Where should I go on vacation this summer?

The question is simple enough, but the possibilities are endless.

“Feeling adventurous or more like chilling by the beach with a drink in hand?” Layla replies to narrow the list.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Chilling by the beach sounds nice.

“Alright, for that laid-back beach vibe, how about Santorini with its iconic sunsets or Ao Nang for some Thai beach bliss? Pick your paradise!” she suggested. 

Only she is not really a “she.” Layla is an AI travel planner whose website launched this year, among a growing number of artificial intelligence-driven tools for travel. 

Just over 50% of 1,400 people recently surveyed by Matador Network, a travel publisher and creator of AI travel assistant GuideGeek, said they’re open to using AI for their summer travel. A previous Matador Network survey found 64% of 1,200 travelers surveyed had already used or planned to use AI for trip planning.

Here’s what travelers should know about planning trips with AI.

How common is AI today?

Many people associate AI with large language models like ChatGPT, which can both recognize and generate text, but that’s just one type of AI.

“AI is generally everywhere,” said Yoon Kim, an assistant professor in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “For example, when you search for something – let's say you search for something on TripAdvisor, – there is likely an AI-based system that gives you a list of matches based on your query.”

“Because a lot of the (online travel agencies) have now integrated different types of Gen AI into their platforms … people may be using them without their knowledge,” echoed Matt Soderberg, principal, U.S. airlines leader for Deloitte, which named AI as a major theme in changing travel in its Facing travel's future report released in early April.

Kayak and Expedia offer AI travel tools. Google has used AI for years for search. Those familiar “People Also Ask” questions are powered by AI. Google Flights uses machine learning, a type of AI. AI also powers Google Maps’ Immersive View, which gives users a navigable fly-over view of 13 cities and more than 500 global landmarks that users can zoom in on like in a video game, with weather and crowd forecasts for different times of day. 

Early this year, Google introduced generative AI to multisearch queries made with Google Lens. That allows users to take a photo of something and couple it with text questions like “What kind of flower is this?” or “Who painted this and why?” to get AI-generated answers based on data from across the web and links to additional sources.

How do I plan a trip with AI?

Planning travel with AI is typically free, but travelers may need to create platform-specific accounts to access enhanced features or ask more than a few initial queries.

Google account holders can get generative AI results in text-only search bar searches if they opt in to Search Generative Experience, which is part of Google’s experimental Search Labs. Opting in to SGE allows them to ask things like “Plan me a 2-day solo trip to Grand Teton National Park” and not only get a suggested itinerary but related photos, reviews and links to other resources. 

For Day 1 at Grand Teton, Google suggested a morning hike at Schwabacher Landing “to see the Grand Tetons reflected in the river,” an afternoon visit to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Elk Refuge, and dinner at a local Italian restaurant with photos of each destination, links to their websites, pins showing locations on Google Maps, suggestions for where to stay, space for follow up questions, and links to related questions like “Is 2 days enough for Grand Teton National Park?” 

Just above the sample itinerary, read a disclaimer: “Generative AI is experimental” and below it: “Trip ideas generated with AI may include inaccurate or misleading information. Confirm info with sources you trust.” 

For the same prompt, both ChatGPT and GuideGeek – which can be messaged on social media like a person – offered more suggestions of things to do, as well as reminders to check on trail closures, but no specific recommendations on where to eat or stay, nor photos nor links to find more information on any of the destinations. Layla and Mindtrip, an AI travel planner that launched publicly this week, also included links to various points of interest, hotel suggestions, and the ability to adjust and book different parts of the itinerary through partnerships with third parties. Mindtrip allows multiple people within the same travel party to collaborate on itineraries.

Make travel easy: We tested ChatGPT itineraries in 5 US tourist spots

Can AI be trustworthy?

Asking one AI travel planner for the top 10 snacks at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, among classics like Dole Whip and Corn Dog Nuggets, it suggested Mickey-shaped beignets. Those would certainly be a top snack if they were sold in the park, like at Disneyland. However Disney World guests have to go to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter for sweet Mickey-shaped pillows of fried dough.

“This phenomena goes under the moniker hallucinations. These generative AI systems are prone to hallucinating plausible-sounding text that’s actually factually incorrect,” MIT’s Kim explained. “This is, I think, going to be sort of an inherent problem with systems that probabilistically generate output over large spaces.”

"If the LLM recommends a restaurant closed down two years ago, you lose all trust immediately," said Mindtrip Founder and CEO Andy Moss. That's why they, and Layla, also rely on human intelligence for recommendations.

Kim noted there are ongoing efforts to mitigate against hallucinations but suggested double-checking AI-generated answers.

“We want to make sure that that information is usable, that it's actionable. It's clear, it's repeatable,” said Will Healy, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, the largest provider of AI to the federal government. He heads up the company’s recreation work, including, the government’s central travel planning site for public lands like national parks. 

What can AI be used for?

Currently, most visitors use progressive search to discover and book things like campsites, checking off boxes and reading information provided by the land manager. However, 25% of randomly selected users are being offered more personalized AI-powered options as part of a beta test with AI.

“What we're beta testing at the moment are things where you can say, ‘Hey, I've got three kids. This is our first time camping. We want to go some place that's fun. My kids love the water. We want to try hiking, and my youngest son likes fishing, but he's not very good at it,’” Healy said.

“If you were talking to somebody who knew everything about every campsite, then what answer would they give you? That's what we think artificial intelligence can do,” he added. “And it's not just the data that's in the system, but it's all of the reviews and blogs and everything's out there in the public domain that you can pull different pieces together, put together into a contextual answer.”

If AI is able to understand a traveler’s intent, Healy said it could also suggest alternative destinations or experiences if something a traveler wants is booked up or otherwise not available. He said it could also help make public lands more accessible to more people.

“If you have some sort of impairment – maybe it's sight, hearing, mobility, cognitive, whatever it is – that confidence level (outdoors) might go down, “Healy said. “We want to provide you the right information, so that you can get outside with as much confidence as possible and have an experience that matches your needs.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to use AI to plan your next vacation and what you should know first

2024-05-02T09:19:55Z dg43tfdfdgfd