In a strategic move to outpace its competitors, online travel agency Expedia announced the upcoming launch of an AI assistant designed to enhance features like search, itinerary building, trip planning, and real-time updates, including flight delays.

Expedia, which operates a variety of online travel aggregators and metasearch engines, is introducing a bot named Romie. This bot, trained on a combination of in-house and OpenAI models, will assist users in searching for hotels, building trip itineraries, and making minor adjustments. Romie can be integrated into iMessage chat groups or used one-on-one on WhatsApp, functioning behind a phone number and leveraging ChatGPT.

Users can interact with Romie on iMessage by mentioning the bot to receive itinerary summaries or restaurant recommendations. The bot can direct users to the Expedia app with links to itineraries or suggestions. Additionally, Expedia is launching a smart search feature on its website, allowing users to describe desired hotel features rather than selecting filters. For instance, typing “Rooftop and view of the sea” will return hotels with those characteristics.

These features are currently being tested with a limited audience through Expedia’s EG Labs program, available to U.S.-based users.

Expedia is enhancing its AI capabilities by integrating data from sources like AccuWeather and Yelp. This integration enables Romie to provide updates on flight changes, weather conditions, and suggest alternatives, such as nearby hotels in the event of a canceled flight.

Last year, Expedia began experimenting with AI by introducing an in-app travel planning experience powered by ChatGPT. Now, the company is incorporating AI into its core features. Competitors have also made advancements; introduced AI-powered trip planning in June 2023, Airbnb is developing an “ultimate concierge,” and Kayak launched a new conversational tool and price comparison feature.

Startups are leveraging AI to challenge established travel platforms. Mindtrip, backed by Costanoa Ventures, is developing an AI travel agent, while Vancouver-based Pilot uses AI for social travel planning. Layla, supported by firstminute capital, M13, and other notable investors, is creating an end-to-end travel recommendation app using existing data and creator content. Layla also acquired and AI itinerary builder Roam Around.

Expedia Group’s CTO, Rathi Murthy, expressed confidence in their solution despite intense competition. “Having an AI assistant that acts as a travel agent, personal assistant, and concierge, available to make changes and enhance your trip proactively, is a game changer. We’ve extended the Expedia experience to channels like iMessage and WhatsApp, which is unique,” Murthy stated.

Murthy mentioned that Romie’s current limitation of not supporting WhatsApp group chats is due to figuring out the bot’s dynamics in that setting, rather than technical challenges. As part of its spring update, Expedia will also introduce a cross-date price comparison tool, an AI-powered help page, and guest review summaries.

By Impact Lab