Marco De Gregorio has been following the development of artificial intelligence for years.
When GPT-4 was released in March, De Gregorio said it was clear it would be a “disruptive technology” with potential to impact the business. The realization led to the vacation rental management platform’s decision to create an internal sector focused on AI, with De Gregorio at its head.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
The move to hire an AI executive is trending in the travel industry and beyond – with companies including Lodgify and Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) creating C-suite roles to accommodate AI’s rapid advance.
John Morhous, global chief experience officer of FCTG’s corporate brands, said he believes everyone will need to implement AI oversight at some stage, with larger companies likely needing to do so sooner.
But heightened focus on AI goes further than the creation of new roles. The ramp up of generative AI has contributed to other shifts too – and the changes the industry is seeing are likely only the beginning.
Why more companies are adding AI executives
In a forward-looking report released this month on the adoption of generative AI, accounting and consulting firm Deloitte found 21% of respondents in a survey of more than 2,800 executives across six industries were part of companies that added an AI executive meant to manage associated risk.
Every week there is something new. … You need somebody that is on top and also predicting what’s coming.
Marco De Gregorio – Lodgify
Conor Grennan, dean of students at New York University’s Stern School of Business and head of generative AI at Stern, said adding AI roles at a top level is about fostering buy-in from management down.
“It is NOT a tech role, because GenAI isn’t just about tech,” Grennan wrote on LinkedIn, urging human resource officers and recruiters to “take the lead and drive value.”
But it goes further. Companies are taking a risk if they don’t adapt and apply generative AI, per De Gregorio.
“The risk is not using it, not implementing it … not integrating … and then becoming less competitive,” he said.
Mondee hired Miten Mehta in July as chief of AI solutions and recently acquired PurpleGrids to accelerate AI-related innovations. Orestes Fintiklis, Mondee’s vice chairman and chief corporate strategy and business development officer, said it’s important for a number of reasons to have an AI executive.
“The first one is to keep pace with innovation,” he said, adding it’s also important to help with integration in different departments within a firm, and it’s important for coordination. “Not least is compliance and monitoring the different risks and dangers of the technology.”
As AI rapidly evolves, oversight is needed
It’s no secret AI is progressing rapidly – Deloitte actually referred to the pace as “dizzying.” Given the speed of change, De Gregorio believes oversight is necessary – hence the new position at Lodgify.
“Every week there is something new – some new development – and this can also make the efforts that the company makes to integrate AI into their software … obsolete,” De Gregorio said. “You need somebody that is on top and also predicting what’s coming.”
And FCTG is doing even more. Along with the new “head of AI for corporate” role helmed by Adrian Lopez, formerly global chief technology officer for FCM Digital, the company has launched FCTG’s “AI Center of Excellence.”
“We need to have someone that their day is to be focused on this, making sure that we’re using AI in a responsible way,” Lopez said. And Morhous, who was instrumental to the creation of the AI Center of Excellence, said it’s easier to manage with an executive in charge — especially with the likelihood of government regulations around AI.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a tremendous amount of leeway before you start to see some compliance requirements come in place,” Morhous said. “You’re already starting to see some early legislation happen in different geographies globally, in this area.”
AI will change or eliminate some roles
Just over a year after the launch of ChatGPT, generative AI is shifting how companies look at and organize their corporate structure.
Amid so much change, companies should be looking to educate employees on how to use AI to supplement their performance, Grennan said.
“You need to ensure you have a learning culture where everyone can stop worrying about whether AI will take their job and instead feel empowered to use this to change how they do everything,” he said.
GenAI means that you no longer are hiring for administrative skills. You are hiring critical thinkers who will have GenAI at their fingertips.
Conor Grennan – New York University
Yet as companies view their current needs and the roles of employees and AI, some positions will be lost even as new ones are created.
Mondee, for example, cut 16 jobs toward the end of 2023, mostly marketing positions that had been added earlier in the year. The cuts included the company’s chief marketing officer, whose responsibilities have been shifted to Mehta, who is now chief of AI solutions and CMO.
“AI is there to empower employees and help them become more efficient as well as level the playing field of expertise,” said Mondee’s Fintiklis. “But along the way, some human positions will inevitably be replaced, the ones more amenable to that being repetitive tasks, pattern recognition or data analytics.”
While AI is shaking up things at the C-suite level, Grennan advises companies to rethink hiring at an entry level too.
“GenAI means that you no longer are hiring for administrative skills. You are hiring critical thinkers who will have GenAI at their fingertips,” he said. “Your entry level folks will produce extraordinary work if they can use this, taking pressure off middle management — which takes pressure off senior management.”