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The underappreciated city of Minneapolis served as host for the 2019 edition of HITEC (produced by HFTP) which wrapped up its most recent four-day run on June 20, 2019. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, meeting solicitations and party invites filled my inbox at a growth rate any VC or entrepreneur would envy. As a first-timer to this international hospitality technology behemoth, it became apparent that HITEC actually begins a few weeks prior to when that first request or invitation lands in your over-stuffed inbox.

Time is limited. Once it’s gone, you can’t gain it back. Similarly, once a room goes unsold for a night, it will go unsold forever. There’s no way to recover that loss, because there’s no way to go back in time.
 
Many hotels fight this limitation by trying to sell as many rooms as possible. If all the rooms are completely booked, time no longer becomes a factor. But most don’t have the luxury of being at-capacity every single night. That’s why last-minute booking apps are growing in popularity in the industry, where hotels can make the most of each day. These apps specifically target guests who don’t plan far in advance, seeking accommodations from one week to one minute later.
 
There are several different ways your hotel can benefit from using last-minute booking apps in your business strategy.

IoT is Coming, Jon Snow…
Posted: 05/21/2019

Hospitality is prime for the coming advent of the various devices that make up the Internet of Things. Estimates show the industry now represents 17.5 million rooms worldwide and savvy guests are demanding more personalization and an overall improved guest experience along their connected travel journey and belief is that IoT can bring this to reality. 

The forces driving local search rankings are constantly changing. But recent studies suggest that in 2019, four key factors make up the local search algorithm. 
 
The most significant factor is Google My Business (GMB). If you’re not on it, get on it now.

The robotic revolution in the hospitality industry might seem to have taken a step back. This January, the famously quirky Henn-Na Hotel in Japan fired half of its 243 robot staff. The robotic workforce reportedly irritated guests and frequently broke down.



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Artificial Intelligence: Coming to a Hotel Room Near You

02/21/2017

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 toward 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 favorite 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 questions 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 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.


Travel Assistance
Checking out of a hotel can sometimes be a hectic experience, especially when there’s an early flight involved, but assistants such as Google Home can already remove the stress associated with travel. Along with checking the status of flights, Google Home can set an alarm, call an Uber driver, 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 personalized 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.
 
 
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About The Author
Brendon Granger
Director
Technology4Hotels


With a great passion for all things hotels, but in particular technology and a desire to help others, his role as director at Technology4Hotels allows him to do both.

Brendon has worked with hundreds of hotels to help them with their in-room technology. In the last few years he has helped them to increase guest satisfaction, strengthen guest loyalty and encourage repeat bookings as well as win awards such as the best business hotel, best city hotel, best upscale hotel and best luxury hotel in Australasia.

Always going the extra mile, Brendon began his hospitality career over 25 years ago working in five-star hotels whilst completing his bachelor of business in hotel management. He has held various management positions within five-star hotels, worked as a consultant in both hotel feasibility and technology and has an extensive background in hotel technology.

 
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