Expedia to Launch AI Assistant Romie to Enhance Travel Planning and Real-Time Updates

Online travel agency Expedia has announced the upcoming launch of its AI assistant, Romie, designed to enhance various aspects of travel planning, including search, itinerary building, trip planning, and real-time updates. This move aims to position Expedia ahead of its competitors in the dynamic travel ecosystem.

Expedia operates a range of online travel aggregators and metasearch engines. The introduction of Romie, trained on both in-house and OpenAI models, represents the company's latest innovation. Romie is set to assist users in searching for hotels, building itineraries, and making minor adjustments to travel plans. The bot is versatile, being accessible in iMessage chat groups and one-on-one conversations on WhatsApp, utilizing ChatGPT technology.

Users can interact with Romie by mentioning the bot in iMessage to request itinerary summaries or restaurant suggestions. Romie can also direct users to the Expedia app, providing links to detailed itineraries and recommendations. Additionally, Expedia is enhancing its website with a smart search feature. This new functionality allows users to describe desired hotel characteristics, such as “rooftop and view of the sea,” and receive tailored search results.

Currently, these features are being tested with a limited audience through Expedia’s EG Labs program, which allows select U.S.-based users to trial the new offerings. The company is integrating data from various sources, including AccuWeather and Yelp, to tailor search results and Romie's responses. This integration enables real-time updates on flight changes, weather conditions, and even hotel recommendations near airports in case of flight cancellations.

Expedia's journey with AI began in 2023 when it introduced an in-app travel planning experience powered by ChatGPT. The company is now expanding AI integration across its core features. Competitors in the travel industry have also embraced AI. Booking.com launched AI-powered trip planning features in June 2023, while Airbnb has tested AI-aided review summaries and aims to develop an “ultimate concierge.” Similarly, Kayak introduced a conversational tool and a screenshot-based price comparison feature.

Startups are entering the fray with AI-powered solutions to challenge established travel platforms. Mindtrip, backed by Costanoa Ventures, is developing an AI travel agent, and Vancouver-based Pilot is focusing on social travel planning through AI. Layla, with investments from notable figures including Booking.com co-founder Andy Phillipps and Skyscanner co-founder Barry Smith, is creating a comprehensive travel recommendation app. Layla recently acquired FLYR.com and the AI itinerary builder Roam Around.

Rathi Murthy, CTO of Expedia Group, expressed confidence in Expedia's AI solution despite the competitive landscape. Murthy highlighted Romie’s multifaceted role as a travel agent, personal assistant, and concierge, emphasizing its proactive capabilities across the travel process. Murthy noted that the unique integration of Romie into platforms like iMessage and WhatsApp distinguishes Expedia's offering.

Expedia also plans to introduce a cross-date price comparison tool, an AI-powered help page, and guest review summaries as part of its upcoming spring update. With these advancements, Expedia aims to streamline and enhance the travel planning experience for its users.