August 17, 2023 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia - At one time, imitation may have been considered the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s not the case for members of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC). Concern is growing over the increased availability of artificially-generated content masquerading as legitimate, original works, citing and providing inaccurate details. Having built their reputation on integrity and trust, as authentic professional storytellers, the Association is troubled by the rise of misrepresentation of travel information as an industry, especially for the travelling public.
TMAC’s CAO, Donna Hatt, says her members are concerned. “There is an increasing number of travel articles and travel guide books being revealed to have been generated using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Filled with inaccurate, perhaps even dangerous, details, they are often published under fictitious names with false reviews. Worse yet, they are being sold through reputable online platforms to consumers.”
TMAC President Paul Knowles notes in reference to an article in The New York Times, “It was disturbing to learn of current practices and instances of travel guide books being purchased on Amazon that are proven to be fictitiously authored, AI-generated, and falling short of consumer expectations based on descriptions.” Knowles further describes the issue of this from a travel media perspective. “As a travel media professional, while I acknowledge this by no means is the first, or only, time technology has been used for dishonourable purposes, it certainly heightens the need for ourselves as writers, along with readers and travellers to be cautious, informed, and aware.”
From their perspective, based on their TMAC standards, Knowles says “we consider this fraudulent, and extremely unprofessional”.
Long before AI-generated content emerged, as part of their commitment to their profession, their clients and the public, TMAC had standards in place to hold its membership accountable. Hatt points to their Code of Conduct, which conveys a firm stand on original authorship, to be upheld and adhered to, without question as a requirement of membership.
In a letter to TMAC members in April 2023, the Association acknowledged the heightened awareness and use of AI to generate content, reminding their members, accredited Canadian travel media professionals and the tourism industry, of TMAC’s proud 30-year-old reputation. The letter mentions the Association’s roots in integrity and respect for authentic, first-person and professional approaches to storytelling, in addition to vetting members through a comprehensive application process that verifies their work. It notes that members must agree upon joining to uphold the Association’s Code of Conduct. Included therein and fundamental to membership in TMAC and relating to professionalism, is item 4 b) which states:
“Assure the integrity of articles written under their byline; materials from other sources incorporated in a story will be credited;
the writer’s own views will be clearly distinguished from news reports.”
TMAC will be collaborating with others in the industry to address concerns, and further develop their own screening and monitoring programs. They are calling on members, consumers, and organizations to hold platforms and distribution channels, such as Amazon, accountable for the content they host. The association believes that being aware of content guidelines and verifying authors' authenticity, along with reaching beyond ‘reviews’, is essential to ensuring the information is trustworthy, and accurate.
Knowles says when it comes down to trusting what you read, “As President and as a travel media professional, I am confident in recommending travellers, editors, and the tourism industry, to reference, engage with, and rely on members of the Travel Media Association of Canada. Like myself, they are credible, accredited and experienced travellers. We write about the destinations and businesses we’ve experienced first-hand; it’ll be evident when you read, watch or listen to our work, it’s unique from our perspective, full of real emotion, and soul. We create, not simply ‘generate’.”
The work of their members is found among the reputable travel magazines, publications and channels in Canada and around the world. Excellence among their membership is annually celebrated and recognized through the Travel Media Association of Canada Awards, the Canadian Tourism Awards, and others internationally. Evident in everything from books to articles, and broadcast to websites, the Association says programs like these will continue to demonstrate and differentiate original writers, from AI-generated content.
As TMAC continues to take strides in enabling writers to have control over how their work is referenced and protected in the digital landscape, they will continue to ensure their members adhere to, and uphold their professional commitment to producing and sharing stories based on their experiences, with honesty, accuracy, and integrity. It’s their promise to the travelling public and those they work with to inspire travel.
Learn more about TMAC, how to become an accredited member, as a travel media professional or as a tourism industry media relations or marketing manager, at travelmedia.ca
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About Travel Media Association of Canada
Rooted in Canada with an international reach, the Travel Media Association of Canada creates a positive space for travel media and travel industry professionals to cultivate relationships that result in relevant collaborative, comprehensive opportunities and successful outcomes to foster and inspire travel.
As the trusted organization of choice for accredited travel media and tourism industry professionals in Canada, founded in 1994, today TMAC represents Canada’s most professional and productive experts in the field of travel. The Association currently has nearly 400 members — Canadian writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers and social media curators, as well as highly respected media relations representatives of the travel industry in Canada, and around the world.
When the tourism industry is seeking to engage travel media, they can trust and be assured that when they choose to work with a member of TMAC, they are working with an accredited professional in the field of Travel Media. Similarly, with confidence, our Travel Media members acknowledge their fellow tourism industry members as colleagues that understand and appreciate their value and the role storytelling plays within marketing and communications plans.
Our accredited membership is well represented across Canada and supported nationally as well as through four regional chapters: British Columbia, Alberta & NWT, Ontario and Atlantic.