Hotels are, perhaps more so than any other sector, in the business of people—providing their every need and desire, twenty-four hours a day. A holistic guest experience is the product, and managing the product means dealing with real people, every step of the way. It is no wonder, then, that hospitality has a unique relationship with the ever-evolving state of technology; how does a hotel stay ahead of the curve without compromising the deeply personal nature of the business? That question has found a new answer in the form of artificial intelligence (AI).
AI possesses a set of qualities that the technologies of yesteryear lacked, making it qualitatively more apt for use in hospitality: it can learn and predict quickly and accurately. That means the ability of computer technology to automate and expedite, which has long been present, is now being matched with the ability to respond and adapt. For an industry which, as previously stated, is almost entirely concerned with people and the complex needs, behaviors, and risks which accompany them, that fact changes everything. 2024 will, no doubt, see precisely that change realized by the world's forward-thinking hotels. Here is what it will look like.
The conversation begins with guest experience, the very core of the industry. Here, the AI’s task is rather profound: it must come to know the guest, personally, and then use its prediction capabilities to provide a truly personalized experience according to that knowledge. In doing so, AI can model the service that seasoned hoteliers have honed for years, with the further advantage of extensive data reserves particular to every guest. Such personalization, combined with the scalability and efficiency of AI systems, will offer quality guest-specific service more reliably than ever before. When over two-thirds of guests consider personalized experiences to be lacking, it becomes evident that this is something the industry sorely needs.
Practically, this takes many forms, from booking to checkout. AI can suggest tailored packages and experiences appropriate to the guest's seasonality, availability, and personal preferences prior to and throughout their stay. Intelligent chat-bots, answering machines, and “digital receptionists” can streamline guest interactions like queries and reservations to be more efficient—as discussed below—and more satisfactory for the guests themselves. Hilton already offers this aspect by using AI facial-recognition technologies for quick and effortless check-in. AI can even provide personal options and recommendations for in-hotel amenities, from room temperature to dining. With a system that knows the guest individually, the guest experience can feel more natural and seamless.
Operational efficiency is what often comes to mind when discussing the utility of AI technology in business—and for good reason. AI’s ability to digest, analyze, and act upon large quantities of information is unmatched, and hotels have much to gain from such proficiency in terms of deriving insights and directing growth. On the other hand, AI is oftentimes just as adept at executing those insights, particularly in menial, predictable areas, so that staff can focus on higher-order tasks and responsibilities. Considering that 82% of hotels in the U.S. are short-staffed, per a report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, that is not an insignificant point.
The first of these uses acts as a guiding light, of sorts. By considering the gamut of available inputs, from market trends and staff-performance to guest input and resource allocation, these technologies provide hotels with insights for maximized growth in the right directions. This takes the form of identifying bottlenecks in productivity, identifying positive or negative trends, etc, or even preparing hotels for specific events like increased demand from canceled flights due to inclement weather. Even more diverse are the executive possibilities, which are potentially as numerous as the problems a hotel could face. Examples of this include intelligent chatbots, automated online reputation maintenance—two things which Radisson Hotels has already implemented—virtual reception and check in, revenue management, and so forth.
When dealing directly with people, more so than in any other case, risk management becomes the utmost priority—a rule reflected in the priorities of guests, who list safety as their highest overall concern, according to a 2022 survey. The safety and security of guests, their property, and their information cannot ever be compromised, and the technologies employed for this purpose must be fit for the task without fail. Fortunately for hospitality providers, the same predictive abilities allowing AI to suggest desirable outcomes also allow it to recognize and avoid poor ones.
Once again, use of AI for this purpose can take many shapes. The technology can be used for real-life safety measures, such as above- and underwater cameras that calculate and discern real-time risks for each swimmer at a pool, exhaustive and hyper-efficient security screening and monitoring across a premises, or menus that automatically consider guests' dietary restrictions. AI can further be implemented to encrypt guest data, or detect potentially fraudulent actions based on extensive pattern recognition. When it comes to risk management, a far-reaching eye is invaluable.
From a truly personalized experience for every guest to foolproof safety measures, recent developments in AI technology are no small matter for hospitality providers worldwide. And while 2024 is likely to see only the beginning of the developments discussed above, scattered among the most future-minded hotels, the disruption won’t end there. As with progress, only those vigilant enough to embrace the industry's changes will find themselves the figureheads of tomorrow.