Artificial Intelligence in hospitality – friend or foe?

Artificial Intelligence in hospitality – friend or foe?

Barely a day goes by without AI making the headlines – for the good, the bad and the ugly. Heralded as a means of streamlining processes and increasing management intelligence via automated functionalities, it can also be seen as a threat to jobs and the end of a more personal relationship between hotel and guest. 

There has even been talk of robot waiters, but we can rest assured that these days are not just round the corner. So what’s the fuss about – and how is artificial intelligence already being used in hotels?

How is AI already being used in the hospitality industry? 

From a guest perspective, you might never see any of it – but many hotels are already using it, most obviously within their PMS, as opposed to a separate layer of tech. From housekeeping to reservation management and electronic payments, everything flows through the property management system. Quantifying relationships between the ensuing data sets can then draw out conclusions, devise offers, adjust pricing or create a forecast. 

Armed with this information, hotels can therefore use it to further enhance the guest experience through carefully tailored services, optimised pricing and personalised promotional offers.

Changing the customisation game

AI within your PMS, CRM, BI and marketing platforms changes the customisation game at a deeper level, analysing guest behaviours and interests in depth in order to deliver personalised content such as bar, restaurant or spa recommendations, as well as ‘mass-personalised’ targeted marketing emails. Meanwhile remote check-in and check-out, bypassing human contact, is commonplace in hotels, providing guests with the tools to manage these processes themselves from their devices. Back in the boiler room, housekeeping and maintenance requirements can be predicted and streamlined by the use of algorithms to maximise efficient use of resources and minimise cost.

Maths not Magic in your PMS

“AI is frequently thought about in the most extreme terms,” says Philip Rothaus, MD of a travel and hospitality improvement firm in Miami and former Global Travel AI Lead for Accenture. “It’s either seen as this very scary force that’s going to automate all of our jobs away and change the nature of our lives — or it’s seen as some sort of nirvana that is not attainable for mere mortals. But AI is math, not magic.” And this math is used in the development of all good property management systems. 

AI and travel planning

But AI influence starts even earlier in the customer  journey. Just as AI and machine learning are infiltrating just about every aspect of the guest experience, so too are they involved in the first critical steps of destination discovery and planning.

We have all spent hours glued to the screen trying to find the right hotel for the right price. By analyzing large and complex datasets, AI-powered solutions can generate highly personalized suggestions for travellers in seconds. As almost a third of travellers globally are comfortable with letting a computer plan an upcoming trip based on data from their previous travel history, the travel agent is getting an artificial intelligence overhaul, according to Ford Blakely, writing in Hotel Executive.

Rezcontrol and Room Price Genie for optimised pricing

With this trend in mind, Rezcontrol is considering teaming up with related software integrations such as Room Price Genie, and may soon be ready to enable our customers to find their optimum pricing zone, based on AI algorithms. Room Price Genie will track competitors, analyse booking performance and recommend pricing to maximise your profits.

Friend or Foe? AI in a nutshell…

AI is defined as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. In this context, AI within the hospitality industry can definitely, and is already, leading to:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: AI combined with PMS functionality automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks through its own data analysis capacity, freeing up staff time to spend with their guests.
  • Improved guest satisfaction: Artificial intelligence will help provide a more seamless and convenient experience, where the individual guest’s preferences can be predicted based on previous experience, and therefore offered or provided, which can significantly improve guest satisfaction.
  • Predictive maintenance: AI software also enables hotels to predict and prevent maintenance issues, reducing downtime and ensuring that guest needs are met.
  • Personalized customer experience: Artificial intelligence enables hotels to offer personalized responses to guests through the use of technologies such as chatbots and virtual assistants that can communicate with guests in real-time and recommend services based on their preferences and past experiences.

All of this, in turn, and when used wisely, has the potential to increase both bookings and profit margins and deliver better return on a hotel’s investment, be it in staff, technology or in the hotel building and facilities themselves – without losing the human touch.

Retaining the human touch

What can’t AI do? Crucially, AI can never replace the human touch within the hospitality industry, which depends so much on personal experience and customer service. Some guests may well be happy to never see a human face from check in to departure – but this is not true of the majority.

It may also need to be limited, if it crosses the boundaries of privacy and data protection, and cyber-security is always an issue – the more a hotel depends on technologies which are not directly being controlled by humans, the more open it may be to hackers.

The Future of AI

In the future, no doubt AI will be refined further to include more sophisticated personalisation, as well as more integration with IoT (‘the internet of things’ – defined as ‘a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers, combined with the ability to transfer data over a network without human intervention’) – and even virtual reality to create fully immersive experiences.

In a hotel context, IoT use could translate into simple and effective streamlining and cost-saving exercises, such as preset thermostat controls for heating and cooling which increase or decrease the settings when a guest checks in or out, or the tracking of room servicing and laundry trolleys.

In the main, the hotel industry would generally be well-advised to keep abreast of developments, consider how they may be put to positive use, and retain an open mind. When AI is used wisely, hoteliers will be able to reap the benefits of both cost savings and improved guest experience, both of which contribute to a better bottom line.

To find out how Rezcontrol PMS can help streamline and optimise your hotel operations please visit our website, contact the sales team at 03302 231456 or email sales@avondata.co.uk 

(With thanks to Pressreader.com and Hotel Executive for some of the insights in this article, and to TechTarget for the definition of IoT)