American Express Buys Mezi, Brings AI Into Travel Assisting

February 6, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Planning a trip can be a difficult thing, but once you get there, the systems you have in place with you can mean the difference between a great trip and a travel nightmare. Mobile payments systems can often be a help, and American Express took a step recently that should provide more help for those folks taking trips when it purchased the Mezi travel assistant app.

Mezi takes a combination of human skill and artificial intelligence to learn as it goes, helping to seamlessly tailor travel experiences to the user’s preference by learning more about what they prefer. The system can understand natural language, and gets better at interpreting the user’s various verbal idiosyncrasies as it goes along.

With Mezi, users can request reservations at restaurants, at hotels, and for flights, and the Mezi system itself can even make recommendations based on past behavior. If a user has shown a marked preference for Italian restaurants, for example, Mezi can recommend others in the area.

The Mezi acquisition itself, meanwhile, represents part of an ongoing program at American Express Ventures, American Express’ investment arm. Mezi was actually tested out on a handful of American Express card users earlier, and reports note that the tests went quite well. Well enough, apparently, for Amex to buy the whole shooting match.

The thing about travel is that even those who are well-prepared are often walking in ignorant. There’s little way to know how much of that advance study is valid before setting foot in the destination. Maybe you know where a great restaurant is, but it closed last month. Maybe you’re eager to see a new museum exhibit, but it changed ahead of schedule. If you’re not getting up-to-the-second information, you’re potentially caught flat-footed. An AI-based system can continually scan the web for new information and route that to the user, a point which should prove valuable.

In turn, that should make Amex more valuable to the traveler, a point that is almost certainly not lost on Amex itself. If it’s more valuable to the traveler, then it’s more likely to be the go-to mobile payment system even when the traveler isn’t going anywhere.