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Planning a trip has always been challenging but never more so than it is right now.
Pandemic-related travel policies and rules, and the confusing booking and cancellation policies associated with them, are in a constant state of flux across the globe. Even savvy travelers aren’t sure where they can travel, when is the best time to go, and what the situation on the ground will be like once they arrive.
To ease these hassles and enhance the travel experience, a new membership company, Origin, is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and coupling it with personalization by locally-based travel experts.
Co-founded by tech executives Eli Bressert (formerly of Apple) and Tamar van de Paal (of Google and Nextdoor), the Origin “personal travel assistant” app offers members access to personalized information and real-time human support at every juncture of a trip, from planning to execution.
“We created Origin because modern travel has become extremely complicated and we believe that transformational travel allows people to live out their dreams,” said Bressert, a travel enthusiast himself. “The barrier of travel planning, the time it consumes, and [the lack of] insider knowledge are holding people back from maximizing their travel experiences,” he says.
In mid-January, the company announced over $5 million in seed funding (led by Project A) for this “travel assistant service” that will help users design bespoke trips.
How the Origin app works
Interested travelers sign up for a $3000 annual membership, which entitles them to unlimited trip planning, unlimited trip revisions (before or during a trip), and 24/7 support.
To maximize its value, the simple-to-use Origin app collects information from members about their preferences, interests, style and values. AI offers data on details such as best flight times, best-rated accommodations, sustainable destinations, etc. And machine learning continually incorporates data from a member’s prior trips to improve the relevance of future recommendations.
Users can choose to communicate electronically, over the app, or with real people if they choose.
Local expertise is provided by a network of on-site “travel curators” based around the world, currently in Spain, Argentina, the UK, The Netherlands, New York, California, Texas and soon more locations in Asia. Adding to their depth of knowledge, all were once expats at these destinations.
The company establishes preferential rates and benefits with accommodation, dining and experience partners (such as room upgrades and complimentary breakfasts), achieving cost-savings by eliminating middlemen (e.g. resellers and travel agents) and connecting travelers directly with operators.
Members receive a customized itinerary without the hassles of having to coordinate all the various aspects of travel by themselves. All the information related to a trip is organized and accessible on their smartphones or tablets without having to open PDFs or read through long email threads.
The company also tries to make sure that the human elements of serendipity and surprise (in the form of a traveler’s favorite snack, a special event at a destination, or a wellness amenity) are elements of each trip.
Is Origin for you?
The fixed cost of membership is relatively modest for frequent travelers who travel multiple times a year. The convenience of the app will also appeal to anyone planning a complex trip (e.g. stops in multiple countries, trips to exotic locations, multigenerational trips, etc.).
Of course, Origin and its backers are banking on the growing demographic of millennials and Gen-X travelers who understand the value that adding technology and machine learning brings to the convenience and pleasure of travel.
The Origin travel assistant is currently available in the Apple app store and will soon be launched on Google Play. A $400 trial option is available to travelers interested in experiencing a curated trip prior to signing up for membership.
Read more about Origin on the company website.