Trust and AI in Canada – Navigating the Future with Transparency and Education

Embracing AI in Tourism

With June now officially started and half the calendar year now behind us, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the state of AI in Canada with a particular focus on trust and what needs to happen to see AI adoption accelerate in tourism. 

The context of this blog is the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, which was released earlier in 2024 and had two particularly interesting data points: 

   1. Canadians show a significant level of mistrust towards AI.

   2. Canadians indicated a general rise in trust towards corporations. 

This dichotomy poses unique challenges and opportunities, particularly within the tourism industry and should be considered as we move into the second half of the calendar year.

The Mistrust of AI in Canada

The Trust Barometer reveals that trust in AI in Canada is notably lower than the global average. This skepticism is rooted in concerns about safety, understanding, and the societal impact of AI technologies. Only 31% of Canadians trust AI, reflecting a strong resistance compared to other innovations like green energy or gene-based medicine .

One major factor contributing to this mistrust is a perceived lack of transparency and comprehension. Many Canadians feel that the implementation of AI is not well-managed or adequately explained by those in charge. 

This sentiment is exacerbated by the belief that government regulators lack sufficient understanding to oversee AI technologies effectively, further fueling public apprehension .

Reflecting on conversations we have had with hundreds of tourism professionals and government officials over the past several months, we can attest that the statement above is completely true – Canadian government officials are largely nowhere in the conversation of AI adoption and understanding and this is a problem – AI is very disruptive technology and citizens need an educated bureaucracy to help steer the ship. 

Corporations as Trust Leaders

Interestingly, the same report highlights that businesses have become the most trusted institutions in Canada, showing a significant trust gain over the past year. Trust in business rose by 5 points, making it the only institution to achieve a substantial increase . This shift places a considerable responsibility on corporations to lead the way in AI adoption.

This is also consistent with our experience in the tourism industry so far, although like Governments, corporations, especially small and medium sized businesses, have a very long way to go in Canada.

Balancing Caution and Priority in AI Adoption

Given this landscape, it is essential to approach AI adoption with a balanced perspective. While caution is necessary to address legitimate concerns, it is equally crucial to prioritize the integration of AI to remain competitive and innovative. The tourism industry, in particular, stands to benefit immensely from AI, through enhanced customer experiences, personalized services, and optimized operations.

Companies need to develop and openly communicate their responsible AI use principles and policies. This transparency can help bridge the trust gap. Establishing clear guidelines on how AI is used and ensuring these practices are publicly accessible can reassure stakeholders and the general public.

Further, corporate leaders need to embrace AI and lead their companies in its adoption. There is a significant lack of vision amongst tourism leaders when it comes to AI adoption and this is a problem for many companies and their employees. 

At the Tourism AI Network, we have been arguing for several months now that the AI revolution means that it’s time for leader to lead – given the lack of trust towards governments and other public institutions in Canada, it’s business leaders who need to step up.

The reality is that here in Canada, productivity has been dismal and slipping year after year. For Canadian businesses, AI is the golden opportunity to reverse this trend before it’s too late. 

But this won’t happen without leadership and significant investments in time and energy, as well as a willingness to take some risks and to lead with courage. 

The Role of AI Literacy

A significant contributor to AI mistrust is the lack of knowledge and awareness about what AI is and its potential, yet this is also a key to unlocking what AI has to offer. Increasing AI literacy among Canadians, starting with AI literacy within Canadian companies and amongst employees is vital. 

Educational initiatives that explain the basics of AI, its benefits, and its limitations can demystify the technology and reduce unfounded fears. This education should highlight AI’s potential to improve tourism experiences—such as personalized travel recommendations and streamlined services—and, more importantly, its ability to transform workplaces by enhancing efficiency and productivity.

Implications for the Tourism Industry

For the tourism industry in Canada, the findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer underscore the need to navigate AI integration thoughtfully. Companies should focus on:

  1. Transparency: Clearly communicating how AI is used in operations and ensuring customers understand the benefits and safeguards in place.
  2. Education: Investing in AI literacy programs for both employees and customers to build a foundational understanding of AI’s role in tourism.
  3. Responsibility: Developing and adhering to ethical AI guidelines that prioritize customer privacy, data security, and fairness.

By taking these steps, the tourism industry can leverage AI to enhance customer satisfaction and operational efficiency while building trust and confidence among Canadians. Importantly, Canadian companies need to step up and take the lead and Canadian business leaders need to put themselves at the forefront. 

Conclusion

The formation of OpenAI’s Safety and Security Committee is a critical step towards responsible AI development. It underscores the importance of addressing ethical and safety concerns proactively. As OpenAI and other companies navigate these challenges, the lessons learned will be invaluable for all sectors, including tourism.

Tourism AI Network is committed to keeping our readers informed about these developments. We will provide ongoing analysis and insights to help businesses in the tourism industry understand and adapt to the evolving AI landscape. Staying informed and proactive about AI safety and alignment will be essential for maintaining trust and ensuring the successful integration of AI technologies.

Stay tuned to Tourism AI Network for the latest updates and expert insights on AI safety, security, and innovation in the tourism sector.

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