The hotel industry is quickly adopting new technologies in creative ways to improve the customer experience and drive loyalty. One such technology is artificial intelligence (AI), which can be used to streamline many typical hospitality practices and even increase customization for guests. Many hotels across the world have already adopted AI in their daily operations, while others are actively seeking ways to integrate this technology into the customer experience, modifying everything from checking in, to getting information, to requesting special accommodations.
Here are some of the key ways in which AI can be used to improve hotel performance and make stays better for guests.
1. In-room assistants
Perhaps the most direct application of AI in hospitality has been the creation of in-room assistants, including chatbots and voice-activated systems. These assistants become more sophisticated over time as they receive and answer questions about the hotel and the surrounding areas. Many AIs can now text guests to make recommendations and then follow up by booking experiences automatically. Some hotel chains have already developed their own AIs, but this technology will soon become more accessible to smaller, boutique hotels through third-party developers. Both Amazon and IBM have engineered and launched their own digital assistants adapted for the hospitality sector. The IBM product, Watson, uses guest data to anticipate needs and make recommendations based on past stays.
2. Customer profiles
One of the best applications of AI in the hospitality setting has to do with creating profiles for customers that will allow hotels to understand their needs much more quickly. AIs can gather information about guests and their past experiences, saving preferences and anticipating needs, helping them to feel right at home as soon as they arrive. While personalization may be available to some degree on the hotel website, the technology becomes much more impressive in real life when guests arrive and find their room set up according to their preferences.
AIs can even make suggestions to the hotel about products and services that a customer might like. For example, if a past guest enjoys frequenting the spa, the AI might recommend contacting the person to book a spa experience prior to arrival. If that guest has not stayed in a while, he or she might be lured back with a spa deal. AI takes much of the guesswork out of personalized customer relations.
3. Occupancy optimization
While hotels often increase their rates around high-occupancy times, such as the summer or major holidays, making adjustments based on smaller events, like local conventions, becomes much more difficult. Though identifying such events can be tricky itself, hotels also need to figure out how to optimize rates to stay booked while also maximizing profits. AI is a great tool for accomplishing this task, as it can look at a wide range of different information inputs, from occupancy patterns to rates charged by competitors. This sort of nuanced information is critical for achieving high profits, as well as attracting people to the hotel. Knowing about local events provides great opportunities for more direct advertisement or even local partnerships. Furthermore, such AI-driven guidance will only get better with time as the system gathers more data.
4. Strategic updates
Hotels need regular updates to stay competitive and make guests as happy as possible with their stays. However, improvement projects are expensive, so owners need to be strategic about how they undertake them, especially since some can generate more return on investment (ROI) than others. AI systems can be used to look at guest feedback, occupancy data, and other information to make suggestions about the upgrades that will ultimately have the largest impact. These AI analyses may be able to provide estimates of ROI projects that are not yet needed but will become very important in the near future. That way, hotels are not caught off guard with a major expense, such as a failed heating and cooling system.
5. Service robots
Perhaps the most obvious implementation of AI in the hospitality industry has been the introduction of service robots. A number of hotels around the world have already introduced such machines with a variety of different features and capabilities. Through machine learning, these AI-driven bots will grow more precise in their responses to guests over time.
The robots can be used for a variety of purposes, from delivering food to the room to helping guests navigate the hotel. Some of the more advanced robots being featured at hospitality conventions are able to handle payments or play a key role in cleaning as they move about the facility. Other hotels have been using these AI-driven bots to handle baggage for guests and take on the role of in-room AIs by offering suggestions and directions to guests.