Excerpt from PhocusWire
Can chatbot plugins bring a new, conversational layer to the decade-old search and booking interface in travel?
The artificial intelligence chatbot tsunami has swept across all industries, travel being no exception.
But a recurring argument to temper the excitement in travel has been the fact that the underlying data of the large language models (LLM) used to train these bots is not providing real time data that could be used for transactional purposes.
Meet ChatGPT plugins. The latest initiative of OpenAI to cement its leadership among AI chatbots solves precisely this data dilemma. Companies joining the plugin program will provide the LLM explicit access to their proprietary, fresh data, allowing for training the model and enriching the answers with real-time data.
Inspiring and planning with AI – a match made in heaven
Since its launch last November, ChatGPT has already emerged as a disruptive force for the early phases of the travel customer journey. During the inspiration phase, these bots can provide targeted recommendations based on users’ questions. For travel planning, it delivers relevant travel information with a few prompts, saving hours of online surfing across travel websites.
The industry has been quick in spotting the disruptive force of AI for these cases, with new travel startups popping up every day promising to deliver a better inspiration and planning experience. But even more relevant, some of the travel behemoths like Expedia and Trip.com decided to jump early on the AI bandwagon, releasing AI bots in their apps for trip ideas and planning purposes.
AI enabling conversational commerce
Tiptoeing AI for the early phases in travel is a newsworthy fact, but the industry has learned over the last decades that it is unable to compete against digital gatekeepers like Google to extract significant value out of this traffic.
This explains why the winners in online travel focused early on in scaling and optimizing their search and booking funnel, which led to a handful of travel giants ruling the travel space today.
Can ChatGPT plugins, capable of aggregating real-time inventory and pricing data, potentially trigger a paradigm shift in the current search and booking experience?
Asking GPT-4 for the potential benefits and shortcomings of chatbot plugins versus current interfaces provides a fairly generic answer, mainly focused around the potential data accessibility constraints. The answer contains, though, a few valid points around bots’ ability to:
- Provide a more personalized experience based on the conversational history
- Seamlessly blend a “human powered” support into the experience if needed
- Easily shift from written to voice interactions
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