« Back to blog homepage

SPEAKER CON-X 2023: Interview Aroa Fernández, Data & AI Specialist Microsoft

Aroa Fernandez

In this interview, Aroa Fernandez, Data & AI Specialist, Microsoft talks about the ethical challenges facing artificial intelligence and how it will affect the job market in the tourism sector. She also shares her thoughts on the skills and knowledge needed to work in the field of AI and the future of AI applications in tourism. 

- What are the main ethical challenges facing artificial intelligence?

- AI is playing an increasingly important role in our lives, from the professional and personal point of view and in the very dynamics of our societies, which has a great impact on our lives. The main challenge is that regulation advances at the same pace as technology does. Here it is key to establish solid principles that lay the foundations of that regulation. For example, to address these challenges, Microsoft has defined the six pillars of responsible AI: accountability, inclusiveness, reliability and safety, fairness, transparency, and privacy and security.

- How do you think artificial intelligence will affect the job market for companies in the tourism sector in the coming years?

- There are going to be a huge transformation in the current roles, and it will appear new ones we cannot imagine right now, such maybe the prompt engineer. Travel and transportation industries are people businesses, where customers are becoming more and more demanding, and experiences and services are becoming more relevant in the offer to deliver. This is combined in a challenge for skilling the labor force and the technology will play an important role, not to replace but to complement the value added to the services, from back to front services. As a result, the labor force will focus on improving the value of the offer, instead of doing repetitive tasks. According to a survey carried out among employees in the tourism sector, 53% say that the shortage of employees makes their work more difficult, 56% think that stress will increase in the future and 37% say that they do not have the necessary technology to do their job well.

But technology industry do not destroy jobs, It is estimated that some 75 million jobs can be replaced by AI, but at the same time new tasks will be generated that will create 133 million new roles. In fact, in the tourism industry, around 12,500 new jobs related to digitization are estimated.

- What skills or knowledge would you recommend that those who want to work in the field of artificial intelligence develop?

- I believe that mathematics is the basis for acquiring any knowledge in general, but it is even more important in AI. But how AI is and will be omnipresent, it takes special importance having multidisciplinary knowledge and not only scientific knowledge. This point is key because this technology is evolving towards AI democratization to allow any expert on a field (art, cooking, finance,…) to get the most out of AI without having technical or programming knowledge, which will transform experts on a certain field in citizen developers. The spread of no code low code tools are essential to achieve this goal.

- How do you see the future of artificial intelligence applied in the tourism sector? What applications or advances do you expect to see in the coming years?

- The sector is evolving, the destinations are transforming in smart destinations and the tourists want unique and personalized experiences. On this journey is mandatory the use of AI. In the short term, it is needed to understand what the tourists exactly want and what the destinations can offer. And this is not only from the point of view of tourist attractions, since experiences are becoming increasingly important, to the point that many tourists choose their destination based on the experiences. 

At the customer level, the travel journey will be influenced by AI more and more, from inspirational search to conversational assistances through NLP interactions in digital channels. And at the organization level it will be much more influenced by the copilot concept, because the goal is not to replace people, it is to have more efficient and productive people and at the end, happy employees and happy travelers.

In the long term, we will see how smart assistants will evolve to become robots. It is not crazy to think of having robots in restaurants or reception, even in the rooms as assistants. Or even more, as a tourist guides through the cities.