Ready or not, here (A)I come! The transformative impact of Gen AI on DMOs & CVBs

City Destinations Alliance (CityDNA) and Group NAO are excited to publish the results of a new survey exploring the transformative impact of generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) on the work of destination professionals. The results reveal an interesting dichotomy: Whilst destination managers agree that Gen AI will have a significant impact on the entire industry, DMOs and CVBs seem neither ready nor prepared to adopt the new technology.

Over the past year, AI tools, including large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, has transcended technological barriers, and become a powerful new ally in our professional lives – even as most of us still grapple with understanding the full extent of its transformative impact. As an industry, we need to leap forward with openness to learn and utilise the potentials of Gen AI, yet also critically tread carefully about the ethical trajectory of how it is influencing our sector.

Curious about the impact and the extent of change that Gen AI will bring for DMOs and CVBs, CityDNA and Group NAO surveyed more than 200 destination professionals in the autumn of 2023 and asked them about their familiarity, adoption, perceptions and future expectations of Gen AI.

Disruptive across the board

Gen AI is already bringing welcomed changes to the day-to-day work experience of destination professionals globally. Most notably, destination professionals point to automated service (chat bots), language support & proofreading, graphic generation, advertising, market research and data-analysis as the tasks that will be impacted the most.

Despite acknowledging the potential of AI in their tasks, only a minority (24%) fear job displacement in the near future. Instead, an overwhelming 87% believe that AI will enhance rather than hinder their work lives, with nearly half expecting increased efficiency for both their organisations and themselves as individuals.

However, amidst the optimism, a concerning statistic emerges – 76% of destination professionals admit to feeling unprepared for a future with AI, and only 26% consider AI a high strategic priority in their organisations. This disconnect between the perceived impact of AI and the lack of readiness underscores the urgency for DMOs and CVBs to strategically integrate AI into their operations.

Mind the gap!

A closer look at Gen AI usage reveals several notable patterns. For instance, across all surveyed professionals, it is clear that managers, irrespective of seniority, express more confidence, familiarity, and positivity towards AI compared to the full sample. In addition, the contour of a gender gap emerges with women respondents displaying less confidence and familiarity with AI than men. The survey highlights that while 45% of women are unfamiliar with Gen AI tools, only 22% of surveyed men share this sentiment.

Zooming out to the entire sample, a concerning 48% admit to rarely or never using Gen AI tools in their work, emphasising a potential divide between early adopters and non-adopters. This usage disparity may signal the emergence of an A-team and a B-team in the workplace — a scenario where the early adopters and frequent AI users are likely to benefit from significant efficiency gains, creating a gap to the slower adopters who risk falling behind.

Positivity prevails, but urgency looms

Despite the prevalent concerns and uncertainties surrounding AI, the majority of respondents maintain a positive outlook on its impact on their work lives. Nevertheless, DMOs and CVBs are caught in a contradictory situation: On the one hand optimistic about AI’s potential yet on the other hand unprepared for its impact. This dichotomy underscores the critical need for a proactive approach to AI, ensuring that all employees feel included and are equipped with the necessary training to harness the benefits of AI.

Flavie de Bueil, COO of City Destinations Alliance, reflects on the survey results, stating, “In the last year, AI has been the most trending topic in the tourism industry. It is evident that AI holds substantial potential for DMOs, yet there has been a notable lack of extensive investigations into the current state of AI usage among DMOs. The key takeaway from our survey and research is a resounding call to action: AI is on the horizon, and DMOs and CVBs must adopt a more strategic approach. City Destinations Alliance is committed to making AI a top priority in 2024, delving into both the possibilities and challenges of adopting and applying this transformative technology.”

The full report is available for CityDNA Members on CityDNA’s Intranet.