Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Six Flags Partners With Google on AI Tools

4 weeks ago

Six Flags said Tuesday that it plans to release generative AI tools in partnership with Google Cloud.

The project includes tools meant to enhance visitor experiences and optimize business operations.

The plan is to release AI chatbots on updated versions of the Six Flags mobile app and park websites later this year. Powered by Google Cloud’s Vertex AI Conversation, the company said the virtual assistants will provide personalized recommendations and answer questions as visitors plan their trips, meant to reduce the need for interaction with live agents. 

“This partnership signifies a monumental leap in our strategic direction, ushering in a new era of technological empowerment for Six Flags,” said Omar Jacques Omran, chief digital officer of Six Flags, in a statement. “With Google Cloud’s technology, we are committed to not only enhancing park operations, but also creating unparalleled, personalized guest experiences. We will bring an increased level of agility and responsiveness to our operations, redefining the way we serve our guests and setting new benchmarks in the amusement park industry.”

Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, added in a statement: “By ingesting and synthesizing information across Six Flags’ extensive park portfolio, generative AI will enable the theme park operator to redefine guest experiences, providing more personalized information about rides, entertainment, dining and more.”

The majority of generative AI partnerships in the travel industry have been with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. 

Priceline released a tool in partnership with Google Cloud in July. And eDreams Odigeo said in May that it would be partnering with Google Cloud to integrate generative AI into its own technology.

Though generative AI technology is still in early stages, executives of many large travel companies have said they see the potential for disruption and are working on implementing it into their businesses.


IDEAS: Omio Launches ChatGPT Plugin, Allowing Search and Comparison of Global Travel Options

2 months ago

Travel booking app Omio has announced the launch of its plugin for ChatGPT, which has been designed to enable users to discover the best way to travel in real-time, using data from Omio’s inventory of bookable tickets and the power of OpenAI’s technology.

According to a release from the platform, this is the first plugin of its kind by a ground transportation provider, allowing users to search and compare travel across trains, buses, flights and ferries.

Credit: Omio

“In the past two years, our tech team has developed the Omio API extensively, and we are thrilled to be able to apply it within the OpenAI world, bringing a further innovation in the travel technology sector. Users of ChatGPT now have access to Omio’s inventory of over 1000 transport providers, and can ask ChatGPT questions they would have historically asked a travel agent about their travel arrangements. We are proud to digitalise the industry,” said Tomas Vocetka, chief technology officer at Omio.

“Our vision as a company is to empower billions of people to travel anywhere at any time, and the launch of the Omio plugin for ChatGPT acts as a bold step in achieving this. We are giving new consumers globally the opportunity to search for, compare and book travel on their terms. Consumer-centric innovation is at the heart of all our decision-making, and we are excited for travellers to be able to ask ChatGPT for the fastest trip by train or for the cheapest way they can travel with their family in peak season, knowing that they will get quality results from the Omio platform,” Vocetka continued.

The Omio plugin is available in the ChatGPT plugin store now.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: GuideGeek Launches AI-powered Travel Assistant on Instagram

2 months ago

GuideGeek, the AI travel assistant powered by Matador Network, has now launched on Instagram.

The service, which has been available on WhatsApp for some time, is now available to support Instagram savvy travelers looking for insights and advice when planning and researching their trips, with the AI assistant responding to direct messages in real-time. 

Credit: GuideGeek

In order to engage with GuideGeek on Instagram, users simply need to head to the profile, tap ‘message’ and send their query. The AI assistant will then respond directly within their messages. 

Since launch, the Instagram account has already amassed an impressive 1.3M followers at the time of writing.

According to a release from GuideGeek, the service has already ‘aided travelers all over the world, in over 32 languages, to find accommodations and restaurants, customize itineraries, learn about local experiences and tours, and much more.’

“Social media is how people get inspired these days, but planning trips to places you see on Instagram can be tedious. By integrating GuideGeek with Instagram, millions more people will now get detailed information about the places they want to go without leaving the platform they love so much,” says Ross Borden, CEO of Matador Network.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: Virgin Voyages’ Jen AI Creates Personalized Invites From Jennifer Lopez

3 months ago

Virgin Voyages have expanded their partnership with Chief Entertainment, Lifestyle & Celebration Officer, Jennifer Lopez, with the introduction of Jen AI, a new personalized invitation tool.

Thanks to the newly launched campaign, customers will now have the opportunity to create a personalized invitation from Jennifer Lopez, or at the very least, an impressive resemblance of her, thanks to the Jen AI tool.

By simply answering a few questions, guests will have the power to generate a personalized invitation from Lopez thanks to augmented reality, which can then be shared with friends and family.

Take a look at the tongue in cheek video from Virgin Voyages about the new tool below:

You can create your own personalized invite by visiting the Virgin Voyages Jen AI website.

