As part of Travel + Leisure's new technology and innovations vertical, The Grid, we're rolling out a video series all about the ideas, products, and people shaping the future of travel. Next up: our news director on the evolution of travel booking.
Three decades ago, planning a trip meant going to your local travel agent’s office or giving them a call. Then websites came along and gave everyone with an internet connection the tools to book their own trips. And then came the start-ups, which continue to make travel planning and booking simpler for everyone.
Now the newest breed of start-ups are leveraging everything from big data to artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Basically, bots can now sift through all those hotel and flight possibilities for you, and try to solve problems you don't even know how to anticipate or articulate. They’re making it easier to not only find cheap fares, but also to plan complicated, multi-leg itineraries.
Flykt, for example (pronounced flaked) lets you enter your budget, departure city, and interests (lounging on the beach, surfing, or sipping wine). The app will refine results with additional keywords and propose as many as six destinations, all within your price range.
This is just one of countless apps—the AI-powered travel agent, Lola, from a founder of Kayak, and Hipmunk’s Hello Hipmunk e-mail and calendar services—working to bring travel booking to the next level.
“We’re getting to the point,” Clemence notes, “where you can talk to your computer the way you would have talked to your travel agent.”
That doesn’t mean apps and websites will be putting travel agents out of business. We still need them to personalize our experience, to be authorities in the market, and to offer creative itineraries AI-agents and data processors couldn’t find on the web.
For more on how travel booking is evolving, check out the video above.