Since ancient times the human wanderlust has driven us to explore the world. Thanks to the rapid development of modern transportation, people now have more options than ever for doing so easily and conveniently. Travel & Tourism has become one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 10.4 percent of global GDP and 9.9 percent of total employment in 2017 according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Although the service-based travel sector remains human labour intensive, even it cannot dodge the disruption that AI is bringing to global industries. According to a report by Canadian estate agency Colliers International, 73 percent of the manual activities in hospitality could be automated by 2025 due to mainstream deployment of technologies such as facial and speech recognition, robotics, virtual reality, biometrics, etc.
Synced surveyed several “future hotels” that are already applying AI in hospitality, to see how the tech can provide guests with a unique and satisfying experience.
Voice assistants offered by Marriott International
In 2018, Marriott International began integrating Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality at select hotels. Using Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo voice assistants, guests can order room service, adjust controls for lighting, temperature, etc., and ask location-specific questions from their rooms. Soon, Marriott guests will also be able connect to their Amazon accounts, allowing them for example to play their favorite music or listen to their Audible audiobooks wherever they are staying.
Unique and smart living experience at FlyZoo Hotel
Alibaba Group’s FlyZoo Hotel in Hangzhou, China, is the first futuristic hotel utilizing facial recognition technology. Guests can complete self check-in, ride the elevator to the appropriate floor and enter their rooms — all via face scans. Robots take the place of hotel staff in providing room service and as servers in the restaurant. While in their rooms, guest can control temperature, lighting intensity, appliances and so on via voice interaction using Tmall Genie. In the future, guests will also be able to buy a lamp, chair, or other item they like in the hotel simply by snapping a photo of it in the dedicated app.
Smart bracelets available in Meliá Hotels International
Meliá Hotels International and Oracle have developed a smart bracelet with a Bluetooth connection for the Meliá app. The bracelet allows guests to open the door to their room and pay for services and purchases in all Meliá shops and restaurants. The smart bracelets are already in use at two company hotels in Magaluf, Spain; and four additional hotels will deploy the devices this coming summer.
In the past, evaluation of a hotel focused mainly on the room, facilities, food and services — and hotels that invested in improving these could satisfy almost all guests. However, as the AI-driven personalization trend continues, providing customized and convenient services is emerging as a new and effective way to earn customers’ favour. We will likely see more future hotels leveraging smart digital technologies to better meet travelers’ individual needs.
AI technology is however still developing, and so deployment costs across a hotel or a chain of hotels remains high. Also, smart solutions are not yet quite smart enough to fully replace human staff: Tokyo’s Henn-na Hotel — the world’s first hotel run largely by robots — recently “fired” more than half of its 243 robot staff after guests said they were inefficient and irritating. Information security and job loss fears are additional issues facing AI in travel and tourism.
Author: Kelly Xie | Editor: Michael Sarazen