German travel platform GetYourGuide has raised $194 million to expand into North America.
The company announced the equity and credit financing Thursday (June 1), saying it would allow it to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) innovations.
“The investment will help increase the pace of innovation for travelers and supply partners, leveraging the rapidly progressing capabilities of AI and Large Language Models (LLMs),” the news release said.
“The acceleration of product investment will not only help travelers make the most of their travels, but also empower supply partners to manage and grow their businesses on the platform with intuitive tools.”
The funding comes weeks after another travel company, Airbnb, expressed some caution about using AI for its platform.
Asked about the company’s AI plans during an earnings call, CEO Brian Chesky described moves by OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft as akin to “building a highway. It’s a major infrastructure project, and we’re not going to do that. We’re not an infrastructure company.”
Chesky said the trouble with LLM AI interfaces is they don’t know enough about individual travelers’ preferences.
“Instead of asking you questions like ‘where are you going and when are you going’ I want us to build a robust profile about you, learn more about you, and ask you two bigger and more fundamental questions: ‘who are you and what do you want?’ Think of us with AI as building the ultimate AI concierge that can understand you,” he said.
In the near term, Chesky said Airbnb would eventually use AI for customer service, noting the platform has millions of guests per night.
“We have agents that have to adjudicate between 70 different user policies. Some of these are as many as 100 pages long,” Chesky said.
“What AI is going to do is be able to give a better service cheaper and faster by augmenting the agents, and I think this is going to be a huge transformation.”
Meanwhile, PYMNTS reported last week that three out of every five Americans say inflation has impacted their summer travel plans, leading some to take cost-cutting measures like choosing road trips over air travel.
That’s in keeping with PYMNTS’ research showing that consumers view travel as essential but still seek out deals.
All the same, between the first quarters of 2022 and 2023, two categories related to travel activities saw the highest increases in digital engagement: Online travel information showed an 11% growth, while online airfare rose by 14%.
“This surge in digital engagement indicates consumer interest in travel, and airlines are optimistic about the upcoming months, anticipating increased demand,” PYMNTS wrote.