Both of the United States' largest OTAs, Expedia Inc. and the
Priceline Group, are investing in artificial intelligence and its potential
For instance, at Priceline's Kayak, teams are working on
using artificial intelligence and one of its subsets, natural language
processing, to make it possible for customers to search for travel on Facebook
Messenger and Amazon's Echo, according to interim CEO Jeffery Boyd.
Boyd, speaking during Priceline's most recent financial results
call on Monday, said that the technology is "at its early stages now."
"It's not generating a ton of business, but I do
believe it is at the front end of some pretty important changes in the internet
in general, and the way people interact with technology, and Kayak's doing a
very good job of being out in the front of that," he said.
Boyd's counterpart at Expedia, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, also
addressed artificial intelligence during his company's most recent financial
call late last month.
He said Expedia is testing artificial intelligence via
Facebook Messenger to enable consumers to book hotels, "a very, very early
iteration of what a consumer experience might look like."
"I personally think that the bigger, the more
significant, opportunity in AI near- to mid-term is with highly repeatable --
call it simple -- tasks that consumers engage in," he said, for instance,
changing a flight via a chat-based service.
The key to using artificial intelligence successfully will
likely be applying it to high-volume, repeatable tasks that a computer could
learn from over time, he said. For instance, some of Expedia channels allow
consumers to send messages to hotels to make certain requests, like late
checkout or early check-in. Khosrowshahi believes that kind of application
could easily be handled by artificial intelligence.
"I think you'll see some of the sexy stuff on the
booking side, and then you'll see some of the unsexy stuff on the customer-service
side, and we plan to experiment with both of them," he said.
Khosrowshahi also addressed where virtual reality might fit for
Expedia, and said the company is currently testing virtual reality rigs.
"I think that the potential we see with VR is to whet
the appetite of someone looking at a destination," he said "We want
VR to be just good enough to make you want to go there, but not good enough for
you to avoid the trip."