Booking.com launches AI Trip Planner in Australia and New Zealand

Booking.com launches AI Trip Planner in Australia and New Zealand

Booking.com has announced its AI Trip Planner (Beta) is now available for travellers in Australia and New Zealand, the first markets to launch in Asia Pacific.

Until now, AI Trip Planner was only available for US and UK travellers after it was launched in the Booking.com app in June last year.

Built using Booking.com’s existing machine learning models that recommend destination, accommodation and attractions, the AI Trip Planner is also partially powered by large language model (LLM) technology from OpenAI’s ChatGPT API for the first time to create a new conversational experience for people to start their trip planning process.

“I think with any new technology, there’s always a bit of hesitancy from customers and adoption of new technologies within the customer segments is always difficult,” Todd Lacey (pictured), regional manager of Booking.com in Oceania, told Travel Weekly of the delay.

“But I think also at booking.com, we like to take a cautious approach to our user experience. Of course, AI is a new and emerging technology, and implications of AI are really exciting, right. But we also want to make sure that we get the implementation and the usage of that. We’ve taken a little bit of time to make sure that that process is right.”

Travellers – or travel agents for that matter – can ask the AI Trip Planner general travel-related questions, as well as more specific queries to support any stage of their trip planning, including scoping out potential destinations and accommodation options, providing travel inspiration based on the individual’s needs and requirements, as well as creating itineraries for a particular city, country or region.

“Our mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world,” says Lacey. “And we do see that there are challenges with travel and friction within the travel landscape.

“This AI trip planner sort of helps solve a few things. One of them is around finding destinations and finding places to go and that can often be one of the difficult parts of travel, right, you may know what you want to do or you may have some certain requirements if you’re traveling with a family or your partner. But you might not exactly know what destination is most suitable for you and when is the best time to go.

“What this tool gives us a really great way to understand and find new destinations and new things to do. And then there’s also elements of the logistics of going to a destination. And up until now if you were going to South Korea, for instance, and you wanted to learn a bit more about how to get around the city in terms of public transport, there would have to be a separate search probably going to multiple different websites.

“Now with this tool, you can find that information at the click of a button. That’s really great for a customer experience.”

 

Now with this tool, you can find that information at the click of a button. That’s really great for a customer experience.”

While the just-launched local beta version is primarily focused around accommodation, vertical integration is not far behind with attractions, rental cars and the other extensive facets of travel to be eventually be included.

“I think we’re always going to be evolving and looking at how we can create a balance between relevancy and accuracy,” said Lacey.

Australians are ready for AI enhanced travel planning and are already using without really knowing it. In a recent study conducted by Booking.com, nearly a third of Millennials (31%) and Gen Z (30%) consumers said they are likely to use AI when planning travel in 2024, compared to Gen X (19%) and just 6% of all Boomers.

Over one quarter (27%) of Australian travellers said they are likely to use AI to plan travel when booking holiday homes, the highest for any type of accommodation booked. Almost a third of Australian travellers (30%) are likely to use AI to plan international travel in 2024, in comparison slightly less are likely to use it for domestic travel (22%).

“We expect to see in this part of the world, pretty good adoption across the board for this product, which is why we here in Australia, New Zealand as a priority,” Lacey said.

And the chatty conversations the AI Trip Planner won’t all be one way.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is our verified review process,” Lacey said. “The reviews that we have on our site are from legitimate stays and properties and experiences.”

The reviews will even be filtered down to those from Australians and New Zealanders.

“And we’re planning on using that more and more to cater and curate suggestions for customers.”

Booking.com's AITrip Planner in action.

Booking.com’s AI Trip Planner in action.

AI Trip Planner also provides travellers with a visual list of destinations and properties, including Booking.com’s pricing, with links to view more details.

“The whole idea and premise of this is that it combines ultra personalisation, so understanding more about what you need, and the unique things make a travel experience positive for you and combining that with the knowledge that’s already out there about destinations and locations and experiences that people can have.

“The vision for this is that, by combining those two things, you’re recommended experiences that maybe you wouldn’t be able to think of without this tool. And that’s great for customers in terms of time spent searching and going back to our mission about making it easier to travel.”

“Our long-term goal for this tool was really something that we call ‘the connected trip’, which is how we seamlessly integrate all those different verticals of travel. So, we have flights, actions, rental cars, and those many other components of travel, like restaurant reservations, for instance, or taxi rides, that today are not simply connected.

“The vision for us is to connect the dots between those different verticals and take a lot of friction out of travel.”

Travellers in Australia and New Zealand must be signed in to their Booking.com account in the app and have their language settings set to English to access the new travel planning tool.

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