Be Smart With Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence is your new best friend, and it has the potential to be your new worst enemy. AI can automate tasks, analyze vast data sets, simulate human cognition, optimize processes, and assist in decision-making. It can automate customer support through chatbots, and learn as it goes. It can scrutinize visitor data to create personalized marketing campaigns and targeted offers, as well as source various data points to forecast visitor numbers. The list of AI’s potential uses goes on and on.

But AI isn’t perfect. Used correctly, it can be a valuable tool that saves time and money. Trusting it to be correct all the time is risky, though, and might land you in hot water if you don’t check its work. Potentially more troubling, hackers can use this powerful tool for their own nefarious reasons, so it’s essential to know how to protect against them.

At this early stage, the benefits appear to outweigh the risks. Some pioneers in the aerial adventure industry are already using AI to help with various business functions, such as marketing, customer service, writing, data analysis, and more. It makes sense to explore how it can benefit your operation.

Before we delve into that, though, let’s start with some background on this burgeoning technology.


So, what exactly is AI? Well, let’s ask AI.

Using ChatGPT—an AI-led service from artificial intelligence research lab OpenAI—I typed the question, “What is AI?”

In a second it returned the answer.

“AI refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence and encompasses a wide range of technologies and techniques that enable machines to learn from data, reason, and make decisions or predictions. These systems are designed to mimic human cognitive abilities such as speech recognition, problem-solving, pattern recognition, and decision-making.”

That sounds both interesting and frightening.

The technology itself has been in development—and in use—for many years, with some of the world’s largest tech companies investing in creating AI-led tools and services. Where once there was “an app for that,” there will soon be an AI tool for nearly any task. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, and Salesforce have similar language models to ChatGPT.

While these companies and the minds behind them see great potential in artificial intelligence, the leading developers of the technology also see great danger—and have expressed their concerns publicly.

For example, in March, more than 1,000 signatories—including OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak—signed an open letter asking all AI labs to pause training of newer, powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.” Then, in May, more than 350 scientists, tech industry executives, and public figures—including the leaders from top AI firms OpenAI, Google DeepMind, Microsoft, and Anthropic—signed a one-sentence statement, released by the Center for AI Safety, with a dire warning:

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Thankfully, many of the AI tools and services that are useful to aerial adventure businesses aren’t that threatening.


With all that it can do, what AI can’t do is get on the phone with aerial adventure industry leaders and identify what operators should and should not be thinking about as they head into the new world of artificial intelligence.

For that advice, API spoke with Michael Smith, president of consultancy firm AdventureSmith based in Rochester Hills, Mich.; Lori Stover, coordinator of the Outdoor Adventures Wellness and Recreation program at North Carolina State University; and Kurt Damron, CEO of Highlands Aerial Park in Scaly Mountain, N.C. All three have been exploring the benefits and pitfalls of AI for adventure parks and other aerial adventure operations.

Stover says that while AI has gained significant notice in the past year, many businesses have already been using tools with various AI features without necessarily recognizing them as such.

For instance, email providers such as Gmail use AI algorithms to filter out spam and prioritize important email, and banks and financial institutions use AI algorithms to detect unusual transactions. AI also informs virtual voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and streaming services like Netflix use AI to make recommendations based on users’ past preferences and behaviors.

Smith says he began using AI features nearly five years ago for marketing intelligence. For example, sales reports can be downloaded from a point-of-sale or e-commerce engine, and then plugged into an AI tool that produces a three-dimensional map with sales data categorized by zip code and by month, which Smith used to inform where to run ad campaigns.

So, AI tools aren’t exactly new. “I think what’s changing with that is AI is becoming more accessible to more people,” Smith says.


There are boundless ways to integrate AI. Let’s examine a few of them.

Idea and document creation. “I’ve used ChatGPT to come up with icebreakers and team-building exercises, draft and create employee policies, procedures, and training documents, write emails and social media posts, and bring conceptualized ideas to fruition without spending hours and hours of work manually writing, proofreading, and editing,” says Damron, who is presenting a session titled “Overpower Your Productivity with ChatGPT” at the ACCT annual conference in February.

As an example, Damron says he and his management team decided to implement an employee recognition program that awards staff for hitting certain benchmarks and completing assignments that are required to advance to the next pay tier.

“I used ChatGPT to come up with creative names and descriptions for each achievement and pay tier, in keeping with an aerial adventure theme,” he says. “My team and I were beyond thrilled with the end result, and it was a huge morale boost. Achieving that kind of result with brainstorming sessions and meetings would have taken weeks.” Using ChatGPT, it took minutes.

“Asking ChatGPT to help you work is like having all of the most brilliant minds give you their most valuable and eloquently composed ideas in seconds,” continues Damron. “The key to receiving exceptional responses lies in your ability to give clear and very thorough prompts, and in your ability to ask for refinements based on further refining your criteria.”

