Avoid Getting Scammed By Fake Travel Guides Generated By AI With These Tips

In today's world, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is king. AI can do everything from powering self-driving cars to writing essays and stories. AI has also ventured into travel planning. It goes without saying that researching and booking a trip is time-consuming. Now, AI is being implemented by some of the world's biggest travel companies, including Expedia, to make this process easier. If you do a quick Google search, you'll find that anyone can use this technology. For example, there are itineraries created by AI and AI travel assistants, to name a few.

But there is a dark side to this. An article published in The New York Times in 2023 revealed that several useless AI-written travel guides were being sold on Amazon. Travel agent Victoria Fricke from Vic's Vacations spoke exclusively to Explore about this issue and explained, "While AI is becoming a great tool for consumers and agents alike, it's causing quite a bit of information to be promoted that hasn't been vetted."

She went on to say, "With AI, you're getting advice that's been pulled from multiple internet sources...how many of which are experienced travel professionals? Probably not many." Although this is distressing information, Fricke explained that consumers don't have to fall victim to this.

How to discern if AI is being used in your trip planning

Victoria Fricke says there has been a rise in travel agents and companies using AI-generated content to further their business. "While there's nothing wrong with getting help in marketing, there is an element of transparency and honesty that can become very gray with AI-generated material and can lead potential clients to assume certain things about experience and knowledge of destinations."

In other words, your travel advisor could be inexpert about the vacation they're trying to help you plan (yikes!). But how can you make sure this isn't the case? Fricke says to look up your travel agent on social media and follow. Moreover, she recommends doing the same with their website.

"Is their content theirs, or does it seem pre-generated and a bit too curated? Does it show them, or just pretty photos and perfect captions? If it seems like a series of postcards, chances are they're not the ones creating the content. Nothing wrong with that, but does that mean their knowledge about the destinations is, in fact, as strong as it may appear?"

Introverts might not like the last word of advice Fricke has: pick up the phone and call the agent. "If you weren't given a travel advisor's contact information from a trusted source or don't know them, it's not a bad idea to just make sure your goals for your trip can, in fact, be met by them." Simply put, a little homework from consumers can go a long way if they're having doubts.

Should you ditch AI when planning your next vacation?

While it might be easy and even fun to use AI in lieu of travel agents or companies, Victoria Fricke, who previously discussed hacks to try when booking your flight on Explore, believes it's a double-edged sword. She and other experts agree that AI is incredibly fallible and susceptible to providing inferior guidance and shoddy plans. There's also something AI can't offer: human touch.

"I think the most important component with AI vs. a travel advisor is to remember AI is a computer," Fricke emphasized. "An advisor is a person focusing on you as a client." For this reason, Fricke advocates for consumers to use travel agents, even as the technology continues to evolve and become normalized.

"When working with a travel professional, you have a personal connection to someone who truly wants the best for you and the vacation you're working on together. We will personalize recommendations to fit your personality and goals you have for the experience. When AI gets into the mix, creating an itinerary (that hasn't been vetted or researched), that guidance becomes less and less personal, with much room for suggestions that don't match what the client might truly want," Fricke explained.

All in all, AI could be used as a good jump-off point when planning a vacation, but take note that it can't seamlessly do all the work for you.