Expedia's customers now have the option of browsing and booking hotels via Facebook Messenger.
Expedia believe the bot will make it easier for people to book travel – good news for those who have Expedia's services integrated into their website.
The early signs are good for the bot, with VentureBeat calling it "extremely intuitive" and "easy-to-use". All people have to do to use the bot is open a new message in Facebook Messenger and type 'Expedia' or '@Expedia' into the 'To:' field.
From there, the bot will ask some simple questions to determine a bit about the user's hotel booking preferences, such as the city they are going to and the date when they would like to check-in.
Once the bot has extracted enough information from the user, it will present a handful of hotel options that match the criteria.
When the user clicks on any one of the hotels, it will take them directly to the Expedia page about that hotel. If the user likes what they see, they have the option to book directly with Expedia. Once the booking is completed, users will get an updated message in their Messenger window with a link to their itinerary.
But why has Expedia gone to the effort of creating a bot?
Well, the company wants to be able to cater for everyone. After all, Expedia owns more than 200 travel booking sites from Orbitz to HomeAway to Trivago to Hotels.com, so every type of traveller is covered.
Expedia is especially interested in those travellers who are using their mobiles to travel. As Tarran Street, senior public relations manager, explains: "For us it's all about experimentation to better understand travellers' needs. The rise of mobile means people are starting to move away from the mouse and traditional keyboard, we want to be sure our products are available wherever travellers are searching."
Surely a mobile website would serve mobile users just as well, no?
Not necessarily. For users of Facebook Messenger, they might not want to have to exit the app to browse and book a hotel – perhaps they're discussing travel plans with a friend. Thanks to the bot, they don't have to.
The bot essentially means that conversation can continue alongside browsing, just like it would if you were sat alongside a friend behind a desktop computer.
You might argue that this is possible already, but it requires you to switch between apps, which will inevitably delay the booking.
Expedia says the bot "is just the start for us". In a blog post, it revealed it's conversations with other companies and product offerings about similar ways to use some of its long-term work around Natural Language Processing to enhance voice- and chat-based search options.
It is convinced bots and other similar technology are the way forward for the travel industry. Do you agree?
Contact us if you'd like to get Expedia integrated into your travel website.