At Skift, we are looking to unearth the most creative and forward-thinking innovations in travel through our Skift Ideas Franchise, which includes the Skift IDEA Awards, Skift Editorial Hub and the Skift Ideas Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Travel Technology

Ryanair and Lonely Planet Involved in New $100 Million AI Program by Amazon Web Services

3 months ago

The airline Ryanair and travel guide publisher Lonely Planet are taking part in a new $100 million program by Amazon Web Services to explore innovations in generative AI.

AWS announced the Generative AI Innovation Center on Thursday with four partners, which also include sales tech company Highspot and communications platform Twilio.

AWS said it is starting the program to connect its own AI and machine learning experts with client business to help them develop new generative AI products, services, and processes.

Chris Whyde, senior vice president of engineering and data science at Lonely Planet, said in a statement that — a common goal among companies looking to use generative AI for travel planning. 

“We are always looking for ways to tap into new technology and meet the demands of today’s travelers,” Whyde stated. “The AWS Generative AI Innovation Center, paired with expert-driven advice and Lonely Planet’s award-winning content, will enable us to provide more personalized travel recommendations, making travel more accessible for those around the world.”

The program will operate through workshops and other engagements to help AWS customers throughout the process of designing the best generative AI models for their businesses and implementing them at scale, the company said.

“The Generative AI Innovation Center is part of our goal to help every organization leverage AI by providing flexible and cost-effective generative AI services for the enterprise, alongside our team of generative AI experts to take advantage of all this new technology has to offer,” Matt Garman, senior vice president of sales, marketing, and global services at AWS, state in a statement. “Together with our global community of partners, we’re working with business leaders across every industry to help them maximize the impact of generative AI in their organizations, creating value for their customers, employees, and bottom line.”


IDEAS: Hurtigruten Norway Utilizes AI for Zero-Emission Cruise Ship

4 months ago

Hurtigruten Norway has unveiled the early concept designs for its first zero-emission ship, which is set to feature ‘numerous firsts and improved solutions that do not exist on cruise ships today.’

Credit: VARD Design

Initially announced by the Cruise Line in March 2022 as part of its ‘Sea Zero‘ project, the new designs showcase the vessels proposed retractable sails fitted with solar panels, which will be featured alongside an array of cutting-edge technologies, including contra-rotating propellers, multiple retractable thrusters, air lubrication systems, advanced hull coatings, and proactive hull cleaning.

Credit: VARD Design

Hurtigruten Norway predicts that advanced AI maneuvering capabilities will significantly reduce the size of the ship’s bridge and mimic that of an aircraft cockpit, with further AI technologies set to optimize docking operations by gathering real-time data for continuous operational improvement.

Credit: VARD Design

Guests are also set to play a key role in ensuring the green credentials of the vessel thanks to an on-board interactive app, where they will be able to monitor their water and energy consumption.

“When we initially announced the ‘Sea Zero’ project over a year ago, we were faced with the challenge of not knowing which technologies would be available to us in 2030. Our task was to pave the way for new innovations and enhance existing ones to align with our sustainability objectives. While some of these technologies have reached a relatively advanced stage, they still necessitate dedicated research and development to ensure successful implementation within the maritime context,” said Hedda Felin, CEO of Hurtigruten Norway.

“On the other hand, certain technologies are still in early development and require fundamental research and thorough testing. Following a rigorous feasibility study, we have pinpointed the most promising technologies for our groundbreaking future cruise ships. We are committed to delivering a ship that surpasses all others in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability within just a few years.”

The concept has now embarked on a two-year testing phase, where the proposed technologies will undergo further trials and development.

At the Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking for the organizations elevating the travel industry’s role as a force for good by affecting meaningful change, including the sustainability projects that are creating a positive impact for the planet.

If you have an exciting project to share, head to the Skift IDEA Awards today and start your submission. The final deadline for entries is June 20, 2023.


IDEAS: dnata Looks to Robotics for the Future of Airline Catering

4 months ago

At the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) in Hamburg this week, dnata – one of the world’s largest air services providers – offered attendees a glimpse into the future of its catering capabilities with a demonstration of its new AI-powered cooking robot.

Credit: dnata/Moley Robotics

Developed by Moley Robotics, the cooking-machine utilizes AI technology to follow pre-recorded chef instructions, and is equipped with ‘multiple sensors and machine learning capabilities, enabling it to precisely measure ingredients and execute complex cooking techniques’.

You can take a look at one of Moley Robotics’ cooking machines in action below:

“We are excited to showcase a revolutionary cooking robot alongside our world-class culinary and retail offering at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo,” Said Robin Padgett, CEO of dnata Catering & Retail.

