Expedia Group's new CEO Ariane Gorin speaking at Explore 24

Expedia Group is leveraging the power of artificial intelligence with the launch of an industry-first conversational trip planning tool, among a collection of over 40 new products and features.

Launched on Tuesday (May 14) in Las Vegas at Expedia Group’s annual partner conference, Explore, Romie – named in honour its ability to ‘roam’ the world with travellers – is designed to offer a highly personalised travel booking experience, engaging with travellers before, during and after their trip.

Blurring the lines between travel agent, concierge and personal assistant, the AI tool can gain an intimate understanding of the user’s travel plans and preferences given that Romie can be added to SMS group chats to stay abreast of trip plans and can pull travel information from emails.

Additionally, Romie can make recommendations on places to visit and share advice when there are unexpectedly changes during a trip.

“Our long-standing investments in this space enable us to capitalise on the breathtaking pace of AI innovation, and today’s Spring Release demonstrates our commitment to delivering innovative products and features that enhance the way people explore the world,” said Expedia Group’s new Chief Executive, Ariane Gorin, who has led the company’s B2B arm as President for over a decade and commenced the CEO role this week.

The alpha version of Romie is currently available in the US only, through Expedia Group’s experimental product hub, EG Labs.

“We believe in re-imagining the traveller experience, and then using the latest in AI to bring it to life, and with Romie, we’ve done just that,” said Expedia Group CTO, Rathi Murthy.

“We created an AI assistant with hyper personalisation in mind so that travellers can choose when they want Romie’s help on their own terms.

“Romie can assist throughout dreaming, planning and traveling or even when things don’t go as planned, all while getting more intelligent as the traveller interacts.”

Expedia Group CEO Ariane Gorin

Speaking to HM about how hotels can ensure they are ranking highly in Romie’s recommendations, Gorin said that while the results will be tailored to travellers’ individual preferences, it’s essential that hotels have clear and relevant information on their website as well as high quality images.

“We’re looking to show hotels that we think are going to match what the traveller is looking for, including, hotels that are offering good value, that have high travel ratings, and are providing great experiences,” Gorin told HM.

“A couple of years ago, we introduced the guest experience score to capture a combination of factors [that influence] guest experience at the property.

“In the last couple of years, as we’ve given hotels more data to understand what’s impacting their guest experience, we’ve seen that hotels that interact with that then improve their guest experience; so, it’s really about the guest experience, the value proposition of the property, and of course, the content and the photos that will make a difference.”

Speaking about Expedia’s role in the industry, Gorin described the business as a platform for discovery.

“We are not greeting people at the hotel – only the people at the hotel can greet [guests] and make sure that they have a great experience – our role is to help people as they are discovering and then booking their trip, and making sure that the content that they see when they’re booking is a reflection of what they’ll get when they go to the hotel,” she said.

Expedia Group has also launched Travel Shops, an e-commerce tool that enables influencers and travellers to share their favourite hotels or travel recommendations within the Expedia app; their followers, family or friends can then purchase their exact trip.

Explore 24 is taking place on May 14-15 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas

The initial phase features 14 creators, with the platform to be opened up to all travellers later this year.  

Expedia Group said the new storefront allows users to earn commission, providing an incentive to create more content during their trip, which could lead to increased exposure of hotels and other travel providers on social media platforms.

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

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

“Travel Shops give creators the tools to build unique marketplaces, making it easy to share travel recommendations and providing a more personalised experience for travellers.”