The Rise of AI and LLMs in Travel and Hospitality: A New Era of Discovery and Booking 

Jul 1, 2024 | Blog

Blog by Nick Cocks and Vileh Kumar Rai

Artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs) are revolutionizing the travel and hospitality industry, transforming how we discover, plan, and book our trips. From personalized recommendations to streamlined booking processes, AI-powered tools are enhancing the customer experience and empowering travellers to make informed decisions. In this blog, we will delve into the exciting developments in this space, exploring the key players, their innovative features, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. 

Key Players in the AI-Powered Travel Landscape 

Several major players in the travel and hospitality industry have embraced AI and LLMs to enhance their offerings. These include both generalist tech giants and travel-specific companies. 

Google:       

Introduction: Google, at its I/O Conference 2024, announced that it is set to offer its AI tool Gemini for travel planning needs, utilizing publicly available information. Google plans to use its own resources like data from Google Maps and information from Gmail to offer personalized travel plans.  

Google is gearing up to add Gemini to the Gmail App on Android and stated that, starting next month, Workspace and Google One AI Premium subscribers will have access to Gemini for email summarization within the Gmail app. The AI model will blend personal information, like flights, and hotel bookings with publicly available details to build multiday itineraries in no time. The plan to make the process instantaneous and dynamic and built itineraries can be tweaked with prompts on the Gemini platform. 

Gemini AI Model Features: 

  • Integrates personal information (Gmail, Google Maps) with public data. 
  • Generates personalized multi-day itineraries. 
  • Offers real-time recommendations. 
  • Facilitates seamless booking. 
  • Allows for itinerary adjustments through prompts. 
  • Filters choices based on dietary restrictions or preferences. 
  • Provides a comprehensive offering from booking flights, deciding accommodation, finalizing experiences, and estimating the final cost of the trip. 
  • Allows tweaking the itinerary with simple prompts to customize as per the traveller’s preference. 

Use Case: A family going to Miami for Labor Day weekend uses Gemini to create a personalized itinerary that includes art activities for their son and fresh seafood restaurants for their husband, based on their flight and hotel details from Gmail. Gemini also suggests adjustments based on preferences like “Reschedule the starting time from 9 am to 11 am” or “Prefer dining options near my hotel”. 

Expedia Group: 

Introduction: Expedia Group unveiled Romie (“Roam the World with You”), an AI assistant designed to work alongside 40+ new features scheduled for the 2024 Spring Release. Romie will be marketed as a travel agent, concierge, and personal assistant all in one and that will be a progressively intelligent assistant. 

Romie AI Assistant Features: 

  • Group chat trip planning for itinerary building with email integration. 
  • Dynamic service updates for disruptions (e.g., weather changes). 
  • Progressively learns traveller preferences to curate accommodation offerings, cuisine preferences and suggest niche destinations. 
  • Summarizes group chats and brings insights into the Expedia shopping experience. 
  • Allows personalization of search with filters like hotels with rooftop views and early check-in. 

Use Case: A group of friends planning a vacation uses Romie in their group chat to discuss preferences, get recommendations, and book their trip together. Romie can also monitor for disruptions like flight cancellations and suggest alternatives. 

Ixigo: 

Introduction: Ixigo is an Indian-based OTA that recently launched its AI-based itinerary planner, “Plan by Ixigo”.  The tool incorporates ChatGPT and can generate a comprehensive travel itinerary providing transport, accommodation, experiences and dining options. 

Plan by Ixigo Features: 

  • Leverages ChatGPT for itinerary planning, accommodation options, real-time destination information. 
  • Automatic mapping of itineraries. 
  • Weather and air quality index updates. 
  • Facilitates the process of booking by redirecting to their website to book tickets and flights. 

Use Case: A solo traveller planning a backpacking trip across Europe uses Plan by Ixigo to create a detailed itinerary with transportation options, accommodation suggestions, and real-time weather updates. The tool automatically maps the itinerary and provides alerts about air quality at each destination. 

Kayak: 

Introduction: Kayak has found multiple ways to use generative AI and has launched multiple tools like Price Check and Ask Kayak to book itineraries and find the cheapest flight options. The products are currently available in a few geographies, and Kayak plans to do a global rollout soon. 

Price Check & Ask Kayak Features: 

  • Price Check uses computer vision to analyse flight booking screenshots and find better deals. 
  • Ask Kayak leverages ChatGPT to offer AI-guided trip planning with natural language prompts. 

Use Case: A budget-conscious traveller uses Price Check to upload a screenshot of a flight booking and find a cheaper option. Kayak can be utilised to received recommendations for budget-friendly accommodations and activities in their destination 

Booking.com: 

Announcement: Booking.com announced that it is beta testing its itinerary-based planner and plans to soon roll out the products for customers all around the world. 

