Tui trials ChatGPT in UK in bid to boost mobile app bookings

Tui is undertaking a UK trial of ChatGPT, the generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, as it seeks to boost bookings through its MyTui app.

Group chief executive Sebastian Ebel confirmed the trial last week, saying: “ChatGPT will have a significant influence in how we produce and sell packages. We want to try it in the UK because the market is very online.”

He noted “80% of package customers use the app pre-departure” and revealed: “We doubled bookings through the app in the UK to 9%, up four percentage points year on year. [But] we have the opportunity to go to 50% and that would reduce the cost of distribution – 50% is the target.”

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Ebel insisted growth in ChatGPT-driven bookings would come from online traffic and not lead to cuts in Tui’s retail estate. He said: “I’m a big fan of retail.

“Retail supports high-value product. The increase [in app use] should come from the web. If a customer books in the app they don’t book on the web.”

A Tui spokesperson explained: “This is the first time generative AI has been connected to live inventory to match bookable products to destination information.

“The trial is live to 50% of UK app users as part of a phased rollout and will be available to 100% in coming weeks. We anticipate it will be available to other markets next year.

“It’s using generative AI to help customers find the perfect experience whether travelling on holiday or in their home country.

“The search provides an answer in two parts. First, a description of their destination tailored to their preferences, sourced from ChatGPT’s algorithms.

“Second, and this is where we go a step further than our competitors, by integrating with [tours and activities business] Tui Musement it provides a list of excursions bookable within the app.”

The spokesperson said: “We want customers to keep coming back to the app even when they might not be about to travel. This is the first of a pipeline of content we’ll be releasing to drive increased app-user engagement.”

The ChatGPT function has already been used by more than 10,000 customers.

Tui reported selling 94% of product direct in its Northen Region, including the UK, last year and 71% online. The spokesperson described the 50% app-bookings target as “mid- to long-term”.

Tui Group chief information officer Pieter Jordaan said: “Generative AI is starting to change the way customers are searching and interacting with Tui. 

“We continue to test new technologies that bring benefits to our customers and employees. 

“We can build on our vast experience with machine learning and artificial intelligence which is already integrated within our technology platform. This pilot will give us important insights to further develop the feature.”

Further trials are also underway using generative AI tools, including post-holiday customer communication, automated analysis of knowledge bases to support contact centre teams, and content language translation, as well as other applications that support Tui technology teams in code creation and testing, according to the company.

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