According to a global survey of more than 5,700 travelers commissioned by Expedia Group, the average traveler spends more than five hours researching a trip and reviewing 141 pages of content – for Americans, that’s 277 pages.
Enter generative artificial intelligence, technology designed to simplify this process and allow companies to better tailor recommendations to travelers’ specific interests.
What could this look like? The hope is that AI will not only plan routes, but also communicate with hotels, set travel budgets and even function as a personal travel assistant – and, in doing so, fundamentally change the way travelers companies approach travelers.
A typical accommodation search on Airbnb, for example, produces results that don’t take into account previous searches. You may have a decade of booking high-end contemporary homes under your belt, but chances are you’ll still be offered rustic, salt-of-the-earth rentals if they match the filters you’ve set .
But that could soon change.
During an earnings conference call in May, CEO Brian Chesky explained how AI could change Airbnb’s approach. He said: “Instead of asking yourself questions like, ‘Where are you going and when are you going?’ I want us to build a solid profile on you, learn more about you, and ask you two bigger, more fundamental questions: who are you and what do you want? »
While the AI that enables the ever-elusive goal of “personalization at scale” isn’t here yet, it’s the ability to search through massive amounts of data, answer questions asked in natural language and “remembering” past questions to build on a conversation — just like humans do — is what sold the travel industry (and many others).
Travel agencies using AI
In an April survey by market research firm National Research Group, 61% of respondents said they were willing to use conversational AI to plan trips – but only 6% said they were. really.
Additionally, more than half of those surveyed (51%) said they do not trust the technology to protect their personal data, while 33% said they fear it could provide inaccurate results.
Yet while travelers are still debating the safety and benefits of using AI to plan their trip, many large travel companies are already diving headfirst into the technology.
Just look at the names on this list.
- In February, Singapore-based travel agency Trip.com launched TripGen, an in-app chatbot powered by OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.
- In March, Expedia and Kayak were among the first batch of plugins deployed by ChatGPT.
- In April, Expedia announced the beta launch of an AI chatbot from ChatGPT.
- In May, European travel booking company eDreams Odigeo joined Google Cloud’s AI Trusted Testers Program, and Airbnb announced plans to integrate GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest major language model, in its interface.
A Summer Blast of Travel AI
Then summer 2023 saw an explosion of AI travel technology announcements.
- Amazon Web Services has announced a $100 million investment in a program to help businesses use generative AI, with RyanAir and Lonely Planet being two of the first four companies involved.
- Booking.com has deployed an in-app “Trip Planner” AI chatbot to screen US members for its Genius loyalty program.
- Priceline has launched a platform called Trip Intelligence, run by a Google-backed generative AI chatbot named “Penny.”
HomeToGo’s new “AI Mode” allows travelers to find vacation rentals using natural language queries.
- Tripadvisor has launched Trips, an AI-powered, web-based travel itinerary creation tool.
- Trip.com has released an updated chatbot called TripGenie, which responds to text and voice requests, displays images and maps, and provides links for reservations.
- Vacation home rental company HomeToGo beta has launched an in-app AI search feature called “AI Mode” for users in the US and UK.
Now, more and more travel agencies have ChatGPT plugins, including GetYourGuide, Klook, Turo and Etihad Airways. And a host of AI-powered trip planners – from Roam Around (for general travel), AdventureGenie (for RVs), Curiosio (for road trips) – have added more options to the growing travel market. AI travel planning.
Beyond travel planning
Trip planning is currently the most visible use of AI in the travel industry, but companies are already considering new features.
Amy Wei, senior product director of Trip.com, said the company is considering developing a virtual travel guide for its latest AI product, TripGenie.
“It can help provide information, such as an introduction to historic buildings and objects in a museum,” she told CNBC. “The vision is to create a digital travel companion that can understand and converse with the traveler and provide assistance at every stage of the journey.”
Travel information site Skift points out that AI can be used to predict flight delays and help travel agencies respond to negative online reviews.
The company estimates that chatbots could bring $1.9 billion in value to the travel industry – allowing businesses to operate with fewer customer service staff, freeing up time for humans to focus on tasks. complex problems. Chatbots don’t need to be hired or trained, can speak multiple languages, and “have no learning curve,” as Skift points out in a report titled “The Impact of Generative AI on Travel “.
Overall, Skift’s report predicts that generative AI could represent a $28.5 billion opportunity for the travel industry, an estimate that if the tools are used to “their full potential… it will seem conservative in hindsight.”
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