My team is part of the Alexa Guy development team. We've built hundreds of Alexa skills and were approached by a large travel agency to create a cruise booking skill for the LGBTQ+ market. Once we completed that skill in spring of 2020, we both realized the power of what we could do with Alexa and travel.
What it does
MyVoiceTravel is the first real voice travel assistant. Other travel agencies let the user search flights, but they don't book flights. We decided to figure out how to do that and spent the last 6 months building this.
How we built it
We dove into APL and APL audio to learn how our designer, Zane, could turn CSS into APL JSON as our lead developer, Zach, began figuring out the code. We used the Jovo framework because we plan to expand this beyond Alexa into multiple platforms. The code is mostly PHP, JS and JSON.
Challenges we ran into
To build this type of airline app required the total dedicated help of Amadeus, the global leader in airline booking APIs. That meant spending a month learning their system and getting certified by them. But now, I thinkwe're the only team in the world that's certified on Amadeus for Alexa Skills, which is pretty cool.
But the biggest challenge was architecting this thing. With both International and FAA requirements, there are about 50 questions that have to be answered to book a flight, and we had to find a way to cull that down so it only feels like a conversation and not an inquisition. With the help of our partners at Quo Vadis, Sagitravel and Amadeus (And a lot of late nights), I think we really pulled that off.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We knew it would be a convenient way to book travel, but once we started testing, we saw the big benefit was how fast it is. You can book travel in under 3 minutes. As one of the team members at the travel agency said, "People will hold for an agent for more than 3 minutes. With this, they already have their ticket."
Also, on the confirmation page, we have a small round image of the skyline or an iconic image from the departure and arrival city. We spent a lot of time finding images and building this database that's just a simple little thing most folks won't notice.
What we learned
So much about the travel industry we never knew and the specific trials of working in that space.
What's next for MyVoiceTravel
We're adding hotels, rental cars and cruises to the Alexa Skill. Then we're branching out into mobile voice and web platforms. We plan to build an entire suite of technology so where ever a potential user is, they can book with us by voice. But Alexa was the natural place to start.