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Here are a few new launches driving this trend:
- Lola Travel. Launched by Kayak co-founder Paul English, Lola Travel is a mobile app that features heavy interactions with live travel agents during each step of the process. English plans on hiring 100 travel agents by the end of this year.
- Kayak Snap. The travel agency is working on an SMS-based travel service that blends both artificial intelligence and human customer service to answer travelers’ questions. At the moment, it is not clear whether users can actually book travel accommodations through Kayak Snap or if it will act solely as a customer service channel.
- RentalsCombined. The London-based startup enables users to connect with travel agents through desktop and mobile browsers. After the user views different options for short-term business and vacation rentals, the travel agent books the reservation for the user.
- Slack, WhatsApp, etc. In addition to proprietary services, multiple travel agencies in Asia are building features for already existing messaging apps like Slack and WhatsApp for chatting with live agents.
These messaging services come at a time when travelers are increasingly using mobile devices for planning trips, according to data from eMarketer. By the end of 2016, mobile is expected to make up over half of all digital bookings, with the other half taking place on desktop computers. The mobile share is forecast to jump to almost 70% by 2019.
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