For many travelers, technology long ago supplanted travel agents for the basic booking of flights, hotels, and excursions. But how quickly will artificial intelligence replace humans for trusted travel advice?
That’s the larger question behind Expedia’s announcement this morning that it will offer a new “travel planning experience” powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Debuting today on Expedia’s iOS app, it’s part of a growing wave of AI-powered travel- and trip-planning technologies from a variety of startups and app developers.
Travel advice is already one of the most commonly cited scenarios for people using ChatGPT in its raw form or in Microsoft’s Bing search engine, for example. However, Expedia’s significant presence in travel makes this rollout especially interesting as a gauge of AI’s potential to serve in a role traditionally left to human expertise.
One of the ways Expedia is trying to differentiate its ChatGPT implementation is by automatically saving hotels discussed during a chat session to a “trip” in the app to make it easier to book a stay.
This capability will expand later to other forms of reservations, including flights and rental cars, Expedia CTO Rathi Murthy told the Wall Street Journal.
On the topic of privacy, Expedia won’t share customer data with OpenAI from ChatGPT searches in the app, but it may use the data in the future to further personalize the experience, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern told the WSJ.
For now, Expedia is classifying the initial feature on iOS as a beta, which means it’s not necessarily ready for prime time.
For example, Lance Ulanoff reports on TechRadar this morning that he encountered a bug in which the app didn’t save his preferred hotel after he tested the chat function to plan a hypothetical family vacation.
Expedia says it will “rapidly evolve the experience” based on how people use it.
“It’s also important to remember that while many measures have been taken to limit inaccurate results and inappropriate responses, at times the experience may not work exactly as expected,” the company adds. “Feedback from both our employees and all those using the experience will be continually looked at to make sure responses meet our standards.”
In other words, your mileage may vary, perhaps literally.
Ultimately, this rollout promises to be an important test for this emerging era of generative AI. Just be sure to double-check its accuracy in the meantime before spending thousands on a trip to Europe.