“We are constantly looking for ways to further improve quality and efficiency by leveraging the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence and automation, across our global network. In recent years we have implemented a number of sophisticated solutions to optimise various aspects of our operations, ranging from consumption analysis to ingredient sourcing, inventory and waste management. We will continue to closely monitor trends and further integrate AI into our operations to harness the power of innovation.”

Credit: dnata/Moley Robotics

The cooking robot is the latest addition to dnata’s robotic line-up, with ‘Bella’ the hospitality robot already in operation in the UAE at Sharjah Airport’s (SHJ) lounge along with its partner, ‘Kitty’. 

At the 2023 Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking to the future of travel by highlighting the creative designs, technologies, and innovations that are driving the future of travel.

If you have an exciting initiative or innovation that deserves to be celebrated, head over to the Skift IDEA Awards and start your application today. The deadline for submissions is June 20, 2023.


Choice Hotels Tech Chief Sketches Path to Tapping Generative AI

4 months ago

Choice Hotels sees a potential in generative AI (artificial intelligence) to reshape the hotel sector, according to an interview chief information officer Brian Kirkland did on Bloomberg TV right before the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“To be commercially viable, and to be something that really transforms how we do business, … we need to make sure that we can securely use it. So how do we get private data sets in there? How do we curate the answers to make sure that … the right answer is coming back that’s curated and accurate, and not based on old data? That’s something we’re talking about with some of our partners. When [that’s available], it will be transformative.”

—Brian Kirkland of Choice Hotels

Kirkland speculated that generative AI could help guests find answers faster about properties and help Choice Hotels franchisees to figure out the right type of business strategy or even the policies around how they run their business.

Full interview here:

UPDATE: The original post misspelled Brian Kirkland’s name. Apologies.

Short-Term Rentals

Brian Chesky’s Vision For Airbnb Going Ahead, Articulated

5 months ago

Airbnb has been out there a lot these last couple of weeks talking about its new product updates and launches, and CEO and Co-Founder Brian Chesky has been surprisingly open about what went wrong from the original vision, how he runs the company and what’s coming in the company’s AI-driven future, even beyond its core.

Now in a new interview on The Verge’s Decoder podcast, while he goes over the familiar territory he has talked about to me and others in recent days, he also articulates that his future vision for Airbnb is. Worth reading/listening to the short clip, and gives hints to community and connection, which currently is more varpoware in Airbnb’s main product than reality, as being the main focus going ahead, in areas beyond its core of accommodation.

“Our vision for this company is the following: that Airbnb is a marriage of art and science, that we’re a truly creatively-led company. Our two core values are basically design creativity married with technologies and then this idea of community and connection. A company with this real humanistic feel that you come to Airbnb, we ask you a series of questions.

We learn about you. We understand who you are, what you want. We design these incredibly simple interfaces, and then our job as a host is we develop these really robust matching algorithms, and then we can match you to whatever you want. 

And so if we can build this incredibly robust identity system, if we can have the most robust profiles, almost like a physical social network where we can connect people together in this community, if we can use AI to augment customer service, to deeply understand and resolve your issues within seconds, not just minutes or hours, and we can then build these incredibly simple interfaces where we match you to whatever you want in your life, that’s basically the idea of where we’re trying to go. And Jony Ive and his team, they’re working on things just in that area.”


IDEAS: Vienna Tourist Board Unveils ‘UnArtificial Art’

5 months ago

The Vienna Tourist Board has launched UnArtificial Art, a marketing campaign designed to ‘promote the city’s 100+ museums in order to “See the Art behind AI Art”’.

The new campaign sees famous figures from the world’s most acclaimed artists transformed into the internet’s universally adored animal – the cat – using the power of Artificial Intelligence. 

One such example featured in the campaign is a mash up of Gustav Klimt’s ‘Kiss’, which sees the much adored lovers transformed into cats, still wearing the intricately decorated robes and positioned in the iconic lovers embrace.

Credit: Jung von Matt DONAU & Vienna Tourist Board

“With so much artificial intelligence (AI) invading lives – particularly with programs like DALL-E or Midjourney that allow anyone to create “works of art” – Vienna wants to remind visitors of who made that all possible in the first place” said Norbert Kettner, Vienna Tourist Board’s CEO.

“The campaign aims to show that AI art is only possible because an algorithm references real works made by real humans, and the originals can often only be seen in Vienna. The Viennese Modernism movement that revolutionized the artworld over a century ago continues to live on and affect today’s art through the algorithms that guide AI creations,” he continued.

As part of the campaign, the Vienna Tourist Board has also released a short film with art expert Markus Hübl, which aims to showcase the art that made AI possible. You can view the video below:

This isn’t the first time AI has been used in a marketing campaign, with VisitDenmark turning to the power of artificial intelligence for a marketing campaign launched earlier this year.

At the Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking for advertising campaigns created with the intent to drive action.

If you have an initiative to share, head to the Skift IDEA Awards and start your submission today.




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