Artificial intelligence in a hotel industry

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11th October 2018
Just a few hours ’till the beginning of the Business 4.x & Future of HR conference
11th October 2018

All industries will (or already did) experience the game-changing benefits of automation and the emergence of interconnected intelligent systems. Companies of all sizes are realigning their business and operational models to take advantage of new, disruptive technologies.

Zrinka Bokulić is CEO at Aminess and one of the speakers of the Business 4.x & Future of HR conference. We talked with her about the impact of the new tech in hotel industry.

Take a look:

How new technology is changing the hotel industry and the impact on guest experiences?

New software’s and programs can provide us with real time insights in customer’s needs and habits. E.g.: This is especially valuable in F&B sector, we can easily monitor daily consumption in each profit center and accordingly adjust prices or menus to boost sales and plan supplies. Big data is also the next milestone in hotel industry, however it is also big challenge how to extract and practically use provided insights, and at the same time, preserve privacy and legal restrictions (e.g. GDPR). When we talk about sales and marketing we are able to give guests more „tailored“ direct information. Telephones are no longer ringing with no answer. Even if a machine gives you an info. E-mails are being answered automatically. Today this is understood as a standards but just before 10 years it was a new thing.

Guests no longer need mediators (traditional travel agencies) but mostly rely on ratings, reviews, pricing and direct communication. Sharing economy has given tourists and travelers powerful tools, and this has challenged hotel and hospitality industry to be more proactive and innovative. Today we communicate with guest through different channels, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter… 10 years ago a was just another start up fighting for a place on the market. Today is a leader..

Automatization is also the next big thing, though it is uncertain how far can we go into this process. At one hand, we can at high costs, today reply certain positions with robots, but on the other hand, human touch, is and will be required. Tourism is an industry which sells emotions, good memories and feelings, and therefore I cannot perceive it as an assembly line, so robots might be valuable in back office operations. Hotels are already testing robots to deliver certain services to guest and replace human employees:  room service robots are able to travel with elevator and come in front of your room with ordered dishes or they will just deliver your luggage.

What types of technology or software do you feel are indispensable for hotels right now?

Hotels are now using the whole range of different SW and they are not always connected. Our marketing and sales SW are more and intelligent and are almost beyond AI. These tool not only communicate with a guest who shows interest but they know their habits and detects wishes. However ,these tools do not influence the satisfaction with a hotel. They just “drive” the guest to a certain hotel.

When a guest arrives, there is already a different set of technologies waiting for a guest. The most important characteristics of these technologies is simplicity just as well for guests and staff. E.g. cashless payments, smart hotel rooms can create the atmosphere (lighting, temperature, music…) according to individual needs and tastes. With progression of “internet of things” a whole range of other services including health monitoring will be incorporated, a smart hotel room designed to stimulate the levels of serotonin isn’t just a pure fantasy. Housekeeping and maintenance is now using apps to communicate needs for repair and cleaning.

Guests can make the reservation of a hotel room sitting in their home and not only a room, they can make reservation for sunbeds, massage and a romantic package to surprise a spouse or a lover for birthday on a day of their arrival…

Technologies used in kitchen is more and more advanced every year. We have ovens that use recipes and all cook has to do is to press button.

What are the main barriers to technology adoption in the hospitality sector? How can the industry move past them?

Price. Modern technologies and advance use of robotics or AI that supports various operations in hotel business is still very expensive. A floor cleaning robot cost app. 35.000 EUR and it still needs a human to support it. Bell boy robot that brings your luggage to a room is app. 50.000 EUR. Eventually the industry will be forced to go into big investment of AI tools to overcome expensive labor cost and to fill the lack of skilled workers. Again, we don’t know how far we can go with robotics, I’m certain there will always be a segment of guests who will refuse this kind of service.

What are the guiding principles of your organization when searching for new technology?

Technology that we are looking for is one that will increase our efficiency and decrease direct cost. We carefully monitor and analyze steps of our competitors, sometimes it can’t be a copy-paste solution, something that works with competition might not be as effective in your own company. We also must take in consideration that the new technology is compatible with present solutions. It is extremely important to wisely choose the supplier and its solution. Buying & installing a new technology is just 1/3 of the process, after sales; maintenance and future upgrades must be carefully planned and analyzed.

What do you foresee hotel technology will look like in five years?

  1. Increased automatization in sales and marketing, new products for market niches, big data and privacy-safety concerns will most certainly be among top issues in hotel industry.
  2. Today we still have many different unconnected systems. Within 5 years this will no longer be the case. The system that follows a guest from the moment he “googled” hotel information (months before he came) and the system that will be waiting for our guest in the room will be connected and will be sharing information. It means if a guest was looking for a restaurant menu months prior arrival, in room TV there will be info about restaurant specials waiting. If he was using swimming pool, a picture of a pool will show up every time he enters a hotel name in search engine. This could be done only if the systems are connected and this will be a basic demand for each new system.

(And if you ask me how the industry will look as like in next 50 years, well, we will probably have something like a concept seen in famous movie “Total Recall”. Customer will experience dream travel or role by taking a pill. As much as this might sound crazy, let’s just remember that only 15 years ago, half of the topics we are talking about today, didn’t even existed.)