Back in the 1950s, Minsky and McCarthy described artificial intelligence (AI) as any task performed by a machine that would have previously been considered to require human intelligence. That’s obviously a fairly broad definition, which is why you will sometimes see arguments over whether something is truly AI or not.
AI in hospitality
AI is playing an increasingly pivotal role in hospitality management, primarily because of its ability to carry out traditionally human functions at any time of the day. Specifically, customer service is a vital part of the travel industry, with hotels’ success rates often based on how they treat their customers. With artificial intelligence, the possibilities for improving this are almost endless, ranging from increased personalization to tailored recommendations.
One of the customer service challenges hotels is responding quickly to questions and client requests, and artificial intelligence now provides an additional option for tackling this problem. Furthermore, AI has the capacity to assist with tasks such as data analysis and, through data collection, can effectively “learn” and adapt to customer interactions. Below are other examples.
Hyperdynamic pricing allows booking engines to automatically search social media, past user data and even world news to display rates that maximize earning potential.
Revenue management predications Energy, water and waste-monitoring tools can help to save the environment. Hotels such as Hilton have been using them for a decade, with no sign of going back.
It is important to know your customers through the feedback they leave on major hotel review sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. But instead of always going through the process manually, you can use an intelligent tool to do it for you. Machine learning (a subset of AI) makes it easy to automatically collect, store and analyze data from across a variety of online sources.
A chatbot is one of the most exceptional ways to ask for feedback from guests after they check out. Chatbots are capable of sending previous guests feedback forms along with some incentives for filling them out. This is an excellent way for hotels to encourage repeat business.
Although the hospitality industry is no stranger to chatbots, their importance will only rise. A chatbot can offer travelers updated information on Covid-19 outbreaks, statistics and symptoms. Thanks to AI, guests will increasingly view chatbots as travel assistants rather than obstacles between them and a real-life representative.
Recruiters are using machine learning to hire hotel employees in ways that go beyond the outdated resume model. Using personality profiles of existing team members and gamification-based tests, IHG and other top hotel brands have recruited thousands of employees.
Data analysis is another way in which AI is being utilized within the hotel industry away from pure customer service. In this capacity, technology can be used to quickly sort through large amounts of data and draw important conclusions about customers or potential customers.
Some hotels have made use of the Metis AI platform. By using this technology, companies have been able to sort through data collected via surveys, online reviews and similar channels, and the AI has been able to then analyze the information and draw conclusions about overall performance.
AI in the hospitality industry can also be used to deliver in-person customer service. The best example of this so far has been an AI robot called Connie, adopted by Hilton. The robot is able to provide tourist information to customers who interact with it. Most impressively, it is able to learn from human speech and adapt to individuals. Ultimately, this means that the more customers speak to it, the better the robot gets in understanding preferences and behavior.
It is worth mentioning that several AI initiatives have begun in GCC, notably H.H. Sheikh Nasser’s AI Research and Development Centre in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
DR. JASSIM HAJI
Global Artificial Intelligence Group
Is it time to truly embrace technology, more specifically AI, as a way of life for the hospitality industry?
Let me be clear from the outset; the word “hospitality,” as defined by Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group, means “a dialogue” — a method of two-way conversation to produce an outcome. The question is, can AI genuinely be incorporated into modern day hospitality?
We have certainly come a long way from simply loading menus onto tablets for convenience sake. However, are we truly at a point where the thought and reasoning process of AI can replace the intuition and “gut feel” of a hospitality professional? Well, not exactly. To date, there isn’t one company producing an AI-based solution for the hospitality industry, rather there are several technologies that, although not entirely AI, are helping to create a more efficient operation and allow the human element of day-to-day hospitality to focus on physical interactions required for success.
There are several types of businesses that offer a completely digitized form of ordering products and services. Let’s take a restaurant as an example. You arrive at the establishment only to be told that the menu is available via a QR code. You then order and pay simultaneously, and the food is delivered to the allotted table number. Efficient? Yes. True AI? No. Furthermore, you miss the opportunity to upsell or tailor the order. So although I believe there are a few businesses that this will benefit, we need a clearer, more dynamic approach to tech integration in the long run.
Where I see true AI benefiting hospitality as a whole is in the digital marketing world. Terms such as “geo fence” — the ability to target digital marketing strategies to potential customers through social and location-based algorithms — is a level of higher intelligence that we all must pursue. The details and specifics are still new, but, in a nutshell, a business can send targeted initiatives to mobile devices within a specific area. A great example of this would be if a restaurant wanted to run a special lunch menu and target the local community or if a hotel wanted to inform targeted guests about spa promotions. I think this is the beginning of useful AI in hospitality and definitely a step forward in our approach to digital marketing.
Secondly, and this one is something I am actively utilizing, is the growth and development of what used to be called reservation, table management and customer databases systems. Integration, not just with point-of-sale systems but also with banking services, property management and CRM systems, can now provide a seamless connection across shared platforms.
Although we are not yet at the true AI adaption stage, these elements certainly make technology feel more adapt at predicting our needs and wants. The human factor will forever be critical in creating an emotionally engaged experience with guests. However, technology is now supporting the evolution of the hospitality industry, making it better in certain ways.
The Cutting Edge Agency