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As the big tech companies reveal what they've been working on in travel, it raises questions about the longevity of small companies that have been working on similar projects.

Series: Travel Tech Briefing

Travel Tech Briefing

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The first generative AI chatbot was released almost a year ago, and there’s been a lot of talk since then about how it could impact travel.

It’s been mostly talk because companies have needed time to advance the technology and build applications. While there’s still uncertainty, the picture is becoming clearer as big tech companies are starting to reveal more about their generative AI projects.

There has been a travel component to many big product releases related to generative AI this year, and it’s happening more frequently. There were big reveals just in the past couple of weeks from three big tech companies: Amazon Web Services, Meta, and Microsoft.   

Amazon Web Services: For Building AI Tools

While there are multiple startups emerging offering AI tools to hotels and other hospitality companies, those travel companies may opt to develop their own tools. 

Amazon Web Services says it can help with a platform to make generative AI tools without the need for coding by software developers. AWS recently made that platform, called Amazon Bedrock, generally available. 

This is one way some of the smaller companies can participate in the AI bandwagon without a large investment. 

One example AWS gave is that clients can create virtual agents to complete tasks, such as booking travel. 

The platform allows travel companies to build AI tools and apps that access their own proprietary data, which is needed to make a tool useful.

Amazon Bedrock users can experiment with a number of generative AI technologies made by other companies, such as Meta, as they’re developing apps and tools.

Some AWS executives said in June that the travel industry could make a notable shift toward personalized customer service as early as next year, but the biggest hurdle is creating a strong foundation of data that’s easily accessible by the AI.

Executives from AWS have said they are working with major hotel brands, online travel agencies, and other companies as they move to implement advanced AI into their businesses. 

AWS also released Amazon CodeWhisperer, meant to help software developers more efficiently write code. AWS said the platform connects with clients’ internal code and can make relevant suggestions. Many large travel companies, like airlines and online travel agencies, have said they are using AI coding tools to increase software development efficiency. 

Meta: Chatbot for WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger 

Meta has released a generative AI chatbot, called Meta AI, on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. 

The chatbot uses Meta’s proprietary generative AI model to answer questions similar to ChatGPT, which could include questions about planning trips, booking flights, and more. 

An example Meta gave: “Imagine you and your friends are in a group chat discussing which trailhead to try in Santa Cruz. Meta AI surfaces options directly in the chat, so you can decide as a group which location to explore. What if after the hike you want a creative way to commemorate the day? Meta AI can help. Type ‘@MetaAI /imagine’ followed by a descriptive text prompt like ‘create a button badge with a hiker and redwood trees,’ and it will create a digital merit badge in the chat with your friends.”

The tool connects to the Microsoft-owned Bing search engine, which was relaunched earlier this year with a generative AI integration from OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.

WhatsApp is the main messaging service used by much of the world, so Meta has an opportunity to move further into travel booking territory. Tech experts touched on the potential during a session at the Skift Global Forum in late September.

Users in the U.S. can test the chatbot after being approved for access. To request access, . There’s also a version coming to Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses and the Quest 3 virtual reality headset, Meta said.

Meta also said it plans to publicly release a platform that can help coders and non-coders build AI chatbots through its messaging services, first Facebook Messenger and then WhatsApp. That means large and small travel companies will be able to build customer service chatbots that answer questions by accessing specific data about those companies, such as specific property information for a hotel.

These announcements were part of a big reveal of several AI features being released by Meta. 

Microsoft and Amadeus: For Corporate Travel

In a very quick clip during a recent product announcement video, Microsoft showed that users will be able to use conversational prompts to plan and complete corporate travel bookings through Microsoft 365 Chat.

The announcement showed a connection with Cytric Easy, the travel booking platform owned by Amadeus. 

Microsoft released more information about the partnership with Amadeus for travel booking and what it’s doing with generative AI. 

Microsoft said it is working with IT company Accenture to pilot a travel assistant in partnership with Amadeus. 

Through that connection, the user can ask the chatbot to find a flight that matches certain requirements. It responds with flight options, and the user can complete the booking within the same Microsoft 365 Chat platform. If a coworker had already shared an itinerary via email, the user can also ask the chatbot to find a flight that matches that itinerary, as was outlined in the announcement video. 

Besides planning and booking, Microsoft said the assistant will be able to help during the trip and with any post-trip tasks. As the user is interacting with the chatbot, it should ask for clarifications about details and preferences. The connection is meant to take employers’ policies into account. 

“The new Generative AI-powered chatbot will offer an enhanced way to book business travel, moving from a standard sequential display with predetermined filters to a dynamic, interactive conversational interface powered by ChatGPT. When fully realized, business travelers will be able to book trips with even greater ease, saving time,” said Rudy Daniello, executive vice president of  Amadeus Cytric Solutions, in a statement. 

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Tags: amadeus, amazon web services, artificial intelligence, bing, chatgpt, corporate travel, Facebook Messenger, instagram, meta, microsoft, online travel newsletter, Skift Pro Columns, software, travel planning, Travel Tech Briefing, whatsapp

Photo credit: Big tech companies are revealing their projects related to AI and travel. Pixabay / Pixabay

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