Google's AI to power Priceline's virtual travel agent
Google logo, May 4, 2023. /Reuters
Google logo, May 4, 2023. /Reuters

Google logo, May 4, 2023. /Reuters

Online travel agency Priceline, a part of Booking Holdings, plans to bring out a sophisticated chatbot for planning trips and offering hotel suggestions like "a personal concierge," said Chief Technology Officer Martin Brodbeck.

New tools from Google's cloud division give Priceline access to generative AI, like the technology behind ChatGPT that can draft text as if a human wrote it. The tools also extract information such as hotel prices from existing data to ensure accuracy.

"You can easily find out that in Bryant Park there's a Christmas market that runs from early November all the way through the beginning of January when you're actually booking your hotel," Brodbeck said.

For Google, drawing business through AI represents a potential way to close the gap with rivals Amazon and Microsoft, as it has long been a distant No. 3 provider of cloud services like data storage.

For Priceline, embracing novel technology on its website may help it vie with myriad platforms that market travel options, some of which are exploring how consumers react to AI.

Its rival Expedia Group has said ChatGPT would power conversations on a smartphone app. That is giving travelers "inspiration on places to go" and booking options, said Chief Technology Officer Rathi Murthy.

Both Expedia and Kayak, another site owned by Booking Holdings, have integrated their travel suggestions through features in the standalone ChatGPT program as well.

Google itself has long represented competition for Priceline, though Brodbeck said its cloud capabilities were what led to the partnership.

The ability to build applications atop generative-AI that Google pioneered has attracted recent business, said Google Cloud's CEO Thomas Kurian.

"There is a kind of a Cambrian moment happening now where there's an explosion of this technology," Kurian said, referring to the extraordinary prehistoric period when a wide array of new species emerged.

Among other uses, Google's AI will be generating coding suggestions for hundreds of software developers at Priceline, said Brodbeck. Priceline will adopt Google's search capabilities for employee intranets. And Google's AI will speed up marketing for trending destinations.

"You could have it create images like a beautiful beach, and you could marry that with great generative-AI copy," Brodbeck said.

(With input from Reuters)

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