SEATTLE — Travel advisors can expect a revamped booking experience via Expedia’s Travel Agent Affiliate Program (TAAP) this year. And, while the program already harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology Expedia has employed on its B2C channels, generative AI of the ChatGPT ilk could be coming to TAAP, too.
Expedia announced the new booking experience during its Explore 23: Connect conference here Tuesday. Testing is expected to begin this quarter. TAAP services more than 35,000 travel agencies in more than 30 countries.
In a press conference, Ariane Gorin, president of Expedia for Business, called travel agents “a really big and important and growing channel for us.” Gorin said that in the first quarter, more travel advisors joined TAAP than ever before.
Expedia has been investing in capabilities and features in TAAP that travel advisors want, Gorin said, like flexibility on payments and a Live Agent chat.
That chat feature is proving helpful: Expedia said 32% of all U.S. agent interactions in the first quarter were serviced via Live Agent chat. Many of those interactions are already serviced automatically, not even requiring a person’s intervention.
TAAP already uses a number of AI and ML technologies that Expedia employs in a B2C environment. Things like what images are shown, sort order and more are presented to agents by AI and ML, Gorin said.
Further, Expedia is exploring a ChatGPT integration into TAAP, not unlike the integration that is already in its consumer app, according to Gorin. She called it an area of the business Expedia is excited about.
“There’s still a lot of travel that happens through agents, so it’s a very important part of our business,” she said.
Peter Kern, Expedia Group vice chair and CEO, said ML and AI improve Expedia’s overall brand experience, but Expedia’s partners, including travel agents via TAAP, also benefit from those technologies.
“We’re looking at ways to use generative AI for partner-facing things,” Kern said. “We put it in the front end for customers. Now, we’re looking for ways to use it with our partners.”
Gorin added that the strength of Expedia’s B2B business is thanks to the capabilities it has built for its B2C business, which are then modified for partners.
B2B growth surging
In the first quarter of the year, Expedia’s B2B segment revenue was up 55% compared with last year.
“Our growth in B2B is largely due to the pace at which our tech has been adopted by businesses of all sizes who want to either break into travel or expand their current travel offerings,” Kern said in a release.
During Explore 23: Connect, Expedia announced a new partnership with Mastercard. Mastercard will power a loyalty points redemption program, and cardholders will have access to Expedia supply.
That follows an announcement earlier this month that Expedia technology would power SoFi Travel, giving SoFi members access to Expedia inventory. SoFi is a digital personal finance company.
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