AI Trip Planner (Beta) Features: 

  • Personalized recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and activities based on user preferences. 
  • Leverages machine learning to refine suggestions over time. 

Use Case: A couple planning a romantic getaway uses Booking.com’s AI trip planner to discover unique hotels, romantic restaurants, and couples’ activities based on their preferences. The tool learns from their choices and suggests even more personalized options for future trips. 

Layla: 

Introduction: Layla is one of the most prominent emerging startups in the trip-planning space, backed by Booking.com co-founder Andy Phillipps and Skyscanner co-founder Barry Smith. 

Ask Layla Features: 

  • Utilizes quick prompts that help in deciding destinations and making quick changes to travel plans. 
  • Has partnered with prominent platforms like Booking.com and Viator to integrate bookings. 
  • AI-powered curation of bespoke travel experiences, including exclusive access to events, private tours, and luxury accommodations, caters to travellers seeking unique and personalized experiences. 

Use Case: A luxury traveler seeking a unique experience uses Layla to create a tailor-made itinerary with exclusive access to events, private tours, and luxury accommodations. Layla’s AI understands their preferences for luxury and exclusivity and tailors the entire trip accordingly. 

Skyscanner: 

Introduction: Skyscanner is the latest OTA to announce its entry into AI-based trip planning with its tool “Savvy,” which is powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology, to offer travellers an easier way to plan their trips. It is currently app-exclusive and available to users in the USA. 

Savvy Features: 

  • Leverages AI to efficiently generate trip itineraries. 
  • Integration with the platform will allow seamless booking for flights and hotels. 

Use Case: A family of four planning a trip to Disney World can use Savvy to generate a detailed itinerary that includes flights, hotel accommodations, theme park tickets, and restaurant reservations, all within their budget and preferences. 

Capabilities and Problem-Solving with AI 

AI and LLMs are addressing various pain points in the travel planning and booking process, offering innovative solutions to enhance the customer experience: 

  • Personalized Recommendations: AI algorithms analyse user preferences, past behaviour and real-time data to provide tailored recommendations for flights, hotels, activities and restaurants. 
  • Streamlined Booking Processes: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants simplify the booking process, answering queries, providing instant quotes and facilitating seamless transactions. 
  • Dynamic Itineraries: AI tools can create dynamic itineraries that adapt to real-time events, such as flight delays or weather changes, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. 
  • Enhanced Customer Service: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants offer 24/7 customer support, addressing queries, resolving issues and providing personalized assistance. 
  • Cost Savings: AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data to identify the best deals and discounts, helping travellers save money on flights, hotels and other travel expenses. 

Shortcomings and Challenges 

While AI and LLMs hold immense promise, there are also some shortcomings and challenges that need to be addressed: 

  • Data Privacy and Security: The collection and use of personal data raises concerns about privacy and security. Companies must ensure robust data protection measures to safeguard user information. 
  • Bias and Discrimination: AI algorithms can perpetuate biases present in the data they are trained on, leading to discriminatory outcomes and AI tools seeking to monetise through advertising may no be transparent when making “Paid-for” suggestions. It is crucial to develop fair and unbiased AI models. 
  • Lack of Human Touch: While AI can automate many tasks, some travellers may miss the personal touch and expertise of human travel agents. Striking the right balance between automation and human interaction is essential. 
  • Over-Reliance on Technology: Over-reliance on AI tools can lead to a loss of critical thinking and decision-making skills. Travelers should use AI as a tool to augment their own judgment, not replace it. 
  • Integration of Discovery to Booking: Early versions of AI tools are effective at making recommendations, but do not integrate recommendations to booking tools, often requiring the re-entry of data from suggested options.  

The Future of AI in Travel and Hospitality 

The future of AI in travel and hospitality is incredibly promising. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more sophisticated and personalized AI-powered tools. Some potential developments include: 

  • Hyper-Personalization: AI will leverage even more data points to create hyper-personalized travel experiences, catering to individual preferences, interests, and budgets. 
  • Predictive Analytics: AI algorithms will anticipate traveller needs and preferences, proactively suggesting destinations, activities and services. 
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality: VR and AR technologies will enable immersive travel experiences, allowing users to explore destinations virtually before booking. 
  • Ethical and Responsible AI: The development and deployment of AI tools will prioritize ethical considerations, ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability. 
  • Monetisation Models: The options of “subscription” v’s “advertising paid for recommendations” will become clearer and more transparent. 
  • Regulations:  Many jurisdictions will likely enact AI regulations that will bring enhanced transparency to AI generated suggestions and data protection. 

In conclusion, AI and LLMs are transforming the travel and hospitality industry, offering exciting new possibilities for discovery, planning, and booking. While challenges remain and we are early in the AI journey, the potential benefits are immense. As technology continues to evolve and operators rush to bring product to market, we can look forward to a future where AI-powered tools vastly improve the traveller experience.