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As Gorin debuts as CEO, Expedia Group launches new AI assistant, content creator shops


As Ariane Gorin steps into the role of CEO for Expedia Group, the company is launching several new products and updates, many built around its continued testing and development of generative artificial intelligence.

Following remarks from outgoing CEO Peter Kern at the opening of the Expedia Explore event in Las Vegas Tuesday morning, Gorin took the stage to outline the new products that are part of the company’s 2024 Spring Product Release, including an AI travel assistant and “Travel Shops” – marketplaces where content creators can earn commissions on their travel recommendations.

Expedia Group was one of the first to experiment with generative AI early in 2023, first with the launch of a plugin for ChatGPT and shortly after with integration of the large language model into the brand Expedia app for trip planning.

Then last fall it updated the apps for Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo with a natural language interface to answer questions about hotels and rentals and added destination travel guides that guests can query.

Now the company is unveiling its next iteration – Romie  – an AI assistant meant to help travelers with research, booking and in-trip services.

Romie – Expedia’s new AI travel assistant

“We believe in reimagining the traveler experience and then using the latest in AI to bring it to life, and with Romie, we’ve done just that,” said Rathi Murthy, chief technology officer of Expedia Group.

Romie is an AI assistant meant to “roam” with travelers. Expedia said Romie is the first of its kind – helping with planning, booking, shopping and providing personal assistance through all stages of travel.

Chats in Romie are progressive, so the system learns more about the user over time to provide more personalized recommendations.

“When we mix
our travel expertise with the new tech capabilities of generative AI, I think that does
take us one step closer of having a truly personalized agent that accompanies a
traveler wherever they go,” Gorin said in an interview with PhocusWire. 

“What you’ll see about Romie that I find particularly exciting is it travels with you even outside our app. So you might have it in your WhatsApp conversations or your text conversations – and it learns from you.”

Romie can also summarize chats and bring that into Expedia directly for travel shopping. It can also read and understand booking confirmation emails and provide related recommendations, for example, of experiences in the vicinity of the user’s hotel. And the system monitors travel disruptions and provides new suggestions for the itinerary as necessary.

Expedia Group is making Romie available in alpha on EG Labs, its center for experimental products announced in September.

Travel Shops make influencer content shoppable

At a time when social media marketing seems to be everywhere, Expedia Group is taking a step to attract more content creators to its ecosystem and, in turn, to bring in consumers interested in taking trips suggested by their favorite influencers.  

“We saw an opportunity to reinvent how consumers interact with travel content on social media platforms,” said Jochen Koedijk, chief marketing officer of Expedia Group.

Content creators can open their own “Travel Shop,” which serves as their storefront to showcase their travel recommendations and to earn commissions from bookings that come through their links.

“The idea for these Travel Shops really came from our marketing teams’ deep insights into how people use social as part of their trip planning and realizing that if we found a way to integrate it into our product, it would be both something that is attractive for the influencers themselves and also really value add for our travelers,” Gorin said.

Expedia Group is also planning to invite its advertising partners to work with “handpicked travel influencers,” for example, to spotlight a destination.

Quote

We saw an opportunity to reinvent how consumers interact with travel content on social media platforms.

Jochen Koedijk – Expedia Group

“Travel Shops are a first-of-its-kind travel platform that bridges the gap between content creators and travelers, creating a central hub for curated travel recommendations and a seamless shopping experience,” Koedijk said.

The launch of Travel Shops follows Expedia Group’s announcement last fall that it would be partnering with influencers to create short-form content similar to what exists on TikTok and Instagram.

AI enhancements abound at Expedia Group

Along with Romie and Travel Shops, Expedia Group announced additional updates Tuesday that use artificial intelligence to “eliminate confusion and stress” for users across all stages of their travel and that assist the company’s travel partners. 

Updates
for travelers include self-service booking management, destination comparison assistance,
price comparison and a customized itinerary builder, with some capabilities available
only in the brand Expedia app and others also available on Hotels.com and Vrbo.

And
for partners, Expedia Group is enabling advertiser-funded loyalty currency,
known as OneKeyCash, and AI-powered analysis of reviews to identify recurring
negative comments. 

Expedia Group creates in-house media network

Expedia Group is also launching a travel media network within its Expedia Group Media Solutions division.

“Our robust, first-party data and network of industry-wide partnerships gives us the exclusive ability to translate traveler shopping behavior to actionable insights for our advertising partners,” said Rob Torres, senior vice president of Expedia Group Media Solutions.

Advertisers will be able to use Expedia Group’s in-house creative team, advertising tools, off-site capabilities and will have the ability to create campaigns with Expedia’s media teams through partnerships with Netflix and Disney+, along with the company’s expansive B2B network.

*This reporter’s attendance at the event was supported by Expedia Group.



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