How to use AI to plan a vacation? Companies bring it to you

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 reviews 141 pages of content — compared to 277 pages for Americans.

Enter generative artificial intelligence—the technology that enables companies to streamline this process and better tailor recommendations to travelers’ specific interests.

What might this look like? The hope is that AI will not only plan itineraries, but also contact hotels, create travel budgets, and even act as a personal travel assistant, fundamentally changing the way companies approach travelers in the process.

For example, a typical home search on Airbnb returns results that ignore past searches. You may have a decade of upscale, modern homes under your belt, but if they fit your set filters, you’ll still be offered rustic, salt-of-the-earth rentals.

But that may change soon.

During an earnings call in May, CEO Brian Chesky discussed how AI could change Airbnb’s approach. He said: “Instead of asking you questions like ‘where are you going and when are you going?’ I want us to build a solid profile of you, learn more about you and ask you two bigger and more fundamental questions: who are you and what do you want?”

Travel companies bringing AI to their customers

While AI is not yet here to deliver the ever-elusive goal of “personalization at scale,” it is the ability to “remember” past questions to search large amounts of data, answer questions using natural language, and build on a conversation — just like humans do — a journey industry (and many others) were sold.

Travel companies using AI

In an April survey by market research firm National Research Group, 61% of respondents said they were open to using conversational AI to plan trips, but only 6% said they actually did.

In addition, more than half (51%) of respondents said they do not trust technology to protect their personal information, and 33% fear it could produce inaccurate results.

While travelers are still debating the safety and benefits of using AI for travel planning, many major travel companies are already focusing on the technology.

Just look at the names on this list.

  • In February, Singapore-based travel company launched TripGen, an in-app chatbot powered by OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT.
  • In March, Expedia and Kayak were among the first batch of plugins distributed by ChatGPT.
  • In April, Expedia announced the beta release of its AI chatbot from ChatGPT.
  • In May, Europe-based travel booking company eDreams Odigeo joined Google Cloud’s AI “Trusted Testers Program,” and Airbnb announced plans to build OpenAI’s newest major language model, GPT-4, into its interface.

A summer blast of travel AI

Then, in the summer of 2023, announcements of AI travel technology abounded.

In June:

  • Amazon Web Services has announced a $100 million investment in a program to help companies use generative artificial intelligence, with RyanAir and Lonely Planet two of the top four.
  • has introduced an in-app Trip Planner AI chatbot to select US members of its Genius loyalty program.
  • Priceline has launched Trip Intelligence, a platform led by a Google-powered generative AI chatbot called “Penny.”

HomeToGo’s new “AI mode” allows travelers to find homes for rent using natural language queries.

Source: HomeToGo

In July:

  • Tripadvisor has launched Trips, a web-based, AI-powered travel itinerary maker.
  • has released an updated chatbot called TripGenie that answers text and voice queries, displays images and maps, and provides links for bookings.
  • Vacation rental company HomeToGo has beta launched an in-app AI search feature called “AI Mode” for users in the US and UK.

More travel companies now have ChatGPT plugins, including getYourGuide, Klook, Turo and Etihad Airways. And a number of AI-powered trip planners—Roam Around (for general travel), AdventureGenie (for leisure vehicles), Curiosio (for road trips)—have added more options to the growing AI travel planning market.

Apart from travel planning

Trip planning is currently the most visible use of AI in the travel industry, but companies are already planning new features. Chief Product Officer Amy Wei said the company is considering developing a virtual travel guide for its latest artificial intelligence product, TripGenie.

“It can help provide information like access to historic buildings and objects in a museum,” he told CNBC. “The vision is to create a digital travel companion that can understand and converse with the traveler and help them through every step of the journey.”

Travel news site Skift notes that artificial intelligence could be used to predict flight delays and help travel companies respond to negative online reviews.

The company estimates that chatbots could bring $1.9 billion in revenue to the travel industry – allowing companies to staff more refined customer service staff, freeing up people’s time to focus on complex issues. Chatbots don’t need to be hired or trained, speak multiple languages, and have “no learning curve,” Skift notes in a report titled “The Impact of Generative AI on Travel.”

Overall, Skift’s report predicts that generative AI could be a $28.5 billion opportunity for the travel industry, an estimate that the tools “will look conservative in hindsight if used to their full potential.”

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