Attack of the Travel Bots
What will be the easiest, fastest ways to book your business trips in the future? And, more importantly, where will you go on your next “work from beach” week? Whether you use Google’s slick new Trips app, a virtual travel assistant, or a 360-degree destination guide, there are lots of great new options for tech-savvy business travelers.
Google: Your one-stop travel shop
If you're planning a trip, Google wants to be the one—and only—place where you do your comparison shopping. And considering digital travel sales are projected to top $762 billion by 2019, it's not a big surprise that Google wants its fair share of this market.
- In March Google rolled out Destinations, a finely-tuned web-based search for travelers with Google Flights and Hotel integration, plus travel guides and reviews.
- While Destinations is aimed at web-searching would-be travelers, it also served as an informal preview to Google Trips, the company's all-encompassing travel app which debuted in September. The free app, which has been in the works for two years, serves as both a trip planner and a travel guide that organizes your flights and hotel stays, includes travel guides to more than 200 cities, and makes recommendations based on your past Google searches. It also works offline—sparing you pricey cellular coverage abroad.
- So why should Google be your main travel planner when there are so many established online travel agencies already? Well, consider the fact that the big online travel agencies (Expedia and Priceline) as well as metasearch engines (Kayak and Skyscanner) all have partnership deals with hotels and airlines. Google doesn't, so (theoretically) they can offer you the best deals without bias.
Your friendly virtual travel assistant
While you may not have the luxury of an assistant who can pull travel plans together for you, you'll soon be able to take advantage of getting a little virtual help with your itinerary.
- The travel aggregator Hipmunk has launched Hello Hipmunk, a cheery AI assistant in line with its friendly brand. It integrates with your email and calendar and scans them for places you've mentioned or events friends are going to in other cities.
- Some virtual travel assistants (also known as bots) are squarely focused on business travel. Claire, the bot powered by startup 30 Seconds to Fly, helps you book business compliant travel in minutes; another, HelloGbye, has multi-person booking capabilities so you can make travel arrangements for your whole team.
- There is also the promise of virtual travel concierges once you reach your destination. Pana, a booking service that complements bots with human assistance, switches from a trip planner to concierge once you reach your destination, making vetted recommendations about where to grab coffee in the morning or a late-night drink.
Try before you fly
A virtual reality (VR) tour—whether it's in-app or in your browser, with or without a VR headset—is a great way to explore a potential destination before you purchase those plane tickets.
- Las Vegas's economy depends heavily on tourism (both business and pleasure). So it's no surprise that they're one of the first cities to heavily invest in VR tours. GeoVegas offers an immersive desktop experience; a companion app, Vegas VR, was launched in March.
- Travel content providers such as YouVisit, Ascape, and Jaunt are producing beautiful 360-degree destination experiences, letting you take a mini-vacation on your lunch hour.
- Editorial travel publications are investing in VR content, too. National Geographic's recent project, “Through the Ages,” features President Obama taking a tour of Yosemite National Park.
Want to try one—or all—of these new travel helpers? For the full experience, give them a spin on an HP EliteBook 1040 or an HP High Performance Desktop. Also check out our Virtual Reality Headsets.