Although we’ve relied on hotels and other means of lodging for centuries, that doesn’t mean this sector has no need to innovate. On the contrary, both boutique and chain hotels alike need to keep up with the times if they want to continue to attract guests.
In other words, hotels have to find ways to connect with modern consumers in a digital world. Arguably, one of the best means for accomplishing that is through artificial intelligence.
While AI might sound like the subject of a futuristic sci-fi film, it’s actually being used all the time to streamline a variety of processes. Little do many people realize that it’s being actively employed in the hospitality sector — and it has the potential to drastically improve the way hotels serve their guests.
What Is AI?
First, let’s talk about what artificial intelligence actually is. Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, is basically machine-based learning and intelligent behaviors. Computers equipped with AI are capable of performing tasks that were traditionally thought to require cognitive (read: human) function.
While AI has been around since the 1950s, it wasn’t until recently that this concept has been developed to the point where it can be dependably applied. And according to data compiled by Adobe, 37% of organizations have now implemented AI in some way — representing a 270% increase in just four years.
With machine intelligence, computers learn to complete tasks, set goals, and even interact with human beings. You may have interacted with a computer outfitted with artificial intelligence without ever realizing it. However, most AI is still a bit limited. Currently, artificial intelligence is no match for human intelligence — but we’re getting closer and we’re learning how to make better use of it.
How Can AI Be Used in Hotels?
Now that you have a clearer idea of what AI is, it’s important to understand how it works — and how it can be effectively used in hotels.
AI works by gathering data through interactions with humans. It can essentially use this data to answer questions or provide information to employees. As we mentioned, AI-equipped technology can take responsibility for simple tasks (like dispensing information). This provides an alternative to having staff members handle common questions or concerns from guests and visitors, thus allowing front desk agents and other employees to attend to other duties without jeopardizing overall customer service. Here are just a few ways in which AI is being adopted by the hospitality sector:
- Hotel Bookings: There was a time when guests would call to make room reservations, which means these services would need only be available during regular business hours. Although staff members are available at virtually any time for guests, reservations weren’t an issue that required 24/7 access. That’s not the case now, however. In fact, data shows that 82% of travel bookings made in 2018 were completed via a website or mobile app. Travelers expect to have the opportunity to book their stay at any time — and get in touch with someone if they have questions. In conjunction with hotel booking software, the use of AI-powered chatbots can ensure that guests are able to get everything sorted out at lightning speed and with the accuracy and consideration travelers want to see.
- Concierge Bots: It might sound cartoonish, but there are actually hotels that have embraced the use of artificial intelligence for in-person customer service tasks. In fact, Hilton Hotels created “Connie,” the first robot concierge, with help from IBM. Connie is able to answer questions on tourism and learn from human speech, which means the bot’s abilities actually improve over time. Other hotels around the world are greeting guests with AI-powered bots, as well. While this type of technology is not yet widespread, it could help hotels streamline their staffing processes and ensure their concierge desks don’t become too overwhelmed.
- Guest Retention: You probably have all the information you need to make positive changes at your hotel, but you might not have the ability to sort through and make sense of it all. Luckily, AI is also being used for data analysis, which can allow hotels to gain insight into their target demographic. With help from artificial intelligence, you can clearly see what is (and what isn’t) working to ensure maximum occupancy and guest retention. You can even zero in on what your competition is doing well — as well as where they’re lacking — to come out on top.
The ways in which AI is being utilized — both in the hospitality industry and across a variety of sectors — continues to evolve on a near-daily basis. While it might not seem essential to implement artificial intelligence as part of your operations right now, consider the fact that ignoring the need for innovation might cause you to be left behind in the end. With the ability to reduce stress for employees, provide excellent customer service to guests, and gain valuable insight into your operations, AI really seems like a no-brainer.