Expedia starts testing AI-powered features for search and travel planning

In an effort to get ahead of its competitors in the travel ecosystem, online travel agency Expedia said it will soon launch an AI assistant to bolster features like search, itinerary building, trip planning and real-time updates like flight delays.

The company, which runs a variety of online travel aggregators and metasearch engines, is debuting a bot named Romie that’s been trained on a mix of in-house and OpenAI models. The bot can help users search for hotels, build itineraries for their trips and make small changes. The bot can be included in iMessage chat groups, or you can talk to it one-on-one on WhatsApp. For these apps, the bot sits behind a phone number and leverages ChatGPT.

You can chat with Romie by mentioning the bot on iMessage and ask it to summarize an itinerary it has built or suggest restaurants. The bot can take you directly to the Expedia app with links to an itinerary or suggestions.

Expedia is also introducing smart search on its site, which lets users describe what kind of hotels they want instead of selecting filters. For instance, you can type “Rooftop and view of the sea” while searching for hotels, and the search will return the best hotels with those features.

The company is testing all these features with a limited audience through its EG Labs program, which allows U.S.-based users to try the new features.

Expedia said it pulls in data from various sources like AccuWeather and Yelp Network to tailor the search and the bot. The company said this allows it to update travelers on flight changes or changes in weather. It can also suggest, for example, hotels near the airport in case of a canceled flight.

Expedia started experimenting with AI last year when it introduced an in-app travel planning experience that used ChatGPT. It seems the company is now working on integrating AI into its core feature set.

Expedia’s rivals have also made some moves. Booking.com introduced AI-powered trip planning features in June 2023, and Airbnb has tested AI-aided review summaries and is aiming to build what it calls the “ultimate concierge.” In March, Kayak launched a new conversational tool and a screenshot-based price comparison feature.

Startups are also banking on AI-powered features to take on incumbent travel platforms. Costanoa Ventures-backed Mindtrip is building an AI travel agent for users, while Vancouver-based Pilot is using AI to make travel planning more social.

Layla, which counts firstminute capital, M13, Booking.com’s co-founder Andy Phillipps, Skyscanner co-founder Barry Smith and Paris Hilton as investors, is building an end-to-end travel recommendation app with the help of existing data and creator content. The company also acquired FLYR.com and Jason Calacanis-backed AI itinerary builder Roam Around earlier this year.

Rathi Murthy, CTO of Expedia Group, told TechCrunch over a call that despite a ton of competition in the space, the company is confident that its solution will stand out because it plays multiple roles.

“While everybody talks about AI assistants, for me, having an AI assistant that is a travel agent, personal assistant, concierge, and always there at the ready for you to make changes, remedy your trip, and remove fit across the entire process proactively is a game changer. […] We have been able to take the Expedia experience outside of our ecosystem and into channels like iMessage or WhatsApp and take advantage of that, which I think is unique,” he said.

Murthy said that the only reason Romie can’t be used in WhatsApp group chats yet is they have not yet figured out the dynamics of how the bot would work in that setting rather than any technical challenges.

Expedia also said it would launch a cross-date price comparison tool, an AI-powered help page, and guest review summaries as part of its spring update.


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