A Tour Guide Named AI

Filipino Travellers Turn to Artificial Intelligence Tools for Travel Plans

Traveling using AI (Image by Laurentiu Morariu via Unsplash; Illustration by Nassyart / Canva)

MANILA, Philippines—With the boom of artificial intelligence tools, Filipino travellers like Anne Real are curating travel plans like never before.

Real, 35, who has travelled to five countries so far, said she uses popular AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT when organising an itinerary for her travels. She first discovered this from online travel community group Hangout Buddies.

For Real, ChatGPT’s travel suggestions only serve as the ‘skeleton’ of the itinerary.

‘It’s a good place to start, especially if you don’t have any experience travelling or making an itinerary,’ Anne said.

‘It’s also responsive. For example, if I don’t like its Day Two itinerary suggestion for Singapore that includes Universal Studios Singapore (USS), I’ll just reply to ChatGPT by typing “without USS”. And then, the results will be amended,’ she continued.

Like Real, 35-year-old Ric, who has visited the 82 provinces of the Philippines and eight countries so far, has also been using ChatGPT in his travel planning since June this year.

‘I have an upcoming trip to Brunei and Kota Kinabalu this November, and I used ChatGPT to make an itinerary, including transportation, hotel accommodation, tourist places to visit and all. And to be fair, if you just include all the correct words during the search, it will definitely give you all the needed information. And it only took almost a minute to complete. Really amazing,’ Ric said in an online interview.

Ric particularly appreciated that using ChatGPT provides a stream of endless information and possibilities. However, he shared that this could also be its downfall, given the inconsistent credibility of the results.

‘I tried using it also for my other upcoming trips and even for my previous trips, but it showed, I think, maybe fifty percent accurate and reliable [results],’ he said.

Edel San, another traveller based in Manila who has visited eight Asian countries, said that she uses another AI-powered chatbot called Bard, developed by Google.

‘I’ve been hearing a lot about ChatGPT but I haven’t actually tried it. Then there’s Bard, [released] early this year, and I tried to ask for travel tips to Cambodia. I think one needs to ask specific questions to get the right answers. My question was a bit vague: “Travel plan to Siem Reap”. Bard gave me a three-day plan, though, which was cool,’ she said.

The Motley Fool, a private financial and investing advice company, reported that AI is being used for recommendations, booking, forecasting, flight improvements, and itineraries.

The company cited that since the travel industry is one of the biggest advertising verticals on the Google search engine, many are using AI to seek recommendations. Chatbots and AI assistants are now being deployed by airlines and travel companies to assist travellers during the booking process.  

The advice company also reported that travellers are now using specific booking platforms for their accommodations and flights which predict customer behaviour and provide more personalised suggestions.

Why human touch still matters

Given these developments, the Filipino travellers interviewed said they will continue using and recommending the usage of AI tools in their future travels as it helps travellers create a list of activities and places to visit.

Real, however, said that the activities offered by AI tools are very broad, so she recommends tweaking the suggested itinerary based on personal preference.

Ric similarly observed that ChatGPT is still a business and the results produced may not be entirely impartial.

‘I guess somehow, it would show results that are favourable to their, maybe, advertisers, clients, or affiliated businesses, making the result market selective,’ Ric said.

‘I would like to see maybe a thread for people who actually used ChatGPT and followed the result religiously for their trip, and then have it rated and show feedback from the users if it’s really a good and recommended itinerary to follow,’ he added.

Despite this, Ric said he would still recommend it as it can serve as a reference guide and provide good travel suggestions.

‘It’s only up to the users to make additional research to verify the accuracy of the results. But all in all, it’s a good research tool,’ he concluded.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), a private sector consulting body which assists the government in the development and implementation of tourism policies, likewise said that their group, composed of tourism enterprises, has accepted the increasing presence of AI in travel planning.

Bob Zozobrado, TCP president, noted that while they welcome the use of AI, do-it-yourself travellers still continue to seek travel agents’ service.

‘We are confident that sooner than soon, these DIYs will avail of travel agents’ service once again as they’ll realise that nothing beats having a travel agent and tour operator personally help them with their itineraries and tickets. In fact, a survey was made early this year by a scholar from Oxford University showing that 76% of these DIYs have realised that:

  • If their flights are cancelled, nobody is there to help them.
  • They are not sure that the hotels they book online are the best for the money they paid.
  • They’re not sure that the air fares they paid for online are really the cheapest because airlines have local promos offered to travel agents.

They miss the human touch and personalised service of a travel agent before, during, and after their trip,’ Zozobrado said in a text message.

According to a survey of global travel agency network Virtuoso reported by Forbes in January, there is a growing demand for and increased value of an expert advisor who can ‘save travellers’ time, energy, and the headache of sitting on the phone for hours with customer assistance.’ 

It cited that 76% of travellers, including millennials and Gen Zs, are turning to travel advisors’ expertise to avoid being inconvenienced in their travels. 

Virtuoso specialises in luxury and experiential travel and is a by-invitation-only organisation comprising of 1,200 travel agencies with over 20,000 travel advisors in over 50 countries globally. 

AI is getting better

Amid concerns over the use of AI in travels, Dominic Ligot, founder and chief technology officer of social impact technology company CirroLytix, said that he doesn’t see disadvantages to it as long as people check and verify the suggestions provided.

‘AI tools are useful in planning trips. Chatbots are useful in summarising travel blogs and articles and putting together itineraries quickly,’ Ligot said in an online interview.

‘Previous versions of AI chatbots were based on old information but current versions are connected to the internet and provide citations and are getting better every day,’ he explained.

This is why travellers like Real, Ric, and San keep harnessing the power of AI tools when making travel plans. ‘I mean, it’s like having a Lonely Planet book on hand when you need it,’ San concluded.

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ArtIQulate is a publication associated with the Adenauer Fellowship, a scholarship programme by the Media Programme Asia, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Ltd.
About the author

Rosette Adel

Student, Master of Journalism, Ateneo De Manila University

Rosette Adel is an editor and journalist for Manila-based online newsrooms Interaksyon and Philstar.com. Her work spans breaking news, investigative journalism, and mobile reporting about diverse issues in the Philippines, particularly tourism, heritage, and politics. Concurrently, she is a fellow of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation while pursuing her graduate studies at the Asian Center for Journalism, Ateneo de Manila University.

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