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Pádraic Gilligan, Chief Marketing Officer, SITE & Managing Partner, SoolNua

AI is not new on the Wild Atlantic Way

AI is not at all new in Ireland, at least not along the Wild Atlantic Way or in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Since the 1940s, it has been a thing in rural Ireland where I have deep roots. Purist farmers may still opt for the real thing but, for the majority, AI is now fully integrated into their day to day life there and accusations about it putting anyone out of a job are all bull!

It’s a horse of a different colour, however, when it comes to the business events industry. In the Incentive Travel Index (ITI), SITE and the IRF’s joint annual study of the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel, AI is given short shrift with only a net 7% of respondents agreeing that “ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence will significantly disrupt incentive travel marketing and communications”.

In actual fact, the horse has bolted and AI is already busily disrupting incentive travel marketing and communications. I’m in that 7% who firmly believe that AI will continue to disrupt and, I say, bring it on! Here are just three ways that AI is already disrupting incentive travel marketing and communications and, in the process, making the job of the incentive travel professional much easier!

Content Creation & Optimization

First up, content creation and optimisation. AI-powered tools like ChatGPT and Spark (“Transforming how event teams work with generative AI”) can generate and optimize content for marketing materials, including website copy, social media posts, email campaigns, and promotional videos. It’ll fill that blank page for you in seconds and while the content will require editing, finessing and customisation, all of that is far easier to accomplish than creating the content yourself from first principles when you’re just not in the flow!

Customer Service Automation

Next, Customer Service Automation. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide instant “triaging”, answering straightforward queries in real time and providing updates about the qualification process to potential qualifiers. This brings immense value in terms of time saved for both the qualifier and the organiser. The important thing here is to triage effectively, ensuring that the process leads quickly to human intervention when the query is not straightforward.

Performance Tracking & Optimization

Next, Performance Tracking and Optimization. This applies in two ways. First, in relation to the qualifier, AI can provide a real time, highly personalised running tally against programme goals, ensuring the qualifier knows where they stand at any stage of the incentive contest. It works the way a FitBit works for a runner, providing clear data points at crucial times so you always know where you are and what you need to do to get over the line in time! For organisers, AI can track key performance metrics, such as conversion rates, engagement levels for marketing campaigns, helping to optimize strategies, allow for iterations and allocate resources more effectively.

Is this a joke?

And back now to the Irish farmers. A farmer in West Clare had to see his bank manager and left his wife in charge when the AI man was visiting. “Just make sure he has a bucket of boiling water”, he told his wife, “he’ll sort himself out”. The woman was ready with the bucket when the AI man arrived. “I have it all ready for you”, she told him proudly. “Here’s the bucket of hot water and there’s a nail on the back of the stable door to hang your trousers on”.

In case you’re only figuring it out now, AI in rural Ireland is “artificial insemination”. Arguably it was as radical and transformative in rural Ireland in the 1940s as the other AI is across human society in the 2020s. It just took some understanding and getting used to. AI is definitely not a bad for business. It’s something we need to exercise our curiosity on and the best way to do that is by using it. As is regularly said, AI won’t put us out of a job, the person using AI will. We just need to resolve to be that person!

This article originally appeared in CMW (Conference & Meeting World, Issue 129, March / April 2024)


2 thoughts on “Why incentive travel professionals should follow Irish farmers by adapting to, and adopting AI

  1. Eileen Reed says:

    Very provocative, Padraic. Love the farm bit. Here’s to Ballycumber! Eileen Reed , Houston, Texas

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks Eileen – hope all is well over there!

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