This App Is Like a Travel Agent in Your Pocket

With English’s new Lola travel-booking app, valuable human expertise is just a screen tap away.

This App Is Like a Travel Agent in Your Pocket

Meet Lola, your pocket travel agent.

Say you want to get away with your significant other. You’re thinking: beach weekend, quick flight. You want to relax, but you’re tired of Mexico. And no more than $250 per night on that hotel, please. And yes, you need to travel over spring break. Is that possible?

Indeed, it is—and your agent will sort it all out for you with a few simple text messages.

That’s what Paul English aims to offer with his new mobile app, Lola, which connects travelers with actual living, breathing advisors who book your restaurants, hotels, activities, and more—all via text message. Even better than that, they’ll act as your advocate, helping you score upgrades on rooms and airplane seats when they can.

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Paul English

Paul English

Courtesy of Paul English

It used to be that when you wanted to plan a trip, you called a travel agent. Then the Internet came along, and all of a sudden you could book many things on your own. Of course, that also meant doing all the work—shopping for airfares, reading hotel reviews—yourself. Now English believes he’s found the perfect combination of on-demand convenience, artificial intelligence, and human expertise.

“Our agents use algorithms to make recommendations for you, and get better at making predictions the more times you use Lola,” English says. “When the agents take this data and personalize your trip, you get this magical service experience.”

This coming from an entrepreneur who cofounded Kayak, a fare-aggregating site that bounced travel agents out of the booking process. Now he’s bringing them back.

“Half of people buying travel are still talking to agents on the phone,” English says. “We’re acknowledging that expertise matters. Since texting is where everyone is going with their phones, it’s a logical next step.”

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Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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