Answering The Unanswered Question


A few years ago, if you typed “Downhill Skiing” into a search box on one of the major search engines, you wouldn’t get back much in the way of useful information to help you plan your trip. Or as Darren Huston put it, “you’d get kind of a lot of noise.”

But things are changing and Huston, the CEO of both Priceline Group and, answered some “what if” kind of questions about what the launch of’s Passion Search engine might mean moving forward, reports Bob Mowat in this week’s digital edition of Canadian Travel Press.

With Passion Search – – consumers can now go to the site and in the search box type in their passion, and in short order, destination and accommodation results will display that relate to that passion.

It’s a neat option that serves the kind of traveller who doesn’t really know where they want to go, but does have a passion for one thing or another.

And as Huston sees it, Passion Search is’s “attempt to provide good answers to those questions based on data.”

So here’s the thing, in a world that’s becoming increasingly populated with personal assistants (like Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now) on people’s smartphones and tablets, are things moving to the point where people will be able to get increasingly intelligent responses to, in this particular case, their travel questions?

“That’s a great question,” Huston began, noting that’s Passion Search is “the beginning of answering those [kind of] questions.”

He explained that: “What you’re talking about now, down the road, is basically artificial intelligence (AI). The fact that you talk that into Siri is just the user interface. But in theory you could type it into Google. You could put it into What’sApp. The question is: What is in the background that provides the intelligence to answer what can be relatively unstructured questions.”

As an example, Huston pointed to the recent Go Tournament – – which pitted Google’s DeepMind against Lee Sedol, one of the game’s top players, explaining: “Instead of the old IBM thing which was just basically a big piece of hardware, this is Google using the Cloud and artificial intelligence to have almost a self-learning system.”

For the full story, check out this week’s digital edition of Canadian Travel Press by clicking here.