In recent years, the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) has become a major point of intrigue in the travel sector. Right now, travel brands are using AI to power a new generation of chatbots that can communicate with customers and handle requests through text-based “conversations”.
But chatbots represent a stepping stone towards something much bigger.
In the future, hotels will begin to use AI in far more dynamic ways, including within the hotel room itself. Soon enough, guests may be able to control devices and make requests entirely through an in-room voice-controlled device. It’s a scenario that might not be so very far away.
AI assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo are already being used by consumers to play music, receive news and weather updates, shop online, and more. AI no longer exists in some far-flung future. It’s here now, and it’s advancing quickly.
With that in mind, here are a few ways AI might be used in the hotel rooms of the future.
Controlling in-room tech
The technology needed to control every device in a room purely through voice is already being used. Just recently, Aloft Hotels debuted their voice-activated rooms to enable guests to change the temperature, adjust the lighting, and turn on the TV using an Aloft App and iPad linked to Apple’s Homekit and Siri.
But while controlling devices in this way is undoubtedly a useful and interesting perk, the true potential of combining in-room tech with AI lies in the possibility that a room can learn about preferences and remove the need for interaction altogether.
For instance, Starwood Hotels (the owners of Aloft) are experimenting with ways a room can “pay attention” to preferences so that things like favourite TV channels and temperature settings can be made instantly available.
This kind of experimentation could pave the way for a new generation of “smart” rooms that observe preferences and tailor devices to meet the unique needs of every person.
Ordering hotel services
While chatbots provide a fast way to order services and make requests, an AI assistant would make this process even easier. Instead of being fixed to their smartphone, a guest could ask for more towels, request room service, or make a reservation at the hotel restaurant – all while getting on with other things.
It would also be possible to make requests and receive tailored recommendations. After a long flight, a weary guest might want to book a spa treatment to help unwind and relax. Instead of listing every possible treatment, an AI assistant would be able to suggest the most suitable options to help with jet lag.
By monitoring booking history and enquiries during a day, hotel staff would also be able to access that data in the future. For instance, if a guest had asked for extra pillows or requested that specific drinks be topped up in their minibar, hotel staff would be able to prepare a room accordingly to meet those needs ahead of time.
Acting as a local guide
AI would also act as the ultimate destination guide, acting as an invaluable resource on local sights, landmarks, and attractions.
Asking a question like, “Where can I get a great cappuccino?” or “What beaches in the area are great for families?” could result in a tailored recommendation based on information sourced from review sites, travel blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts.
A guest might also ask to be updated about upcoming events of personal interest such as music festivals, gourmet food markets, art exhibitions and theatre productions.
Coordinating travel plans and bookings would also be possible during the same interaction. For instance, after finding out about a great restaurant across town, an in-room assistant could then reserve a table, send the restaurant directions to a person’s smartphone, and book an Uber to pick them up.
Providing information on the hotel
All the practical details about a hotel’s amenities and services are typically available in a series of printed documents. But a hotel room of the future would remove the need to manually check for relevant information.
A guest could simply ‘ask’ their room a question such as, “When does the pool open?” or “Does the gym have a cross-trainer?” When asking about the hotel restaurant menu, a guest might also request tips on recommended dishes that match their tastes, or even pairing suggestions from the hotel wine list.
If information about particular amenities or services was repeatedly requested, an AI assistant could identify these as preferences and make relevant suggestions about other services that might also be appealing.
Checking out of a hotel can sometimes be a pretty hectic experience, especially when there’s an early flight involved. But assistants such as Google Home can already remove a lot of the stress associated with travel.
Along with checking the status of flights, Google Home can set an alarm, call an Uber, and provide real-time traffic data – all of which means a person can reach a destination on time with minimum hassle.
Clearly, this kind of service would be of major benefit to hotel guests. In addition to easier planning and arranging transport, they could ask their in-room device to have front desk come and collect their luggage, or bring their car around for collection.
Smoothing out the checkout process ultimately means that a guest would leave the hotel feeling both positive and relaxed.
The future of guest experience
AI has advanced rapidly in recent years and hotels have an opportunity to use it in a number of game-changing ways. Soon enough, a person may check into a hotel room and use an AI assistant to order room service, turn on the TV, book a massage treatment, and plan their latest trip.
Not only can AI provide a more personalised experience, it can free up hotel staff from dealing with requests that don’t always require personal interaction. While it’s still early days, it’s clear that this technology will play an increasingly central role in hospitality. By at least considering its potential now, hotels can begin to prepare themselves for a time when it becomes increasingly central to the guest experience.