Los Angeles-based Elves
has launched a service enabling users to book travel in a chat environment,
with their requests fulfilled by a combination of real people and artificial
Elves is available in app form for iOS and Android devices.
The service can also be accessed via Facebook Messenger, and it will soon be
available on Google Assistant.
According to CEO and co-founder Karim Elsahy, Elves' supply
of hotels, flights and activities comes from Sabre, Booking.com, Viator and LBF
Travel. Users can make and change reservations via the platform.
Elves currently has a team of about 50 people working to
fulfill users' requests (these are the "elves" at the company). The
AI learns how people handle bookings so the process can be automated the next
time a similar request is made.
"The convenience of real-time assistance from the
elves, with the support of a sophisticated tech engine, delivers a uniquely
personal experience," Elsahy said in a statement. "We are what an OTA
According to Elsahy, while Elves' user base of around
250,000 globally has doubled in the last six months, its workforce has been
reduced as the AI can handle more requests. He maintains that people will
always have an important role at Elves, but as the AI is bolstered, fewer
people are necessary.
Elves is focused on leisure travel, but the service does attract
some business travelers. Most are from start-ups or similar environments, not
companies with managed travel programs, Elsahy said.
The service is free to users. Elves monetizes from
commissions from travel sales.
The service will also grant requests outside of travel,
Elsahy said. For instance, he forgot business cards on a recent trip. He sent
Elves a photo of his card, and replacements were sent to his hotel the next
Elsahy is an architect by training, but he and his wife,
Abeer Elsisi, built a business specializing in outsourcing jobs. The two then
spent some time working in San Francisco integrating AI and other technology, funneling
that experience into the creation of Elves.