Numerous companies are exploring the use of AI chatbots, particularly in the consumer sector. Berlin-based startup Layla is capitalizing on this trend by creating a chatbot and app that provides travel recommendations and assists with bookings.
The company was founded by Jeremy Jauncey, the creator of Beautiful Destinations, a travel agency with a substantial social media following, and Saad Saeed, the co-founder of Flink, a grocery delivery service.
Jauncey emphasized that the company aims to introduce a fresh solution to travel discovery, leveraging their extensive experience in social media and technology products.
Recognizing the growing influence of platforms like Instagram and TikTok on travel decisions post-pandemic, Layla has already amassed thousands of Instagram followers through the Beautiful Destinations network.
Users can engage with Layla on Instagram to gather information about destinations, weather, best times to visit, activities, and options for flights and accommodations. The chatbot also showcases destination videos from creators within the Beautiful Destinations network, offering an alternative perspective of each place.
Saeed mentioned that the startup encourages users to transition to Layla’s app on Instagram after initial interactions. Through the app, users can create and share lists, engage in various travel-related chats with Layla, and access extensive content such as videos, ticket prices, and accommodation options.
Jauncey mentioned that individuals typically visit multiple websites for travel-related information from inspiration to booking, and Layla aims to streamline this process.
Layla has partnered with Booking.com to display hotel options and with Skyscanner to show flight options. Initially, the startup will generate revenue through fee sharing for these transactions, but it is also considering additional revenue streams such as personalized advertising opportunities as it scales.
The company has secured a €3 million ($3.2 million) seed investment led by Firstminute Capital, co-founded by Brent Hoberman and M13. Other investors include Andy Phillips, co-founder of Booking.com, Barry Smith, co-founder of Skyscanner, and entertainment personality Paris Hilton.
Layla’s unique approach involves curating diverse content without the need for users to apply filters for search results. While the company utilizes large language models to process queries and display answers, it has developed its own recommendation engine. Additionally, Saeed mentioned Layla is developing vision technology to respond to queries like “show me destinations which look like Mars” or recommend places similar to those in a photo or video.
Hoberman, an investor in the project, expressed excitement about using AI to address travel inquiries and feature exclusive destination videos to encourage travel.
Competitors in the travel industry are also exploring AI integration in their solutions. For instance, Vancouver-based Pilot is developing an AI-focused travel planner for easy trip idea sharing, while Airbnb and Brian Chesky are experimenting with AI-powered review summaries and considering its integration in other aspects of the app. Moreover, travel giants like Kayak and Expedia have their own GPTs (ChatGPT plug-ins), and Matador Network’s Guidegeek app provides real-time flight information. Investors emphasize the significance of gaining even a slight advantage in AI integration within the travel industry.