To Protect and Promote Tourism: Always Be Training
In 2023 it was expected that Spain would see a 30% increase year-on-year in investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI), but as we approach the end of Q1 this forecast has already been exceeded and could even be doubled by year-end. The reason? Open AI’s ChatGPT. Conversational AI employed by ChatGPT has reached 100 million users in just the first two months of 2023, and it is already the fastest growing app in history.
Investment in technology appears to be unwavering, and it is impacting tourism. According to the UNWTO, the only indicator that remained positive during the pandemic was investment in innovation and technology, with a focus on AI, data science, blockchain systems, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
In January, the Director of Innovation, Education and Investment of the World Tourism Organization, Natalia Bayona, launched an idea at the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain. Bayona stated during her presentation that “to generate money, you must first have ideas, and the academic world has a lot to say in this regard.”
I never tire of saying it – we are facing one of the most amazing developmental stages in what has increasingly become known as the experience industry (the hotel industry, luxury and the many subsectors that are linked to hospitality and tourism). Training has ceased being merely a valuable tool, and has instead grown to be a necessity for those enterprises seeking success.
At Les Roches, protecting and promoting tourism is our priority, and there is only one way to ensure this: more training at the base and in management positions. Continuous training is a necessity within an agile sector like hospitality and tourism, especially because it is so sensitive to trends and depends highly on bringing innovation and technology together.
If we can empower AI applications to focus on people, then we can turn this evolving technology into a catalyst to enable a positive evolution for the tourism industry. An industry that is inherently made by people, for people. But to achieve this we must create hybrid AI profiles that can interpret an ever-changing environment by designing strategies that promote creativity and digital talent without forgetting the role that direct human relations play in the tourism sector.
We therefore cannot advance in the industry if we are not aware of the importance of the education we offer to students in the classroom.
It is vital that educational institutions integrate AI into the daily life of students, involving them in challenges and helping them to develop their entrepreneurial gene. The key is to turn hotel managers into leaders who can find the best solutions. We can achieve this by creating living educational platforms, establishing experiential methods that expose the student to complex situations, fostering dialogue with experts, drawing up exchange programs, and taking advantage of the advances in the construction of smart campuses and innovation laboratories.
An example of this effort is Spark, a platform that we created at Les Roches in 2020 and that today has 70 partners, more than 100 research projects and 50 start-ups that we help to progress in their area of interest. Spark also gives us the possibility to directly immerse our students in new hotel trends, by giving them the opportunity to test innovations, contribute ideas, and understand their real impact on business and ultimately on the experience the customer receives.
After only three years since the launch of Spark, the demand to find efficient solutions increases every day. I am convinced, AI and automation will be decisive for the hospitality and tourism industry in 2023.
Our objective, as an educational institution, is to ensure our students are equipped to make sound business decisions that implement innovation with confidence, based on hands-on working experience. Because the key, once again, is not whether we should or should not apply artificial intelligence, but to ensure AI applications enable us to provide a better service, and with a greater productivity, that is compatible with the existing structures we have in place.
Spark by Les Roches is a vehicle for innovation whose mission is to improve the experience of customers and workers. Its goal is to increase the value of human service. We therefore encourage more automation and AI that helps people to give a hyper-personalized service to other people. In other words, more hospitality.