A packed house at the ITB Berlin Convention: on Tuesday afternoon three experts presented their assessments of the potential offered by new technologies. Caroline Bremner from Euromonitor International reported on the potential for growth of the metaverse, while Leila Summer, CEO of PlayToChange, explained how ChatGPT can suggest a travel route in just seconds. Professor Dr. Alexander Knauer from the Blockchain Competence Center at the college Hochschule Mittweida, explained that, although blockchain technologies are currently in the hype-phase, it will be two to four years before they are in practical use in the travel sector, making it advisable to become acquainted with them now.

The metaverse, a virtual 3D world in which anyone, as an avatar, can move limitlessly from one place to another, offers a massive potential, according to Caroline Bremner, especially when today’s young people have become older. "With regard to payment transactions, customer loyalty programmes and travel operations we face major disruption", Bremner stated. She pointed out that Barbados is already represented by an embassy in the metaverse, and that cities such as Seoul and Helsinki are investing in this new technology.

Polls have revealed that the choice and advance experience of destinations could become the second most widely used form of the metaverse, after gaming. A number of hotels and airlines are already working with metaverse concepts and, once new forms of data glasses and high performance 6G networks become available, Bremner forecasts that the technology will really take off, with Asia setting the pace.

Since November 2022 the number of people using ChatGPT has expanded enormously, Leila Summer reported. The new AI technology is gaining acceptance firstly because it makes it possible to converse with a computer almost as if it were human. Secondly it provides simple access to information, at an unprecedented speed, and moreover the underlying algorithms are constantly learning. “It will continue to expand and has the potential to disrupt the way in which we work“, Summer emphasised.

However, ChatGPT should be seen less as a threat to jobs but rather as an intensifier and a resource. ChatGPT could help with writing emails, reducing the length of blog posts and preparing product descriptions. This form of AI is also capable of proposing a travel itinerary within seconds. This could benefit end-users and, of course, travel agencies and tour operators.

Blockchain technologies are also here to stay, of this Professor Dr. Alexander Knauer of the Blockchain Competence Center at Hochschule Mittweida, is certain. Work is already in progress at his college on applications for the travel sector. Examples that he gave included that of a mobility concept for a small town that employs blockchain technology to enable potential users to locate scooters, and new blockchain-based travel insurance to provide cover when trains are running late. Alexander Knauer admitted that this technology is currently in the hype phase of the Gartner hype cycle, and that it may take several years before it can really be deployed effectively. Nevertheless he recommended that travel companies should already be investigating this development, not on their own but in partnership with educational institutes, start ups and established companies.

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