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OTAs rush to add AI chatbots for trip planning
16 November 2023
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But get a 2nd (human) opinion

OTAs rush to add AI chatbots for trip planning ...

But get a 2nd (human) opinion.

Arlington (VA)-based news site Axios has reported on the current state-of-the-art of AI chatbots that OTAs have rushed to get into service as trip-planning aids.

On the face of it, this sounds like a good idea, because AI has the ability to handle tedious trip-planning chores like sifting through vast numbers of reviews and booking options.

OTAs including (and Kayak and Priceline, which they own), Expedia and Tripadvisor have all added AI chatbot functionality.

Axios researchers tested the trip-planner chatbots on 3 different OTA websites by asking for an itinerary for a road trip from New York to California.

  • Expedia recommended a 13-day trip with stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon; then along the California coast.
  • recommended a 10-day trip through Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone..
  • The best Roam Around could do was to suggest a 5-day sightseeing trip in New York City, including a recommendation to eat pizza for breakfast at an unspecified Joe's Pizza location.

So obviously, when it comes to trip planning, AI chatbots are far from perfect at this time.

You can see the OTA pitches for their AI planners here:

Useful new functionalities that could potentially be added to AI chatbots for travel planning are:

  • Picking flights based on choice of family seating arrangements
  • Selecting hotels by city and amenities
  • Actual booking help vs. general recommendations
  • Evaluating authenticity of experiences
  • Recommending less-popular destinations and attractions, vs. the most popular, to reduce overtourism

Axios recommendation: Until they improve, AI chatbots are best suited to "inspiration and fantasy armchair travel."

Are we going to be seeing an escalating travel AI chatbot arms race among OTAs? How will Google - which per Trustpilot 81% of travelers prefer to use when looking for a place to stay - respond to this? Watch this space.

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