Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to open more doors to more hotels, offering increased convenience for guests and efficiency for properties. The minute a guest makes a hotel reservation through, say, Avvio’s Allora — the world’s first booking platform powered by artificial intelligence, which is currently being tested by Best Western — he or she has begun interacting with AI. By providing a property or booking agent with their preferences, guests send a series of data that is collected, stored and linked to predict patterns and profiles the hotel can use to customize and personalize those guests’ experiences (ideally leading to future loyalty).
With the exception of smartphone-enabled keyless entry in some Canadian properties (such as Hilton and Marriott), as well as Best Western’s Mobile Guest Engagement Platform — featuring web-based communication tools to allow for easier interaction between guest and staff — Canadian hotels have lagged somewhat behind their American, European and Asian counterparts.
New York City’s Yotel, for example, employs Yobot — an automated porter that stores luggage — as well as environmentally driven AI initiatives. “As part of our green program, our brand standard is to install occupancy sensors in the [rooms] that automatically activate the heating, lighting and cooling systems” says Jo Berrington, VP, Brand for Yotel.
Some companies, including Wynn Las Vegas, Four Seasons and Marriott International, offer voice-controlled digital assistants, such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Angie Hospitality’s Angie, which allow guests to control lights, drapes, temperature and the TV via voice command. Best Western is currently testing Amazon Dot for use by staff to note when the room has been cleaned, report maintenance issues and fill in operational gaps.
“We think of Angie as a full-time staff member dedicated to serving that guest and remembering that guest’s preferences,” says Ted Helvey, founder and CEO of Angie Hospitality — makers of Angie, the world’s first cloud-powered, interactive digital-guestroom-assistant built specifically for the hospitality industry.
And then, of course, there are the robots. M Social in Singapore employs the front-of-house Autonomous Service Delivery Robot (AURA), which delivers bottled water, fresh towels, toiletries and meals to guests’ rooms. AURA has been so successful, Millennium Hotels is rolling out four more in its sister properties, including AUSCA (Automated Service Chef Associate) — the world’s first prototype able to cook guests’ breakfast. As advanced, albeit limited, as the technology is, it’s still in its embryotic stage. “AI can only analyze the data it has,” says Helvey, noting the limitations of connectivity, integration and analytics that go into processing and contextualizing enormous amounts of customer information. “You still have the issue of pulling meaningful data together if you’re going to look at the big picture. Our view of AI is at a much simpler level, based on technology available today.”
As for the future, experts predict robots and digital assistants — novelties now — will become standard practice. Helvey says, “As capabilities mature, so does [the] device. Statistics [predict], in the next four or five years, the majority of people, in the U.S. at least, will have an in-home agent they talk to.”
And, what they have in their homes, they’re going to want in their hotels.
Written by Robin Roberts