Skip to main content

Part of a series of webinars about the future of hospitality and tourism, the Hotel Management School Leeuwarden at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) organised a webinar on April 18, 2024, that brought together a distinguished academic panel: Professor Iis Tussyadiah from the University of Surrey, Professor Stanislav Ivanov from the Varna University of Management, and Frederik Jan van der Meulen from NHL Stenden to discuss the transformative impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the hospitality and tourism industry.

AI in Focus
Professor Iis Tussyadiah, a leading academic from the University of Surrey, opened the discussion with an insightful presentation on how Generative AI (GenAI) can potentially help organisations prepare for the future. Tussyadiah described GenAI’s capacity to enhance the flexibility of tourism and hospitality organisations, particularly during times of instability. In her presentation, Tussyadiah highlighted the significance of AI in strategic planning and operations by promoting efficient collaboration between humans and AI and proposed methods for utilising human-AI cooperation to improve operational effectiveness. She equally advocated the utilisation of AI to assist organisations in developing and growing, emphasising the importance of transparent and equitable AI and digital adaptability. Tussyadiah also described the possibility of using GenAI to enhance business continuity, crisis management, and strategic foresight.

Following was Frederik Jan van der Meulen from NHL Stenden, who addressed the key elements of AI linked to sustainability concerns in the industry, focusing on the Three Levels of Sustainability model (People, Planet, and Profit), developed by Professor Elena Cavagnaro and George Curiel. Van der Meulen shed light on how AI may advance the hospitality and tourism industry towards operational efficiency and meeting its environmental, social, and economic obligations. He noted that the high cost of AI integration and management’s perception is behind the slow adoption of AI in the industry, equally stressing the importance of a balanced approach to AI integration.

Professor Stanislav Ivanov from the Varna University of Management, who completed the panel, presented a compelling analysis of the economic impact of GenAI in the industry; in his cost-benefit analysis of AI, he listed productivity gains, cost efficiency, stimulating innovations, and improved competitiveness as benefits. Ivanov also discussed the potential costs, such as the high initial investment, technology dependency, and ethical concerns, and argued that the cost of not adopting AI in the industry may exceed the expenses incurred by its implementation. In his presentation, Ivanov also explored the possibility of automating tasks and the diverse transformation effects of AI, encompassing everything from substantial industry revolution to job displacement.

Interactive Insights
After the presentations, Stefan Hartman as well as Ian Yeoman, Professor of Disruption, Innovation, and New Phenomena at Hotel Management School Leeuwarden, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, facilitated a Q&A session where the speakers took questions from the participants in the webinar. During the Q&A, Professor Iis Tussyadiah talked about AI tools for scenario planning, bringing up a publicly available application developed by UNESCO and the EU that creates future alternative scenarios for different industries. She emphasised the accessibility of AI tools and the potential for smaller businesses to use AI for strategic initiatives. Addressing ethical and privacy concerns, Frederik Jan van der Meulen recommended using AI in the enterprise version to protect user privacy. In addition, he examined the potential adverse effects of AI integration on the environment, such as increased energy consumption in data centres. Professor Stanislav Ivanov explored the economic tipping point for AI adoption, noting that it involves a psychological shift in recognising AI’s comparative advantages over human labour in specific tasks. He also discussed the democratisation of AI, suggesting that widespread usage could improve the quality and competitiveness of AI technologies, leading to greater adoption and a transformation of job roles in the industry.

Call for Action
As AI continues to reshape how the hospitality and tourism industry delivers its services, a call for action for industry professionals and academics is warranted. Industry professionals should aim to integrate AI in a balanced manner that preserves the human touch essential to hospitality and tourism, advocating for ethical standards and upskilling of employees to maintain a balance and oversight of AI applications. On the other hand, academics are encouraged to focus on integrating AI technology with strategic management, emphasising sustainable practices and ethical considerations that will enhance both the theoretical and practical aspects of hospitality and tourism management.

Too see the webinar, click here.