Casto Travel Philippines CEO Marc Casto is impressed by the potential of integration of the artificial intelligence tool Bard into Google’s applications. Unlike traditional static profiles, a new “SuperProfile” adapts to travelers’ changing preferences by using extensive data from emails, search history, social media and more. Casto explores the possibilities and emphasizes the importance of embracing such advancements to enhance the traveler experience and stay ahead in the industry.
Google’s Sept. 19 announcement of the integration of AI Bard into their own applications (Gmail, Docs, etc.), as well as Flight and Hotel searches, offers unique opportunities to change search and deliver highly relevant results or custom itineraries, with more, better, faster content for the consumer. I’m sure someone is already writing their next keynote address to include this.
One element in this release fascinates me more than search. Generative AI tools need to access extensive data to refine their large language models, which is clearly at play here. With this step, Google has — and I’m sure OpenAI and others will follow suit shortly hereafter — completed what no other travel company has done to date: built the SuperProfile.
Every business traveler is familiar with their profile. It’s a generally static document that houses their frequent traveler information, preferred suppliers, travel preferences, project numbers and other errata stored with the travel management company and/or global distribution system, or in the expense reporting system. In practice, though, it is rarely, if ever, revised. While it’s one of the most critical elements for ensuring success in corporate travel, the prospect of updating profiles (much less standardizing them) is as unloved as fire ants at a picnic.
The core challenge with profiles is their static nature. They presume that travelers’ interests are fixed. Their preferences never vary and can easily be summarized by window or aisle, king bed or two queens. Anyone who professes to promote traveler-centricity, though, is fully aware that travelers are multi-dimensional and their whims can, and should, change as frequently as the departure times at O’Hare.
Travel profiles as static entities poorly serve their intended audiences. The interests of the traveler can and should change based upon circumstances. In an ideal world, a traveler could have their air and hotel preferences modulate based upon the projects under management, their room and sleeping preferences based upon the duration of the trip, and their insurance requirements by understanding their own risk tolerance as expressed in chat conversations with their work besties. In an ideal world of anticipating the customer’s needs, there is no better source of information than what the customer themself is already adding in emails, search history, work documents, chats and social media.
Thus, the SuperProfile: an instrument that travels with the traveler, expresses their ever-evolving needs and uses more than what is contained in a radio button-heavy web form. This SuperProfile would integrate and influence outcomes tailor-made for the traveler by merging systems designed to condense yottabytes of information with hyper-personal data. Ideally, it would review personal social media, emails, documents, search history, chats … and all that Google already monitors, now powered through extensions into Bard.
What better source to assess the potential impact than Bard itself? While chatting with the chatbot I asked how it can better understand traveler requirements through the use of extensions. To wit:
• “Provide more detailed information about traveler interests. … A Bard extension could be used to track a traveler’s social media posts to identify their favorite destinations, activities and cuisines. This information could then be used to recommend new destinations, activities and restaurants that the traveler is likely to enjoy.”
• “Identify hidden preferences. Bard extensions can also be used to identify hidden traveler preferences that would be difficult to discover through traditional surveys or interviews. For example, a Bard extension could be used to track a traveler’s search history to identify their preferred travel style (e.g., budget, luxury, adventure, etc.) or their preferred type of accommodation.”
• “Predict traveler needs. … A Bard extension could be used to predict how long a traveler will spend at a particular destination or what activities they are most likely to be interested in. This information could then be used to create more tailored and efficient travel itineraries.”
In addition to Google, several startups are taking on this challenge. For example, one I recently met with, Legends, is attempting to create a SuperProfile using photos stored on the phone, processing this information through generative AI and identifying what the person actually likes. (Foodies take note!) This type of creativity is vital for the true next generation in the industry.
When thinking of how we can genuinely improve the traveler experience and win their hearts and minds, I hope as an industry we pivot in a direction that is truly new and innovative rather than just retreading the same arguments regarding distribution economics. Failure to look towards the horizons of progress can make you a bystander to innovation.
This Op Ed was created in collaboration with The Company Dime‘s Editorial Board of six travel managers.