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Using ChatGPT to help book your next vacation just became a reality. Today, Expedia rolled out a new plug-in in its app that utilizes the latest version of the buzzy AI chat technology to help recommend prospective hotels for your next trip.
Travelers can use the ChatGPT function to have a conversational search of the best destinations to go and when, plus hotel recommendations. The plug-in then automatically saves ChatGPT’s hotel recommendations to users’ profiles in the Expedia app, so they can continue their trip planning by searching check-in dates, room availability, and flights on Expedia’s platform.
“We’re integrated with ChatGPT, which allows us to take advantage of the whole conversational aspect of shopping and searching for your trip, and start that trip planning in a much more seamless, conversational manner,” says Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s chief technology officer.
The options for hotels are offered through small modules within the chat, and users can click through each one. To automatically have the recommendations saved, users should be logged in to their Expedia profile so the hotel options are added directly to their Trip Planning Board. Expedia's ChatGPT plug-in and its existing hotel search function both pull from Expedia's proprietary hotel data—the only difference is whether you want a conversational experience or to use traditional search methods.
The new tool is “basically to help the consumer do basic language discovery,” says Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia Group. “I want to go to Paris, I want to go to Maui, where should I stay? What’s a romantic place? A boutique place? A place on the Left Bank? And then we serve up solutions that allow them to store those options into their Trip Boards, and then they can go look and compare and make decisions.”
In the current beta version of the plug-in, ChatGPT will recommend and save three to five different hotel options per search. In the future, Murthy says the aim will be to have the tool consistently offer five recommendations for each search as the technology becomes more accurate.
Accuracy has been an issue with early iterations of travel booking with ChatGPT, as have its recommendations being too broad. “ChatGPT’s lack of specificity is exhausting,” wrote Traveler contributor Ashlea Halperin of her experience using the public version of the chatbot to plan her upcoming honeymoon in the Faroe Islands. The bot provided her “some useful information—namely the best time of year to travel and a few hotels and restaurants to consider—but nothing it recommended can be taken as gospel.”
Expedia’s ChatGPT plug-in for hotels is more specific because it draws upon the booking site’s own smart-shopping algorithms, and various data points like hotel availability, pricing, and other machine-learning sorting, according to Murthy. “Our platform generates over 600 billion AI predictions a year,” she says. “So AI is not new to us. We’ve just taken it one step further by taking advantage of the conversational aspects of ChatGPT.”
Expedia also used additional algorithms and AI functions to limit the conversations to only travel booking. The beta version of the plug-in uses the latest GPT-4 technology and is now available for all iOS users of the latest version of the Expedia app.
Although the chatbot is getting a lot of buzz in the travel industry over how it might shift booking methods, the actual effect on travelers' habits remains to be seen. “We don’t know if travelers will embrace it,” Kern says. “Obviously, there’s tons of excitement around ChatGPT, but whether it enhances the discovery process or it gets you there faster depends a lot on the person. Really we’re trying to solve for as many customers and as many ways they want to shop as we can, and we think there will be interest and it will help people.”