SA learners win big with AI education programme for tourism project

Learners from Manenberg Secondary School in Cape Town, South Africa have won the Leaders of Tomorrow programme, an AI education programme aimed at informing young people about the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work and society.

AI project: Author and keynote speaker Katie King. Photo: SuppliedAuthor and keynote speaker Katie King. Photo: Supplied

The programme’s first international winners were named at the World Travel Market (WTM) Africa.

Organised by author and keynote speaker Katie King, the programme’s third winners and the first outside of the United Kingdom were announced after the learners applied AI to a triple bottom line approach for enhancing sustainability in tourism. The competition entries were judged by King and Lord Tim Clement-Jones, co-chairperson of the country’s all-party parliamentary group on artificial intelligence.

The students participated in learning sessions delivered by various industry experts designed to educate them on AI and how it will shape their futures.

King served as both the programme facilitator and the first guest speaker, sharing insights from her recently published book, AI strategy for sales and marketing, as well as job outlooks and skills data that will impact the students’ future careers.

The programme’s focus on the travel industry saw marketing executive Simone Seekoei of Amadeus deliver a session that highlighted the trends and outlooks in this space. The students also benefited from a session from Proitroom’s senior business development manager, Michael Puffett, who explained the importance of the travel tech business as a sector to build an exciting career.

The winning team’s project examined how AI could be applied to enhance three different forms of sustainability in the tourism industry: economical, ecological, and cultural/social. Their project examined each of these areas in depth and considered the impacts that technology could have to improve profits, the planet, and the lives of people.

Regarding the winning project, Clement-Jones commented: “A well-rounded AI approach is one that considers impacts not just on profits, but also on humans and the environment. These young people kept that idea and managed to come up with applications that were both impressive and feasible.”

For King, the completion of this cohort marks the third successful iteration of a programme she dreamed up during the pandemic as a means of supporting the next generation and serving a greater purpose with her work. She hopes to bring the Leaders of Tomorrow programme to more schools and countries in the future.

The runners up presented an idea for AI-powered humanoid bots who could assist tourists with various tasks, including taking photos and recording videos. The programme’s goal is to prepare young people for the future of work and ensure they understand how AI will shape their lives.

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