Artificial intelligence has been invented and developed for one main purpose: to serve humanity. The hospitality sector is entirely focused on that: serving customers, making them feel comfortable, and providing them (quite obviously) with pleasant hospitality. Rather than bringing another alleged "revolution," this time AI is simply assisting hospitality professionals to do what they already do: allow people to enjoy their stay. The newest developments in AI and automation technology are becoming, in fact, some of the most efficient instruments to smooth out the daily operations of many hospitality facilities and improve the overall customer experience. Let's see how. (Hospitality isn't the only industry benefiting from AI – check out AI Today: Who Is Using It Right Now, and How.)
Smart Domotics and Intelligent Hotels
Try to imagine an intelligent hotel where everything is managed by fully automated services and robots powered by a smart and flexible central AI (which we won't ever call Halo, by any means). If that sounds as futuristic as an installment of "Back to The Future," just keep in mind that Marty McFly traveled to 2015, and that we now live in 2018. In other words: We're already beyond that point.
In fact, in just a few years, some ideas have become prototypes, and then they've become a reality. In 2016, Hilton and IBM experimented with Connie, the first hotel concierge robot, and many others such as Pepper quickly followed its trail. These small mechanical creatures are able to answer simple questions, provide information to customers and happily interact with visitors. They're not so smart, and they're a bit slow, but they are powered by machine learning algorithms. In due time, they will become smarter and smarter on their own and, thanks to the advancement in domotics, they can be easily linked to other smart functions such as voice-activated services and digital assistants.
The cherry on top is that all these technologies can be linked to other smart internet of things devices that can measure room temperature, customer preferences and even their vitals. They can be used to suggest services such as sports clubs or nightclubs that complement guests' tastes, match their preferences with the various offers available inside the hotel, or automatically alert the hotel staff (both human and robotic) for customized meal choices, nighttime leisure, etc.
Predictive Analysis and Performance Optimization
One of the biggest challenges for the hospitality industry is dealing with the sudden increases in demand associated with seasonal changes, holidays, and other predictable and unpredictable events. Being able to precisely monitor these fluctuations in demand, and react accordingly, is critical to allocate the resources in the most optimal and efficient way.
With time and experience, and a lot of trial and error, hotel owners eventually learn how to accurately forecast the ups and downs in demands, and plan their offerings, prices and advertising campaigns accordingly. Yet, once again, humans are fallible, and it's a known fact that intelligent machines are simply better at analyzing and understanding the overwhelming amount of info that can be extracted from big data. Machine learning can be used to optimize, predict and react, and it's an incommensurably useful tool to increase profit margins and gain an advantage over competitors. Add a few drops of automation as well, and you've got the magical recipe to quickly track and record every local event, fair, trend and cultural shift. (Data visualization is one way that people are getting more out of their data. Learn more in The Joy of Data Viz: The Data You Weren’t Looking For.)
Automation and Efficiency
Maintaining a consistent human workforce has a huge cost. A company must look for potential candidates or hire through a recruitment agency, interview them, pay their wages and face the many expenses associated with the rapid employee turnover that comes with the territory in this sector. Larger brands possess the resources for hiring vast staffs of competent workers to perform all kinds of streamlined jobs, but smaller, family-owned ones will struggle with their limited budgets.
Once again, AI can be a potent social equalizer that allows smaller businesses to stay competitive with the giants of this sector such as Ritz-Carlton and Hilton. Many repetitive operations such as room assignments, check-ins and check-outs, and housekeeping deliveries can be automated, relieving the staff from time-consuming chores. As responses and services are provided to guests more rapidly and efficiently, their satisfaction level will increase, the costs are reduced, and the revenues increased accordingly. Operational efficiency is improved, and machine learning algorithms may also suggest more functional solutions to known issues.
Improved Advertising and Increased Reach
What's the purpose of running the best, most efficient hotel in the world if no guests ever come to visit it? In the age of social media marketing, efficient advertising is one of the principal revenue channels for any type of business. Probably the simplest and most obvious AI-powered solution to this issue is the implementation of chatbots. Mostly used on social media platforms, they provide instant responses to potential customers' questions at almost no cost. They are the digital equivalent of front-facing customer service, and they also can be used to strengthen the push messages or suggest interesting deals and offers.
AI is also part of many direct booking platforms, and now direct customers to the hotels that are more tailored to their preferences and choices. People use these apps to search and query travel options by selecting their own criteria, and the AI cross-checks them with all the data and info that's available to finely tune their results. They're improving the online experience of travelers around the globe, allowing many hotel owners to increase their reach without any real effort other than performing well and attracting positive reviews.
Artificial Intelligence is bringing a new level of exquisite sophistication to the hospitality sector and, once again, is making everything, from top to bottom, more efficient. These advancements are not only going to help business owners increase their profits, they're ultimately going to make the overall hospitality experience more pleasant and enjoyable for all travelers around the world as well.