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SnapTravel announced today the launch of its half-bot, half-human hotel booking service and that it had raised $1.1 million in seed funding. The company demonstrated its new service for the first time at MobileBeat 2016 as it prepares to enter the crowded $550 billion hotel booking market.
In recent months, travel giants like Expedia and Booking.com have created their own bots, yet SnapTravel is taking a unique approach by using its chatbot and human agents to assist travelers in finding and booking their accommodations. SnapTravel’s bot will use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to conduct conversations to help users find hotels suited to their preferences. And if a user stumps the bot with a unique request, a human agent will intervene and assist the bot.
“Each hotel booking trains the machine learning model as it works towards full automation,” said Henry Shi, SnapTravel CTO and cofounder.
This hybrid bot-human approach allows a company to scale its business while still offering human, personal service — and avoiding the frustration that some customers have felt with “dumb” chatbots. Ecommerce company Mezi also follows this human-assisted approach with its bots.
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To access SnapTravel, users connect with the service over Facebook Messenger, SMS, or Slack; there is no app to download. The service is straightforward, with good, clean design guiding users through the basic steps of finding a desirable hotel and booking it. The service pulls data from hundreds of sources and offers a low-price guarantee with every booking. “Finding and booking the right hotel is currently a broken and frustrating experience — having to open numerous sites and apps,” said Hussein Fazal, SnapTravel CEO and cofounder.
Prior to founding SnapTravel, Fazal was cofounder and CEO at AdParlor (acquired by AdKnowledge), and Shi had served as a machine learning engineer at LendUp and as an engineer at Google. The pair have enlisted a roster of travel industry veterans, including Scott Booker (former president of Hotels.com), Stuart Silberg (former CTO of Expedia), Eduardo Schutte (SVP of Hilton Worldwide), and Shariq Minhas (cofounder of Stayful). The company has offices in Silicon Valley and Toronto. Its seed funding was led by Lightbank and Bee Partners.
Watch the SnapTravel demo here.
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