Stover has found creative uses, too. “I decided to organize a scavenger hunt, so I provided the locations and input the information into ChatGPT, and it composed all the clues for me,” Stover explains. “Crafting compelling clues could have been quite time-consuming, but with AI, I managed to plan the entire scavenger hunt in less than an hour.”

Basic projects and tasks. Stover recommends starting with basic projects and tasks. “Integrating AI need not entail a complete overhaul of existing systems—it can be as straightforward as utilizing it to write social media posts or assist with ongoing staff training,” she says.

Stover herself has applied AI in staff training to ensure active engagement and to answer common questions.

Smith has found advantages in applying AI to help with documentation. “Most operators are really good at managing the day-to-day operations, but they may not be as good at documenting what they’re doing. AI can be helpful in writing policies and procedures,” Smith says.

Go to the online version of this article on to see an example of a thorough AI query for a comprehensive equipment maintenance plan.

Managing inventory. On the operations side, AI tools can track and help manage merchandise and safety equipment inventory. Other tools can assist with staffing by analyzing historical attendance data and calculating projected visitor numbers to generate staff schedules.

Research analysis. Smith highlights that AI is great at processing data from research and testing, and applying it to improve existing features and attractions, and design and develop new courses. “There are new [land]survey tools using AI that can help with layout and design. We saw some of that at last year’s ACCT conference,” he says.

Design project previews. “Some vendors are using virtual reality as an experience to show and communicate a project they are creating for a customer, so the customer can have a better view of exactly what they’re getting,” Smith notes.

Marketing help. There are countless applications on the marketing side. AI-led chatbots enable website visitors to ask questions and get immediate answers, recommendations, or links to pages on the website related to the visitor’s query. Other AI-led chat technology, such as conversational AI, “learns” with every guest interaction, constantly adding questions and answers to its knowledge base.

AI can take away the tedious part of so many tasks, including answering the phone several dozen times on high volume days, and it does it without complaining, a coffee break, or succumbing to back pain and filing a workers’ comp claim.


Maintaining a secure network and protecting data is a primary concern for any business. As Smith explains, AI can be a powerful tool for hackers.

Data breaches. “Our biggest risk to security is in our reservation system, because we are collecting a lot of personal data, including payment information, so my recommendation is to use a reliable web reservation company and ask them really tough questions about how the data is stored and protected, and just be aware of how you’re maintaining your data internally,” Smith advises.

While many small businesses found cost savings and other conveniences by building their own e-commerce engines in-house, Smith cautions that with the advent of AI, “there are just too many possible security leaks,” and recommends using a reputable product such as Shopify that is constantly updating its security to keep sensitive data safe.

Privacy concerns. Stover points out that AI-powered cameras have the capacity to detect unusual behavior and potential safety hazards, thereby elevating on-site security. However, depending on how it’s applied and the technology being used, this can raise privacy concerns. Consider facial recognition technology, for example. It has advanced rapidly in the past decade, but some of the companies using it have faced legal challenges based on privacy issues and even racial biases.

Plagiarism. Also, because AI tools like ChatGPT rely on internet-sourced data, Stover adds that it’s important to verify that the information it pulls is accurate and that it’s not being plagiarized.

“It is paramount when utilizing AI-generated content [for marketing or otherwise public-facing]to ensure that the information derived from AI sources is appropriately cited and verified for accuracy,” says Stover.

“You can never take responses just at face value, because the mystery of AI—and AI engineers will tell you this—is that they don’t know specifically how it formulated the response, or where it got the information,” says veteran marketer Dave Tragethon of Tragethon Consulting. “You always need to check it from a marketing standpoint. It [AI] could have stolen the copy from a competitor right next door. You don’t know where that content came from.”

The Human Element

Much like search engine optimization, adventure operators can optimize how AI pulls data from their website by structuring data. Structured data refers to organized and formatted information that is presented in a consistent and predictable manner, allowing for easy analysis, retrieval, and interpretation. AI needs to have enough data that’s structured, labeled, and modeled for it to be able to intelligently provide the guest with correct, relevant information in response to their query.

In short: Right now, how well your company integrates AI largely depends on how well human intelligence is applied in the process.

Stover says the caution with AI is to not leave your guests feeling like your adventure park lacks the human touch.

“Always remember, AI serves as a tool to enhance established processes and experiences. Striking a balance between automation and the personal touch that distinguishes your adventure park from others is pivotal,” Stover says.

All our experts agree that the key to incorporating AI into your operation is to start conversations with your existing vendors, and to include and train your staff in the process.

“Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, or more appropriately, your fingers,” says Damron. “The easiest way to get started is to sign up for ChatGPT and experiment, attend a webinar or do some research on how to best prompt ChatGPT so that you receive the answers in the exact tone and style you are looking for.”

Start as soon as you can. As the already popular saying goes, AI won’t replace you; but an inspired, imaginative, intrepid person using AI just might. 


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