You deserve a vacation, and none of the stress that comes alongside planning one. After all, what’s the point of taking some time if the process is so painful? So to help make taking a vacation an actual vacation, Hipmunk, a travel-planning search engine, has unveiled the latest in its own AI technology — a chatbot for Facebook Messenger and Slack.
This new tool, known as Hello Hipmunk, serves as a “free personalized travel-planning virtual assistant,” and can be accessed directly through two of the most popular messaging apps on mobile and the web. The company started beta-testing Hello Hipmunk late last year, but instead of the conversation-based approach of Messenger and Slack, it was e-mail based. On Slack, simply precede any travel-related question with “/hipmunk,” and then make requests like, “Show me the best flights from La Guardia to Houston,” or “I need a beach vacation this winter.” Then, the company says, Hello Hipmunk will parse through its database of itineraries, room inventory, and pricing, and provide users with nearly instantaneous advice.
“The average traveler runs 20 searches when planning a trip. Hello Hipmunk shrinks that process to one simple conversation. It can process tons of information from flight pricing to room availability and synthesize it instantly,” said Adam Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Hipmunk. But that alone is not the way of the future, the company believes.
“Running multiple searches to get advice and research options is inefficient and, eventually, will be a thing of the past. Now Hello Hipmunk lets travelers ask questions from where they’re already talking, and deliver the answers there, too,” added Nancy Hang, vice president of product at Hipmunk. “We want to make it easy for people to type something like ‘I’d like to take a beach vacation from Minneapolis in March’ and see options instantly.”
From advice and research to setting preferences (nonstop flights only) and alerts (when the cheapest flights are going on sale), Hello Hipmunk wants to be the personal travel agent you never had. And because it’s a pretty intelligent AI system, Hello Hipmunk understands natural language, so when you tell the bot that you want to fly next weekend, Hello Hipmunk knows what those dates are, and will automatically pull up hotel accommodations for you to consider as well.
“The proliferation of travel sites has made it harder, not easier, for customers to have confidence when booking. That’s why AI is so powerful in travel. We’re taking the nuances of customers’ needs — in their own words — and doing all the hard work in the background, searching across all those sites instantly,” Goldstein said. “And as with other innovations, the pioneers in travel are going to set the template for how to do it right in other categories.”