IT Tour unveiles opportunities, challenges and best practices of AI in Slovenian tourism
IT Tour unveiles opportunities, challenges and best practices of AI in Slovenian tourism
IT Tour, organised by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) in partnership with the Strategic Development Innovation Partnership for Tourism (SRIPT) during the Days of Slovenian Tourism, sparked a dynamic knowledge exchange on the practical aspects of artificial intelligence today.
At the IT Tour, where more than 170 participants explored the opportunities and challenges of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into tourism, the speakers agreed that AI will not replace industry employees; instead, those proficient in leveraging AI will outshine their counterparts. Legal, ethical, and privacy concerns were raised, underscoring the necessity for the entire team to be ready to adopt new technologies.
In her introduction, MSc. Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), highlighted that the IT Tour, now in its second year, connects tourism stakeholders. It aims to foster the development of new added value through the utilization of digital technologies. She stated: "It stands as an interactive and platform-centric event, showcasing practical examples, tackling dilemmas, uncovering advantages and offering solutions to specific questions connected to the utilization of digital solutions. In this edition, we place a particular emphasis on the practical facets of aI—a domain witnessing rapid global growth, even though its integration in Slovenian tourism still faces some constraints. Nonetheless, we're excited to share best practices from our country with tourism stakeholders. When it comes to AI, we must delve into the considerations of when, why, and how to employ it—and, equally crucial—when, why, and how not to. The aim of today's event is to strengthen our knowledge and understanding, providing us with the tools to shape future business strategies. AI is a tool that demands our personal engagement."
Dubravka Kalin, Director General of the Directorate for Tourism at the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, emphasized the importance of embracing digitalization, robotization, and automation: "We must leverage the opportunities presented by these technologies, particularly where they can enhance and shorten work processes. Even in the face of a shortage of manpower, technological solutions can be a valuable asset. However, we should always keep in mind that, at its core, tourism revolves around people. Let's integrate technology where it adds value, in processes where it makes sense, enabling our colleagues to contribute most effectively. Genuine human contact remains paramount in tourism, and our guests will primarily remember the emotional connection they experienced with us."
MSc. Monika Lapanja, Director of the Center for Business Excellence at the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana and coordinator of SRIPT, emphasized the urgent need to deepen knowledge about artificial intelligence: "In Slovenia, we boast considerable expertise, with programmers developing algorithms that stand on a global scale. It's crucial that companies comprehend how artificial intelligence can contribute to their success. Last year, SRIPT developed the educational program 'Artificial Intelligence in Business,' focusing on tourism as well. We particularly emphasize the field of management. Regardless of technological advancements, a smile is still considered one of the most effective means of communication globally."
AI tools as our companion
Aleš Pevc, Head of the Technology Office at the Ljubljana Technology Park emphasized that in recent months, strategies for marketing activities, content creation, product development, and customer care have undergone a significant transformation. The digitalization of tourism and the integration of AI can be pivotal in enhancing market competitiveness. "Cutting-edge tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, Stabledifusion, and various others have brought about a revolution across different domains. They have enabled us to streamline our time, enhance work processes, expedite education and market research, and automate content creation and marketing. These tools might soon become your steadfast digital companions, automating communication with guests, addressing common queries, providing information, and predicting trends and consumer behavior in the tourism industry."
When considering the integration of artificial intelligence, understanding when and how to start with its implementation and being aware of potential challenges were focal points of discussion among the participants, guided by radio host and podcast creator Anže Tomić.
Jaka Repanšek, President of the Advertising Tribunal, firmly believes that successful implementation of AI begins today but needs to meet ethical guidelines: "While recognizing opportunities, you must be know about and also educate individuals in terms of legislation designed to mitigate the adverse impacts of artificial intelligence."
Iztok Franko, Director of Diggintravel, shared his perspective, stating that Chat GPT can be a valuable companion. However, a comprehensive understanding of specific topics is crucial to competently evaluate the quality of the content it generates.
