Artificial intelligence is reshaping the hospitality industry

In the last couple of years, artificial intelligence has found its way in almost all industries and the hospitality one makes no exception. Being a highly competitive domain, those working in this industry have always been keen on keeping up-to-date with trends and technological advancements.

With the help of AI, businesses operating in the hospitality industry can upgrade their services, processes and improve customer experiences. After all, in this field it's all about boosting revenues and loyalty. And what better way to build customer loyalty than by offering them the best experiences. Nowadays, everyone is constantly connected to technology and customers expect to benefit from the same advantages whether they are at home, staying in a hotel or dining out at a restaurant.

How is AI used in hospitality - Image: Courtesy of SignOn

Let's have a look at some of the most common AI implementations in hospitality.

Customer Service

Keeping in touch with customers and attending to their needs is an extremely important aspect in hospitality. It is also a difficult and very time consuming one. But AI systems, more specifically chatbots, have proved to be extremely effective when it comes to direct messaging and online chat services. Chatbots are able to understand and respond to simple questions or requests almost instantaneously. And they can do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Apart from discussing with customers, AI-driven chatbots can help hotel guests with a wide range of tasks, including ordering meals or drinks, controlling room temperature and lighting, managing evening reservations, as well as taxi booking and itinerary planning. Requests are usually sent to chatbots through virtual interactions using a mobile app or another device.

For instance, the Clarion Hotel Amaranten in Stockholm has an AI-enabled butler. The chatbot is an in-room assistant based on Amazon Echo. The assistant, equipped with powerful features, is designed to help guests with most of the requirements that were normally handled by a human employee.

Another trend in hospitality is to use AI to deliver in-person customer service. The idea of robots interacting with people is becoming more and more common. The most famous use case is Connie, a robot concierge powered by IBM's Watson AI platform, which can be met in Hilton's Hotels.

Connie interacts with guests and is able to provide tourist information, such as airport location or Italian restaurants. The robot can also learn from human speech and adapt to individuals, meaning that it gets "smarter" with every interaction.

A similar example would be the M Social millennial-targeted hotel, which has also implemented a room-service robot named Aura. The robot can ride the elevator and find the way to guests' rooms, delivering clean towels, bottled water and shampoo.

Data analysis

Knowledge is power. The more data you have, the more you know about your customers and are able to respond to their individual needs. Most accommodations collect a lot of information about current or potential guests and AI systems can sort through these large amounts of data and draw important conclusions that will help businesses adjust their services and strategies.

For example, Dorchester Collection hotel chain uses the Metis AI platform to sort through data collected via surveys and online reviews. The AI-based system is able to analyse these details and draw conclusions about overall performance.

Customized experiences

Tailoring your offers and giving your customers what they need and like, is what builds their loyalty towards your brands and services. Machine learning based techniques such as natural language processing and sentiment analysis can help you extract key customer data, like certain positive or negative phrases from a voice chat, an instruction to an AI-powered assistant from your hotel or a discussion in the review section of your website. This information will allow you to customize your offer or rewards program for certain guests.

Bookings and occupancy

Booking is usually a bit of a hassle, whether you do it using an aggregator or directly on the hotel's website. Introducing AI-based features into websites can reduce friction and provide customers personalized experiences, while also freeing up staff who can handle more complex tasks.

Regarding occupancy, an AI system can help businesses by providing relevant insights into the occupancy patterns of the area they're located in. In addition, it can dynamically adjust pricing rates from day to day. As an example, Airbnb uses host pricing recommendations for this.

Furthermore, AI can parse multiple sources of information and identify if there are any upcoming events that might influence your occupancy rate or might determine the price to go up.

Robotic assistants in airports

The hospitality industry also includes travelling and transportation, so airports are benefiting from AI-powered robots too. These robotic assistants can help passengers by carrying out a series of tasks including providing information in different languages, performing check-in activities, etc. Check out Chihira from the airport in Berlin, Germany.

Adoption of artificial intelligence in the hospitality industry is increasing at a faster pace. Cognitive technology has been shown to be quite efficient in carrying out a lot of tasks that were traditionally handled by individuals. In hotels, restaurants, and travelling this has allowed owners to save time and money, reduce and even eliminate human error and, most importantly, provide superior service.

The hospitality industry has always been quick to adapt and implement new approaches and ideas. Internet-enabled thermostats, robotic butlers or fingerprint and facial recognition technology for check-in/check-out purposes are now the new norm.

While we highlight some of the most common use cases for AI in hospitality, there are many other ways this technology can bring its contribution in the field. We leave you with an interesting talk by Michael Schubach, Infor Hospitality, about the future of technology and AI in hospitality.

Would you like to learn more about artificial intelligence implementations in other domains? Have a look at the articles AI in healthcare: Friend or Foe? and How AI can reinvent retail?