Expedia launches ChatGPT-powered travel planning tool

ChatGPT, the “generative” artificial intelligence technology popping up in multiple industries, now has a new gig: personal travel guide. Trip planning site Expedia this week launched an AI-based tool on its mobile app that helps users plan voyages and research their destinations. 

“Basically the idea is just to give travelers, however they want to shop, the best ways to plan, the best ways to shop, the best ways to find the right thing for them,” Expedia Group CEO and vice chairman Peter Kern told CBS News.

“You can ask it whether April is a good time to go to Paris, or what you might see in Tokyo if you go in March, and can you see the cherry blossoms,” he added. 

Users can pose any number of queries to the chatbot, such as, “Help me find a hotel near the best place to see the cherry blossoms.” 

Some of the site’s tools, such as price tracking and collaborative shopping, already make use of AI, and ChatGPT is a natural extension, he said. “So it’s not a decision to redeploy assets to spend on doing this — it’s really a decision to make it easy for travelers.”

New version of ChatGPT is more accurate and can analyze images


To be sure, ChatGPT can be unreliable and sometimes delivers factually incorrect information. As a result, Expedia put guard rails on its chatbot to make sure the AI doesn’t veer beyond travel-related topics. 

“We built our own AI to basically monitor the outcomes for what ChatGPT comes back with because, really, we only want to help people shop for travel,” Kern said. “We’re not trying to talk to them about politics or religion or anything else. So this isn’t to go have a chatGPT conversation.”

“We are really using our own capabilities to monitor the outcomes, make sure travelers don’t get strange responses, and if something goes wrong we’re trying to make sure it comes back to travel.”

“I can’t help with that”

For now, Expedia’s AI tool remains in beta testing and has its shortcomings. When prompted to find roundtrip flights from New York City to Mexico City, its instructions read: “I can’t help with that yet. But you should be able to find that information on the Expedia website.” 

It was, however, able to list top attractions in Mexico’s capital city. 

So-called large language models like ChatGPT are also known to spit out information that varies in its usefulness, depending on how it’s prompted. For this reason, companies are hiring so-called prompt engineers to better train AI and figure out how to speak to it for optimal results. 

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