Dunja Mladenić, Head of the Department for AI at the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), urged a thoughtful integration of artificial intelligence into business models, ensuring humans remain central. Technology, she highlighted, can relieve employees of routine tasks like report writing and analysis preparation, providing more space for creative endeavors.
Marko Grobelnik, a Researcher in Artificial Intelligence at IJS, issued a warning in a video address, emphasizing, among other points, that the current landscape of AI development is predominantly controlled by large global corporations, surpassing the resources available to the scientific community. While it holds the potential to enhance the efficiency of business processes, offering improved planning and a deeper understanding of the entire tourism ecosystem, he also anticipates a wave of forthcoming innovations.
Drawing inspiration from practical examples
The IT Tour event not only imparts knowledge but also serves as a source of inspiration for stakeholders in the tourism sector through concrete examples. Participants gained insights into how the Jezeršek Catering employs artificial intelligence, utilizing smart scales to minimize food waste and predict dish sales at events through data analysis. Martin Jezeršek presented this innovative approach.
Klemen Furlan from the Giro car-sharing company detailed the development of personalized digital tourist guides using the Hopguides platform, incorporating artificial intelligence for content creation, translation, vector base enhancement, and communication via a chat assistant.
WNS leverages artificial intelligence through the Vandri.io platform to bring historical figures to life in the form of 3D avatars. These avatars facilitate interactive experiences at events and information centers, with potential implementation on websites, currently in text-to-text format, as explained by Žiga Jaka Gobec.
The Mountaineering Association of Slovenia uses AI within the maPZS online application, offering real-time information on over 10,000 kilometers of Slovenian mountain trails. Barbara Kelher highlighted the new reporting feature added in 2023, enabling direct field reporting of mountain trail damage. This enhancement ensures more effective problem resolution, leading to timely rehabilitation or closure of mountain trails for security reasons in the central data system.
Addressing dilemmas on UI Islands
This year's IT Tour introduced a new feature— the so-called UI islands—a platform for in-depth conversations and workshops with experts specializing in AI, advanced analytics, and marketing, along with personalized offer strategies. Participants gained specific information, valuable advice for their unique challenges, and established connections to navigate the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.
Distinguished figures, including Aleš Pevc from the Ljubljana Technology Park, Marko Maučec, co-founder of Escapebox Agency, Iztok Franko, Director of Diggintravel, Dunja Mladenić, Head of the Artificial Intelligence Department at IJS, Patricija Jukić from Pristop Group and Andraž Štalec, Director, and Co-founder of Red Orbit, shared their valuable knowledge.
During the event, participants had the opportunity to engage with different UI tools in the lobby of the hall with professional support:
1. GPT Tools: Experimenting with these tools aimed at tourism, participants explored ideation for new concepts and offerings, assistance with digital marketing and the utilization of various plug-ins.
2. Midjourney/Dalle 3: Engaging in activities such as designing images or graphics and enhancing individual images using Midjourney/Dalle 3.
3. 3D AI Avatar - Herman Potočnik Nordung: Participants experienced a unique conversation with the guide of the future, delving into interactive exhibitions and museums through the persona of Herman Potočnik Nordung.
4. 3D AI Avatar - Ivan Cankar: Exploring the application of AI in storytelling and designing cultural tourism experiences through the 3D AI Avatar - Ivan Cankar.
At the European Digital Innovation Junction DIGI-SI presentation table, attendees gained insights into advanced services transforming the creation and promotion of offers. The exhibition space featured a virtual receptionist, offering a glimpse into the future of hospitality and customer interactions.
In the cover photo (from left): Aleksanda Jerebic Topolovec, STB; Dubravka Kalin, General Director of the Directorate for Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism; Anže Tomić, Radio Host, and Podcast Creator; Dunja Mladenić, Head of the Department of Artificial Intelligence at IJS; MSc. Maja Pak, Director of the STB; Iztok Franko, Director of Diggintravel; MSc. Monika Lapanja, Director of the Center for Business Excellence EF UL and Coordinator of SRIPT; Jaka Repanšek, President of the Advertising Tribunal.
Photo: Jošt Gantar.