level contributor.

"Though AI is fast compiling data, human advisors are masters at making a trip really meaningful."

As well as taking away the spontaneity of a trip, AI bookings put more pressure on brick-and-mortar travel agencies who are already battling online travel sites for business.

The number of travel agents on the high street has already dropped from 4,230 to 3,481 between March 2019 and June 2023, according to Statista, as people change how they like to book. With AI bookings, the number of closures is only going to increase.

An expat who lives in Spain and has been to more than 40 countries, Timon van Basten, discussed his experiences travelling.

He spoke of the magic of an impromptu trip and how human connection is behind the best holidays.

Person typing on laptop

The bookings could have some drawbacks as they take the human out of holidays


"For as long as I've immersed myself in the vibrant cultures across Spain and beyond, I've witnessed firsthand the life-changing nature of travel," Timon explained.

"There is nothing quite like discovering new places through your perspective and forging connections with local people.

"While AI has shown promise in streamlining some logistical areas of trip planning, I worry we may lose what makes travel truly impactful - the human spirit of adventure.

"As guides, we aim to craft journeys of exploration rather than simply compile to-do lists. It's in unsuspecting moments away from crowds that some of life's deepest lessons emerge.

"By all means, you can instruct the AI to give three suggestions to surprise you or whatever, but it's a synthetic way of trying to find what you could do on your own with your human eyes."

Whether AI travel agents are right for you will really depend on what type of holiday you want.

Convenience is key for many people and putting a holiday in the hands of a bot can take away a lot of stress.

But the chance to get away is rare and something many Britons only do once a year, so it should be perfect. And that might not be the case if enjoying a holiday created by AI.

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