NB: This is a viewpoint by Gadi Bashvitz, founder and CEO of OLSET.
In the past few weeks I have been asked many times by partners, customer and friends what I think about the travel booking bots that seem to be popping up like mushrooms after the rain.
Having created the first iteration of automated booking bots and solutions more than three years ago I feel we have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to bots.
Here’s some thoughts for anyone building, or considering building a travel booking bot.
Many companies in the travel industry are jumping into the world of Facebook Messenger bots. Some examples from major players include Skyscanner’s flight booking bot, Expedia’s hotel booking bot and additional solutions from smaller providers such as Alterra.
Unfortunately, the solutions they are building leave much to be desired. These bots feel as if they are created by engineers who do not travel frequently, resulting in significant gaps in the areas of trust and traveler preference learning.
Having a functional bot that can understand the request a traveler texts is necessary, but not enough.
The interaction with the bot needs to elicit trust from users in order to offer a superior solution to what is already offered on OTA and meta sites, or their mobile apps.
Facebook created the carousel structure for these bots about three months ago. Now companies are releasing the bots and while they do work, questions remain. Do they offer a superior way to book travel? Will they be adopted en-masse?
Travel booking is a complex and emotional process that requires more engagement than simple transactions such as buying a shirt, an example Facebook uses in its documentation.