Skift Travel News Blog

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


IDEAS: Austrian National Tourist Office Debuts Humorous Chat SkiPT Campaign

4 months ago

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to embed itself in the day-to-day planning of our vacations, the Austrian National Tourist Office has launched its own humorous take on AI – or ‘Authentic Intelligence’ in this case.

Credit: Sebastian Somloi, SOVISO

Instead of the usual AI tools – which can often yield incorrect results and a lack of authentic information – the Austrian National Tourist Office is relying on its ‘Authentic Intelligence’ to bring in-depth expertise and a touch of Austrian humor to its winter holiday visitors.

‘ChatSkiPT’ has been designed to look like a typical AI chat service, however, the reply will come from one of 15 ski instructors located in Austria who are on hand to answer live questions from visitors regarding their queries on their winter ski holidays.

The website is now live, but the chat feature will officially launch tomorrow (Wednesday 17 January).

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: Renaissance Hotels Launches RENAI, its New AI-powered Virtual Concierge

5 months ago

Guests staying at select Renaissance Hotels will soon have access to RENAI, a virtual concierge.

Credit: Renaissance Hotels/Marriott Bonvoy

RENAI, which stands for Renaissance Artificial Intelligence, is being launched as part of a pilot program designed to provide guests with instant access to ‘vetted , insiders’ picks for vibey cocktail bars, under-the-radar attractions, top-rated breakfast spots and more through an exciting new virtual concierge service.’

The artificial intelligence is powered by the knowledge of Renaissance Navigators – hand-picked employees from hotel locations who act as in-house guidebooks.

“Our Navigators celebrate the culture, ideas, people and talents of their neighborhoods and provide their personal recommendations on what to see and do in their backyard. RENAI By Renaissance makes this even more accessible and inclusive,” said Eddie Schneider, Global Brand Director, Renaissance Hotels in a release. 

“We were already in the process of evolving our signature Navigator program when technology leaps presented a serendipitous opportunity to fuse our Navigators’ human insights with time-saving technology. With today’s travelers having access to an overwhelming amount of information, our goal is to help them cut through the clutter and provide a personalized guest experience with regularly updated tips for local discovery.”

RENAI is now available at The Lindy Renaissance Charleston Hotel, Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel, and Renaissance Nashville Downtown, with the service being expanded more widely in 2024. 

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.

Short-Term Rentals

RedAwning Upgrades Guest Communication For Superhosts

6 months ago

California-based RedAwning has introduced updates to its communication features for Airbnb superhosts. 

The new communications hub communication features include:

  • Centralized communications management , where hosts can send messages from their email, mobile phone, or via the RedAwning Portal or the mobile app, to guests which will then appear on their booking platform or email or text inbox. 
  • Automated messaging for hosts, with customization of design and text for all messages.
  • Automatic conversion of PDF attachments to channel inboxes.

“The fundamental core idea that you’re in the hospitality business is not what people necessarily think of when they think they’re in the rental business,” Red Awning CEO Tim Choate said. “So by using AI and real hospitality thinking, we’re hoping that we can get people to both be very efficient but also be able to personalize and customize something that’s very professional and hospitality oriented.”

Although this particular launch doesn’t have ChatGPT add-ons, Choate hinted at that being the second phase of this launch.

“The next phase for communication, which we’ve already been working on for a while, is integrating AI features,” Choate said. “But it’s really hard to get it right to get AI to suggest responses by using your history, and high hospitality standards.”

Next among product updates is automatic integration of internet of things or smart devices including locks, thermostats, hot tubs, pools and lights. 

This is how Choate described it: ““You automatically send all your personalized messages to each guest via their communications method of choice, automatically set and deliver your door codes, and then you automatically turn up the heat 6 hours before check in and turn it down 2 hours after checkout, so the house will be warm and you save energy. Maybe you also have a hot tub so you automatically turn that up, or maybe you have a pool and the guest opted to pay a fee for pool heating, so you turn up the heat automatically and automatically bill the guest too.”

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb’s AI Acquisition Paid Partially in Stock Valued Above $100 Million

6 months ago

Airbnb made public filings on Tuesday showing that its acquisition of AI company GamePlanner.AI was paid partially with stock valued at about $104.5 million. 

The filings said that the company is offering 877,062 shares and the two largest recipients were listed as Adam Cheyer (337,652 shares) and Siamak Hodjat (245,565). 

Cheyer and Hodjat are the co-founders of GamePlanner.AI, which Airbnb said on Tuesday that it had acquired for an undisclosed price. 

Other stock recipients included several venture capital funds: B Capital, Golden Circle Ventures, a fund owned by Hong Kong businesswoman Solina Chau Hoi Shue, and a trust related to venture capitalist Gary Morgenthaler, among others.

