AI, Alexa and apps: The tech set to make it big in hotels

Artificial Intelligence, digital assistants and apps that can improve the guest experience and back-of-house efficiency are the areas hoteliers should investigate if they want to stay ahead of the technology curve, says the Independent Hotel Show.

The Independent Hotel Show, which returns to London Olympia on October 16th & 17th, takes a deeper dive into these top three trends in hotel tech by speaking to exhibitors, speakers and partners in-the-know.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Traditionally, independent hoteliers have kicked back against Artificial Intelligence (AI) as its use feels at odds with sector where people-led personal service is its bread and butter.

However, advances in AI and growing guest demand for streamlined services means the industry will be embracing this kind of technology as we move into the future.

Jim Cockell, owner of boutique Cotswolds hotel Old Stocks Inn will be speaking in seminar titled Special Ops at the Business Theatre on Wednesday 17th October at 11am. He has ‘no doubt’ AI will integrate further into hotel business ‘both from an improved customer satisfaction perspective and from an efficiency side for hotels’.

As David Pryde, head of IT at Strand Palace Hotel, who will join Jim Cockell in the Special Ops discussion, says, the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) among industry leaders has been divisive, but feels the tide is turning as hoteliers start to understand its benefits.

“Not long-ago Big Data and Business Intelligence were the buzzwords, but the challenge was how to distil the vast amounts of information into usable valuable information”

 Says David and he adds. “AI and those offering this in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model will allow all, not just the large multi-nationals, to realise how to personalise a guest experience and maintain engagement post stay.”

Hannah MacGregor, business development manager at Newbook, partner to the Independent Hotel Show’s new feature IHTechQuest, and at stand 71, agrees.

“AI will be key in learning about guests and predicting their behaviour and needs. Not only will this be part of the booking process with automotive booking agents responding 24/7 based on text or speech enquiries (see NewBook’s launch of NEWB.I.E. at our stand) but will also begin to learn about guests’ habits allowing the development of better predictive algorithms to make their stay truly unique.”

Digital assistants

Digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant have evolved from the position of gimmicky gadget to essential equipment in today’s modern home.

For hotels wishing to provide their guests with a home-from-home welcome while also continuing the notion of improving service, digital assistants fit the bill.

“Guests like to find technology that is equal or better to what they have at home, for example on demand TV and in room music, but they don’t want to find technology that is difficult to use or so advanced that they cannot interact with it during their stay,” says Jim Cockell who has introduced a ground-breaking in-room concierge service using a bespoke version of Alexa.

Hannah MacGregor believes the full benefits of digital assistants for hotels are still yet to be discovered, but their constant development makes them an area that hoteliers should watch closely.

“We know how popular the likes of Amazon’s Alexa and Goggle’s assistant are in home,” she says. “hoteliers and technology companies (such as PMS) will embrace these to allow guests to use speech commands to take advantage of services such as ordering room service or housekeeping.”

Apps for efficiency

As consumers rely more on technology to operate all aspects of their lives, they will come to expect the same when they stay in hotels. A host of apps are continuing to be developed that promise to improve operations both front and back-of-house and hoteliers should capitalise on their use if they wish to impress time-strapped guests.

“Guests are looking for fast, relevant and personalised information and a smooth frictionless check-in/check-out process, without repeated requests for the same information,” says David Pryde who sees a greater reliance on apps that can do that as well as those that help staff.

“Behind the curtain, I see much more technology being used to enable hotels and hospitality to be more efficient and maximise profitability or minimise the cost of utilities and services, such as energy management, distribution and labour on demand,” he adds.

Guests are already open to apps that can personalise their stay, says Bronwyn Groves, Sales Director at Sky, a Commercial Partner to the Independent Hotel Show.

“According to the Home Away from Home Report, a think tank report between Independent Sky and UK Hospitality, 63% of industry people asked believed that Smart Concierge apps will become popular and something that guests will expect to be made available to them,” she adds.

However, hoteliers tempted by the latest technology should exercise caution, says Jim Cockell, who advises only using tried and tested systems.

“There is so much to choose from you can often be baffled by sales pitches and technical descriptions and choose a product or solution that isn’t right for the customer now or in the future. Technology moves quickly, and hotels can often be slow to adopt these solutions but we can gain a lot of insight from looking at other industries and how they use technology.”

David Pryde agrees: “Hotels should be aware of the latest trends and opportunities but not chase them as this could be a crippling cost, not least detract from their business’s USP. Technology moves at such a pace and consumer desires vary greatly not only between individuals but the destination and purpose of a stay, therefore the key is to be aware and pick the items that complement, add value, or enhance your product.”

To find out more about the tech set to make it big in hotels, register your complimentary pass for The Independent Hotel Show at www.independenthotelshow.co.uk