Study: Hoteliers Fear Robot Future

DALLAS—While hoteliers fear a future where their properties are run by robots, they believe artificial intelligence (AI) may be the key to delivering a highly personalized guest experience, according to a white paper by SiteMinder and IDeaS Revenue Solutions.

This finding was brought to light at a thought leader breakfast held during World Travel Market London in November, and during a December webinar, where leading hoteliers conceded that although robots could never replace genuine hospitality, they can decipher big data to learn about guests faster than humans.

Monica Or, consultant at Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy and the facilitator of both events, said one reason for the sentiment is the recognition that hotel guest preferences have become more sophisticated in the last 25 years with the growing accessibility of digital technology.

“Hoteliers desperately need to get on board with the technological advances that we all, as consumers, are seeing and experiencing on the day to day,” she said. “Guests today are more tech savvy, so what they have in their homes they now expect in the hotels where they stay.”

Hoteliers suggested AI could best enhance the guest experience through tailored pricing during the booking process, voice and face recognition upon arrival and 24/7 customer service during the guests’ stay. According to participants of the study, the future of hospitality should be one that combines technology with a human touch to create an enjoyable but authentic experience.

The unexpected challenge found was that many hoteliers continued to overlook the fundamental importance of integrating their systems to gain the insight they needed into their guest data.

“Hotels have a wealth of guest intelligence at their disposal,” said Ruairi Conroy, managing director – EMEA at SiteMinder. “They have the opportunity to understand and analyze every point of the guest experience—and to make more innovative, more informed decisions—but they need information to flow seamlessly through their systems in order to make it work.”

“There is clearly an identifiable trend within the hospitality sector of leveraging technology to maximize both performance and the guest experience,” said Fabian Specht, EMEA managing director at IDeaS. “While inevitably there will be IT challenges to be addressed, AI will play an ever-increasing role in delivering bespoke services to guests—just as it does in other consumer-facing industries.”

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