[Herald Interview] Travel startup embraces chatbot to offer intelligent budget options

By Catherine Chung

Seoul-based Tripbtoz incorporates artificial intelligence into booking service, targeting Asian customers

Published : Jul 13, 2018 - 11:51
Updated : Jul 13, 2018 - 18:09

Amid the sweltering, humid weather, many Koreans look forward to traveling overseas for the perfect getaway. The only problem is that travel requires a set of cumbersome procedures ranging from picking a destination to booking hotels and arranging transportation.

While working at global travel site Expedia, Jung Ji-ha wondered how he could simplify the process in booking hotels for future customers. Along with the tech expertise he had gained working at Hyundai C&I, Jung decided to jump into the seemingly crowded marketplace of the travel industry last summer. 
 

Travel startup CEO Jung Ji-ha (Tripbtoz)


Launched in June 2017, travel startup Tripbtoz provides local customers with a way to book hotels via its mobile app without having to worry about hotel price fluctuations. To differentiate itself from other booking sites, the startup uses artificial intelligence technology to curate customized travel packages for Korean and other Asian customers. 

“Many Koreans are keener on receiving travel suggestions compared to the United States or other Western countries,” said Jung, 33, in an interview with The Korea Herald. “So, by analyzing months of customers’ travel preferences data with machine learning, we came up with a system that recommends destinations and hotels in seconds.” 


(Tripbtoz)


Korean Tourism Organization data showed that 26.4 million Koreans traveled overseas in 2017, more than double the previous year.

AI data suggest that young Koreans prefer overseas destinations such as Vietnam, Bangkok and Japan. Also, a greater number of young clients are traveling alone to big cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai, according to Jung. 


(Tripbtoz)

 

City view of Hong Kong (Tripbtoz)



Shedding light on the shift in travel course preferences, Jung believes local destinations have been losing their appeal with the younger crowd due to an inflation in hotel prices.

Data also suggest more Koreans are interested in solo vacation packages, reflecting a steady rise in the number of single-person households in Korea, according to Jung. 


The pool view at the Crimson Mactan Resort and Spa in Cebu, Philippines. (Tripbtoz)


In a random customer satisfaction survey earlier this year, some respondents reportedly felt more comfortable with booking hotels through the app because they were given a range of budget options.

“Young Korean 20- and 30-somethings cannot afford expensive lodging, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t travel. So, by allowing consumers to choose a budget range, reasonable travel packages can be recommended with more accuracy,” Jung said. 


Bali, Indonesia (Tripbtoz)


In addition to finding the best hotel deals, the app, which is now available in Korean and Chinese, boasts a speedy response to any claims made regarding service and ensures a transparent transaction. 

“One customer on a budget complained of a cockroach inside her 60,000 won ($53) hotel room in Bangkok. We felt responsible for suggesting the option, so we upgraded her room and gave a full refund in points,” Jung said. 


Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand (Tripbtoz)


Jung also highlighted the “price drop refund” policy, allowing customers to get a full refund in points if the hotel price falls after booking.

Major booking sites such as Expedia and priceline.com take customers through a four-step process of city, hotel, type of room and payment. In efforts to streamline the process, Tripbtoz is working on perfecting its own chatbot, which has been incorporated into China’s social media platform WeChat since 2013.

Similar to how the Google search engine works, the booking system, currently in a trial run, will require the customers to only give their preferences. After receiving the data, the customers will be directed to one page showing hotel and payment options. This feature is slated for launch in 2020.

“Travel is all about relaxing and having a good time. And, that is exactly what we are here for,” Jung said.

By Catherine Chung (cec82@heraldcorp.com)

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The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation