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It’s a Brave New World: AI, Hospitality and 2019


When Shakespeare wrote “O brave new world,” I am certain he had no idea how this phrase would so aptly apply to today’s modern world. Never more so than in the hospitality industry, one that has traditionally run in siloed technology environments and is now having to take a headlong plunge into technology such as cloud, biometrics, IoT and chatbots.

This past year I have had the opportunity to witness this acceleration firsthand as it extends and emerges into our industry, particularly as it relates to artificial intelligence (AI). From marketing and customization to pricing and revenue management, AI has become a key player.

Artificial intelligence is growing up

A few years ago, “big data” was a phrase we couldn’t escape. And for good reason. The advancements in computer processing and data storage had made it possible for computers to ingest and analyze more data than ever. So much so that it produced the smart applications we use every day. To learn more about AI and its subfields, machine learning and deep learning, check out this post by SAS.

As we look at the advancements in AI that Google, Amazon and Apple have brought to the market, we can begin to see a direct correlation. AI infants such as Bixby, Alexa and Siri have graduated from pre-school and are well on their way to higher education.

With each interaction we provide, they are learning faster than we can ever hope to. The reality is that the human brain can no longer keep up with the influx of data being generated by today’s technology. It is, quite frankly, impossible.

Essentially, what we are seeing is a movement into a different level of interaction through machines and software. It is akin to the advancements we saw in mobile app development and cloud technologies 10 years ago.

We are also witnessing a rapid uptick in newcomers to the market, startups that are making the booking and customer experience more personalized. Companies such as Avvio, Volara, Go Moment and Routier have developed sophisticated, guest-centric integrations that will lead the way toward a new level of customer engagement and satisfaction.

And why is this? Because they all rely on AI.

Now is the time to lean in

The hard truth is that if you are not automating your business, you will be left behind. Now is the time to lean in and tap into the additional power you can gain by fully leveraging technology, not only to stay ahead of the competition, but also to satisfy your guests.

The direct integration of AI into our everyday lives has become so pervasive we now take it for granted. In retail, for instance, add-on items are more effectively suggested, in cybersecurity fraud can not only be prevented, but also detected, and in healthcare the success of specific treatments can be more quickly understood.

In the hospitality industry, the initial trend has been in the guest experience. That’s because it is sexy, engaging, easy to demonstrate and satisfies guest expectations in any myriad of ways.

I think the more intriguing use of AI, however, is the emergence of technology platforms that consolidate data. For instance, some revenue management platforms now allow you to expand your revenue management beyond the room into other areas, such as parking and conference facilities.

By leveraging advanced analytics, we can see the potential to provide better decision-making power to those who need it. Technology platforms that consolidate data to increase efficiency and enhance AI systems will not only help you make better decisions, but will enhance the guest experience.

Converging technological advances

The convergence of technology into daily life is no longer the new kid on the block. It has become the norm, particularly as it relates to the guest experience.

In much the same way we have seen rapid technological advancements occur in restaurants, retail and healthcare, we are seeing a direct crossover into hotels. From big data to AI, from chatbots to the ever-present Internet of Things, from the cloud to biometrics and robotics, innovations are rolling out at a dizzying rate.

The real advancement emerging in the industry today are in integrated distribution strategies and their intertwined relationships with sales, marketing, loyalty programs and revenue management. I explored this topic in detail in a recent article, see “Three ways hoteliers are kicking silos of technology for good (finally)”.

So as we head into 2019, how should smart hoteliers prepare?

  • Remember that AI is only as good as the data that feeds it. If you are not already working on consolidating, aggregating and futureproofing your data, you won’t get the full benefit and efficiencies out of automation.
  • Fear not! All this new technology is supposed to make your life easier, not replace you. A lot has been written about how we will lose our jobs as the machines take over. In my opinion, it is really about establishing the right balance between human and artificial intelligence, rather than one replacing the other. If you have an artificial analytical assistant at your fingertips, taking over your most repetitive tasks, you can concentrate on adding value by setting the right strategies for the long term.

As the Bard wisely wrote some centuries ago, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The rise of the machines is upon us, and it is a time to lose the fear of giving up control. Instead, we need to embrace these changes and invest in the infrastructure and tools needed to become efficient, effective and empowered. 

We must let AI do what it is supposed to do, learn to trust the results it can bring and then leverage the results to make human interactions even richer.

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