ITB 2024: Booking Holdings on its ‘pole position’ for AI use

ITB 2024: Booking Holdings on its ‘pole position’ for AI use

Glenn Fogel confirmed each brand uses different AI strategies

At ITB Berlin last week, Booking Holidings CEO, Glenn Fogel sat down with Charuta Fadnis, SVP research of Phocuswright, to discuss the future of travel and its latest innovations.

The pair unpacked the group’s strategy when it came to AI as Fogel confirmed that each brand in its portfolio does something different. 

He said: “We have, we have Priceline, we have Agoda, we have a number of different companies, and they are doing AI in different ways, different forms, exploring different things.”

Fogel warned that you have to be careful when talking about AI as it’s a very general term, that means a “lot of different things”.

The company has been using machine learning models for forever said Fogel but when it comes to Generative AI, each business has different prospects and different services.

“One of the best things is enabling different groups of technologists to think creatively to come up with what they think is best and try it out.

“So, at we have a thing called our Trip Planner, our AI trip planner… and it’ll help build out what your needs are.

“Now, another thing that’s really interesting is Priceline, their AI product, they call it Penny and they started out not at the top of the funnel but they started first developing at the bottom of the funnel so you may have noticed this yourself when you’re buying something particularly - when say a hotel – right before you press buy you may have a question.

“Now, before we came up with Penny, somebody would have to go back up the funnel to try and find the information but with Penny there’s a chatbot and you can just type in right there your question, and it will find the answer and bring it right back to you.

He said it’s fascinating how interactive the AI gets as you can go back and forth with it with various questions but expressed that you have to make sure the AI is right for risk of hallucinations. 

“We always want to make it right, and it’s early. So, I played with our AI products and I’ve seen some things and I said hmm that’s not exactly right and we’re developing it but that’s no different than any other new type of technology where things take time to develop into optimised, much better. 

“I do believe we are in a pole position. We have over 400 technologists working on AI in Amsterdam.

“I look at our products and I look at our competitor’s products and I feel our products are better,” he said.

This work is based out of Amsterdam and Fogel believes it’s what is important for Europe, “to develop our own technologies to be a leader” instead of leaving it to Silicon Valley or Shanghai or elsewhere to develop the new technologies. 

Regulatory frameworks are “sometimes not conducive to innovation, to investment, to developing new things”.

He added: “I’m concerned about when I look at some statistics in terms of how much R&D is being put in by companies in Europe versus other parts of the world. 

“I feel we may be falling behind and that is a problem.”