I asked a chatbot to plan my next trip
I was heading off to Prague for the Easter weekend and thought I’d give a chatbot the opportunity to help plan my visit. What could possibly go wrong?
What is a Chatbot?
YouChat, Jasper, Bing Chat are some of the AI chatbots available. I have started using ChatGPT, which is a natural language processing tool driven by rapidly-developing AI technology. The human-like conversations with the chatbot that answer my questions very quickly. It tells me it can help compose emails, write essays, code and plan holidays. Wow!
From books to bots
Over time, I have progressed from guidebooks, magazines and the press, to Internet booking sites, comparison sites, social media, back to guidebooks and now, the chatbots are here to help me research and plan.
I decided to add ChatGPT to planning my trip to Prague. I was interested to see if the information it shared with me could distinguish between a first time visitor and me, a repeat, VFR visitor.
I tried all sorts of approaches: describing the journey as an adventure, what going by air would be like, as a movie script, as a local, even penning a Prague poem for me. I asked about gluten-free restaurants, who are the top chefs, where are the prettiest views, which parts of the city would be busy, what to see on a day trip out of town etc.
A bot poem
The city of Prague is so grand, A wondrous sight to see
Its cobblestone streets and ancient walls are sure to captivate thee
The culture and history so rich, It's hard to comprehend
The monuments, the buildings, the beauty are sure to bring content
The results were interesting. The descriptions where pleasant, but bland. Not unlike something from a national or regional tourism office desperate not to offend anyone and to appeal to the broadest base. As an AI language model, it doesn’t have personal experiences or preferences, but it can give lists of places to visit in response to particular questions. In the example below, where are the top photography spots?
Top photography spots
Prague is an incredibly photogenic city, full of history, culture and striking architectural details. The most iconic photography spots in Prague are Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Prague Castle, the Vltava River, and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Charles Bridge is a great spot to capture the stunning cityscape, and the Vltava River is a perfect spot for capturing the beauty of Prague’s historic buildings and streets. Old Town Square is a great place to capture the lively atmosphere of the city, and the Old Jewish Cemetery provides a unique and interesting setting for some of the most amazing photographs.
The information above it not incorrect, and does offer places with striking detail. But what it doesn’t tell you is that most of those destinations are heaving, they are full of visitors (and Instagrammers) and in fact there are plenty of other places to go where it is quieter, just a beautiful and will give you an entirely different (repeat) experience.
Yes, it’s new and novel, but I quickly realised that whilst the style can change and adapt, the content doesn’t really reflect the query. It can list a lot of things, places to visit or things to do, but it struggles to describe what an experience would be like, or to suggest alternatives. These top level responses are fine if you knew nothing about where you going, but if you want to dig deeper, or be away from the tourist hotspots, it struggles.
F5 find and replace
The ‘F5 find and replace’ which you can use to test how original and authentic your product/service/destination descriptions are. If you can replace your name with another and it still makes sense, it’s failed. And that is what ChatGPT feels like.
Where it would be extremely useful is if I had to write a forgettable essay about tourism in Prague, I would do rather well assisted by the chatbot. But it would not give anything away about the author or offer any useful insights that couldn’t be gleaned from other sources.
Where is this all heading? Have you started using chatbots?
If I had gone with what was recommended, I would have had a very different visit. Especially as I know from bitter experience that flying on Wizz Air from Luton is not something to get excited about. Jostling though the Easter weekend crowds, avoiding the instagrammers, souvenir sellers and the sickly sweet smell of baked trdelnik pastries on Charles Bridge wouldn’t be something I would have gone for either.
I was interested to see if the information it shared with me could distinguish between a first time visitor and me, a repeat, VFR visitor. It is a blunt tool, so could not.
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What the chatbots saying about your business and destination?
Don’t panic, it’s early days for this new, but fast-moving technology. Broadly speaking, the bots aim to do the same thing; remove the drudgery from our (professional) lives and I would recommend you giving it a go. I predict it will rapidly erode Google search and become a valuable tool for visitors. It is time to start the conversation.
If you would like an informal discussion about the results of your Chatbot search, then let’s talk!
Links you will need
For a more human approach to Prague, read my Czech Mate newsletter.
Try ChatGPT for yourself. It’s free for now, but limits the interactions you can have.