AI can spark bookings, but agents still top of mind, Expedia says

On now until May 15, Expedia Group’s 25th annual EXPLORE conference has seen more than 2,000 global suppliers and partners converge at the ARIA Casino & Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.

During the trade show, Expedia Group released its 2024 Spring Product Release, in which the company leveraged the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate confusion and stress for travellers across tasks like planning, booking management, and customer service.

“AI is everywhere and yes, at times, it feels like the only thing that any one is talking about but that’s for good reason,” said Ariane Gorin, Expedia Group’s CEO. “As technology has advanced, travel has taken big leaps forward. “Mobile [phones] forced us to rethink how people search, plan and book travel. We’re constantly looking for travellers to have better experiences and with AI, we’re on the precipice of finding even better ways.”

A trending theme at this year’s conference, at the forefront of the company’s new AI tools was Romie—described by Gorin as a “travel agent and a concierge all in one”—and how it can be harnessed by suppliers and agents alike to translate successful bookings.

But with Romie’s impressive new capabilities, from booking a hotel room to assisting with cancelled flights and everything in between, where do travel agents fit into the equation and how can they take advantage of Romie’s abilities?

AI: a fine line

Likening AI to electricity, Gorin said that eventually, AI “will be used everywhere. It’s both the hero and the hero powering the story.”

Most recently, the Expedia Group has built personalization into all of its products using AI via customization, whether that’s through changing content, images and messaging, or entire page layouts on web pages based on customer insight. For example, a family traveller who previously searched for family-friendly vacation spots may begin to see recommendations for family accommodations in the city they’re searching in. 

“Some people talk about personalization; we’re actually making it happen,” Gorin said.

For supplier partners, Expedia Group is using AI to better show off inventory in the marketplace through AI features. “The amount of manual customer service work that still happens is massive,” Gorin said. “With AI and the creation of better self service tools, travellers are having better experiences and we’re all saving money that we can invest to grow our collective business.”

“Our travel partners, the cornerstone of our marketplace, can leverage our investments in AI and machine learning with new tools that safeguard their business, control rate integrity, and provide actionable insights on service,” Gorin said.

Made public on May 14 on the first day of the EXPLORE conference, a few of Expedia Group’s AI tools available to travellers this year include the following:

  • Destination comparison: Sit back, relax and let our GenAI tools help you discover and compare new destinations worth visiting for you. Available this summer on Expedia, and Vrbo globally.
  • Guest review summary: Save time sorting through thousands of reviews. Using GenAI technology, Expedia summarizes guest reviews upfront.
  • Personalized itinerary builder: For the first time, travellers can create customized itineraries based on AI-generated recommendations tailored to your trip and saved items. Available this summer on the Expedia app in the U.S.

For partners, the following AI features are available:

  • Advertiser-funded loyalty: Destination partners can fund OneKeyCash (Expedia’s loyalty program) for travellers booking hotels.
  • Optimized distribution for hoteliers: Optimized distribution is now available to regional chains and independent hotels, bringing properties more control over their inventory and pricing.
  • Guest experience: AI-powered insights identify recurring negative sentiments in reviews and deliver personalized recommendations to hosts to create a better experience for travellers.

AI and travel agents

Despite leaps in technology, one thing remains true in the travel industry: the power of human connection.

“AI itself doesn’t create action; you have to have the human intelligence to figure out where and how you use it,” Gorin said.

“While there’s so much good in AI, like any other tool, it really depends on how it’s used,” added Murthy. “We believe in starting with the traveller experience and then using technology to bring these to life.”

According to Gorin, there’s still a great deal of travel bookings that happen offline, with travellers choosing to book with a travel agent.

“We have a big travel agency business in Canada and over time, we will look at opportunities to integrate it into Expedia TAAP,” said Gorin, noting that Romie is primarily targeting the consumer part of the business in its infancy stages. “TAAP already uses alot of the AI and machine learning that we have across our company and we have teams that are constantly talking to travel agents to understand what it is that they need so that we can help them be more successful. Whether it’s pieces of Romie, or the entire platform, we will explore those options for them.”

Partners can find more information here. For more general information, visit