AI in hotels

3 min read

Is there a future for AI in hotels?

Already we are seeing that it's commonplace for hotels to adopt self-check-in, mobile booking and live-chat. 

But are we at the beginning of seeing tech and artificial intelligence (AI) mature into something even more exciting for hotel guests?

In this blog post, we are first going to see what AI in hotels already exists. Then we will see how effective this AI has been for the hospitality industry and make a prediction for the future use of hotel AI based on current consumer and hospitality trends. 

First, let's look at the type of hotel AI out there today: 

Existing AI in hotels

1. Robot Customer Service

Hilton Hotels were the first large hotel chain to adopt a breakthrough hotel-specific artificial intelligence.

They introduced 'Connie' in 2016, the first hotel robot where you could get tourist information, travel information, and even the weather forecast.

The robot learned from human interaction and speech, with the intention of improving its communication with experience.

However, trying to find an update on Connie has proven unsuccessful- there seems to be no sign of her existence in 2022!

2. Machine Learning

Machine Learning is used intelligently in hotels to deliver outstanding customer service.

This form of AI automatically learns through experience and intelligently predicts future behaviours.
Hence, it's popularly used in retail to monitor consumption and user behaviour patterns. Therefore predicting likes and dislikes of products, hobbies and food.
As a result, hotels can pre-empt the probability guests will want or need something.

Imagine knowing a customer's favourite drink, magazine or newspaper.  Hotels have more opportunities to exceed guests' expectations.
In addition, machine learning is also used as a tool for hotel revenue managers. They can use it to predict and identify revenue opportunities. Leading hotels in tech use this for setting room rates to manage promotion opportunities.

3. Location-Based Machine Learning

Many hotels offer full experience packages- not just inside the hotel but outside too. Location-Based Machine Learning knows customers favourite foods or interests. Based on their interests, it sends notifications of what's available in the local area.

Furthermore, picture this:

You check into your hotel. You're hungry. You're unfamiliar with the local area. You then receive information on the best-rated sushi in the local area.

It goes without saying, favourite food + minimum effort = very happy guest!

4.  Robot Butler's

Japan led the way with robotics, introducing the first 100% robot-serving hotel in 2015. Check out the Henn-na Hotel. From robot front desk to robot cleaners. This hotel really had replaced all human elements of service.

Consequently, the sound of a fully run hotel with robots sounds a little creepy rather than inviting!- We have since found a study on this hotel that confirms the anxiety-causing effects these robots had on their guests! (We cover this later in the post).

5. Voice Control Hotel AI

We are in the beginning stages of seeing voice activation used in hotels.

There are hotels that have installed voice control systems in their rooms. These allow hotel guests to control the drapes, lights, music and temperature in their room.

Most of all, we are sure to see the usefulness of voice control grow and mature into something very special.

This type of hotel AI seems the most likely to pick up in popularity. It's easy to implement and it doesn't take away from the special and personal customer service that people expect from luxury hotels.

Rolled out in the Marriot Hotels in June 2018, Amazon created Alexa for Hospitality, with many Marriot Hotels adopting the technology later on.

Marriott hotels
Marriott hotels

Guests are to ask questions about the area, order room service, control lights, drapes, heating and cooling, TV, and of course control music.

Much controversy arose since the launch around privacy concerns. However, hotel owners are unable to access the recordings or responses from the device and the account link-up is deleted automatically upon check-out.

Amazon has since updated the software to encrypt all voice communications so privacy wasn't affected. However, managers can have access to some data for analytics to understand the levels of engagement with their services.

Hotel guests also have the option to turn the microphone on/off so the speakers don't listen anymore.

Is AI in hotels counterproductive to great customer service?

The big question to ask is, how does AI in hotels impact customer service?  There is a way to combine a personalised and charming human interaction in unison with technology.

Some of the best experiences in hotels come from the way staff are able to rectify problems. And if we replace a person's empathy, innovation and problem-solving abilities with a machine then could aspects of customer loyalty be diminished? 

Let's look at what we have learned since writing this post originally from 2017... 

AI in hotels - where are we now?

Hotel AI fails

We revisited the robot hotel in Japan (mentioned above) and found some surprising results a few years on. 

Not only was the 100% robot-run hotel a complete flop, but the robots actually caused more work for humans. The robots ran into practical and technical problems such as: 

  • getting stuck in hallways trying to pass each other
  • Not being able to answer questions from guests queries from the doll assistants in their rooms
  • Robots not being able to reach all of the rooms
  • Unable to photocopy guests' passports on the check-in 

In the end, 243 robots were laid off by the hotel. 

Hotels need to think clearly about what services they replace with AI, as some will be greatly enhanced, and some may take away from a necessary interaction that is desired.

Findings from a report conducted by the International Hospitality Review had interesting results on the Konnichiwa, Mr. Robot at the Henn-na Hotel in Japan. It states:

"Most visitors showed a positive attitude towards the robot. More than half of the visitors offered compliments when they first saw the robot receptionists although they hesitated and maintained a distance from them. Hotel guests were also disappointed with the low human–robot interaction (HRI). As the role of robots in hotels currently remains at the presentation level, a comprehensive assessment of their interactive ability is lacking."

The report also highlights how the robot caused anxiety for hotel guests. Especially if the robots have imperfect human-like features. They can create an uncomfortable environment, but when this was looked into it was found that it reminded people of death! - the opposite intention of the comfort the hospitality industry should provide.

How should hotel AI be used?

It's clear that we aren't quite there with using AI robots in service industries. However, it does seem to be beneficial for hotels to utilize AI and technology in more discreet and familiar ways to help assist their guests.

AI can help your staff in many different ways. Imagine if all the repetitive questions from guests were routed through an AI and it handles over 80% of the queries. This frees up time for your staff to do other guest-centric tasks and improves customer satisfaction.

AI can also be a great tool for assisting hotel staff. We talk about the use of this in far more detail in another post of ours here. Be sure to check it out.

hotel AI

Updated: December 2022, Updated: December 2018,  Original post: November 2017. 

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