One filing referenced $119.15 as the last reported stock stock price on November 13, which would make the total value of the shares $104.5 million.

Citing sources familiar with the deal, CNBC reported that the total value of the acquisition was nearly $200 million. Airbnb stock is up 3% over the last day and up 36% year to date.

Online Travel

Tripadvisor Says Its AI Itinerary Users Generate 3X Revenues of Average Users

6 months ago

Hidden in Tripadvisor’s latest earnings from earlier this week was some updates on its AI-based trip planning feature that it launched in July, along with some concrete numbers on performance of AI-assisted travel planning.

In the earnings call, CEO Matt Goldberg said that the company has seen much higher conversions (and revenues) from people who use their Generative AI trip planning tool.

From the earnings call transcript, this extract below has all the details of Tripadvisor’s early experiments with public AI tools, use in creating content, summarize reviews and for customer service, I have highlighted the important parts and metrics in bold.

“At our last call, we mentioned the promising early feedback from a significant upgrade to trips our core trip planning and itinerary product including a new generative AI powered itinerary feature. We’re still early in the journey and are iterating continuously, but we’re seeing compelling results. During the first three months in beta, members who created itineraries returned at a much higher rate within the first seven days than members who hadn’t created an itinerary and we’ve observed that higher return rate continuing for the full month thereafter as well. Importantly, members who build an itinerary also generate on average three times higher revenue than the average Tripadvisor member and the average member already monetizes at approximately 10 times the rate of non-members. We believe the initial data is a good indication of early product market fit and we’re on a plan to launch this full trip planning and itinerary product on our mobile app, on iOS and Android this quarter.

Another stated priority is to drive deeper engagement with travelers leveraging our unique content and data at scale. We continue to deliver progress in Q3, let me share two examples. First, we’ve been leveraging generative AI and machine learning tools to bring together guidance from our community and our editorial team on a set of our most popular destination pages, think New York City, Paris, and so on. Curating fresh, relevant content on these pages is driving over 15% more saves so travelers are engaging more frequently by adding a desired hotel, restaurant, or experience they discovered through our product to the trip they’re planning. Second, we recently rolled out a test across tens of thousands of hotels that uses Gen AI to summarize reviews and deliver clear insights to travelers on key quality attributes as they consider their choices.

Let me give an example, for me the single most important factor in booking a hotel is that I can get a quiet night sleep. We’re now leveraging our data to provide a clear signal about the noise level of a particular hotel, along with other critical qualities we know are important to travelers like atmosphere, service, value, and more. Gen AI provides the perfect way to summarize content at scale, trust is still at the center of why people come to us, so in this feature we share the specific underlying reviews from our community of travelers that were used to generate each insight and provide a direct path to go deeper on what matters most to the traveler. These examples are just a few of the many encouraging proof points that our teams are driving, which gives us conviction in our strategic direction, prioritization, and sequencing. But we know this only matters if it translates the financial impact over time, and we’re also pleased with the leading indicators we’re getting on monetization.

I mentioned before the significantly higher revenue we see among users who create a trip. As these users build an itinerary and engage more deeply they’re exposed to monetizable hotel and experience recommendations to relevant ads from our partners, all of which were increasingly integrating directly into this user journey. And the refreshed content on our destination pages is a perfect point in the journey to surface these options to a traveler. We’ve already observed double-digit increases in experiences revenue on the pages with these content enhancements and we are just beginning to scale.”


IDEAS: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Launches Amazon-Powered Store

8 months ago

A new store powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology has opened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

The Market on Las Olas, which is located post-security in Terminal 3, is the first location in a Florida airport to feature Amazon’s checkout-free shopping platform. 

Credit: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

The Just Walk Out technology is made possible by using artificial intelligence to determine what shoppers take from shelves in order to create a ‘virtual shopping session’.

To enter, shoppers simply hover their credit card or device at the entry gate at which point a digital shopping cart is created. Shoppers can then choose their items and then leave the store without having to physically check out, with payments taken upon exit. 

You can take a look at the video below for a demonstration of how the system works:

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Amazon and Delaware North to introduce this exciting store format to FLL travelers,” said Mark E. Gale, CEO/Director of Aviation. “As an airport, we strive to explore and embrace new technologies to innovate and elevate the guest experience, and we anticipate this checkout-free store will be well-received by 

“We are proud to bring Just Walk Out technology and Amazon One to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport,” said Jon Jenkins, Vice President of Just Walk Out technology, AWS Applications. “Even when running late for a flight, South Florida travelers will soon be able to grab snacks and beverages with a fast and frictionless shopping experience.”

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.


Six Flags Partners With Google on AI Tools

9 months 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

10 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

10 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

11 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.