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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 
 



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How Hotel Chatbots Will Change Guest Experience

The world loves to chat. Today, more than 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, with predictions that the number will hit 3.6 billion within a couple of years. As travel becomes increasingly mobile-centric, travel brands are realizing that messaging platforms represent the future of customer communication. And many are starting to see the huge potential of chatbots.

Utilizing AI (artificial intelligence), chatbots deliver a text-based service that seeks to replicate having a natural conversation with a human. Chatbots are nothing new – emerging back in the 1960s – but the technology has advanced quickly in recent years. Today, they’re being used to do everything from booking a taxi to paying bills, and increasingly, they’re becoming more prevalent in the travel industry.

The Explosion in Travel Chatbots
Recently, a flurry of metasearch sites including Skyscanner, KAYAK, and Hipmunk, have created their own chatbots, integrating them with Facebook Messenger and Slack. Hipmunk’s chatbot is particularly advanced, providing suggestions to questions like, “When’s the best time to fly between New York and Paris?”

Dedicated travel bots are starting to pop up more frequently, such as personal travel assistant, Taylor. While relatively limited, this AI bot is designed to provide digital nomads with suggestions on where to sleep or work in a city. A “Nearby” and “City Lookup” feature also offers information on the suitability of other cities, including things like living costs and internet access.

And now, chatbots are slowly beginning to find their way into the hotel industry.

Chatbots Being Used by Hotels
Earlier this year, Booking.com announced the rollout of an SMS-style chat tool that lets guests communicate directly with the hotel they’ve booked with – all via their Booking.com account. Hotels are able to initiate the conversation too, and the tool also has a series of translation templates to enable hotel employees to send standardized messages to overseas guests in their native language.

Hotels themselves have started building their own chatbots. Just recently, Edwardian Hotels in the United Kingdom launched an AI chatbot Edward at 12 of its hotels. As well as offering tips on local tourist sights, restaurants and bars, Edward can deal with requests for amenities and services such as fresh towels and room service.

The hotel’s chatbot can even handle complaints, and it also features live assistance so that issues can be escalated to a staff member. Edward is designed to respond within seconds, cutting out the delay that might occur through traditional methods.

While impressive, chatbots like Edward still have a long way to go. New developers are entering the marketplace all the time, pushing the technology into evermore exciting places.

Exciting Evolution
In terms of where chatbots might go, advancements within artificial intelligence promise big potential. Powered by machine learning, chatbots can learn through each and every interaction. As this learning constantly grows over time, and AI technology progresses, they’ll become increasingly adept at making relevant recommendations.

As they improve their grasp of conversational context, chatbots will also be better at understanding intent and meaning, grasping the subtlety of language while being able to predict where the conversation is going.

Voice-based technology used by the likes of Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri® could also soon be integrated with chatbots to create a more seamless interface. Instead of tapping away at a screen, a hotel guest could make a request simply with their voice.

The Future of Guest Communication?
By offering a more natural form of communication and near-instant responses, chatbots can help hotels elevate the guest experience. From an operational point of view, they could also free up hotel staff by dealing with requests that hectic front desks would otherwise need to manage themselves.

Yet for all their promise, it’s highly unlikely that chatbots will replace the need for human conversation. Even if the technology sufficiently develops to offer flawless service, guests will always want a person to deal with in certain situations – especially complaints. While a machine might appear to show empathy and understanding, nothing can replace the genuine emotions expressed through personal interaction.

That said, there’s no doubt that chatbots can become a huge asset to hotels when used in the right way, especially given the exciting ways they continue to advance.

How do you get named Apple's Top Travel App of 2015?

It helps to have a great concept that is extrmely useful, but it takes a great user experience and intuitive user interface to turn that great concept into an even better app. Lead product desgiern for hopper, Pantelis Korobilas understands how critical UX design is to the success of an app, and invested heavily in creating an app that is intutiive, while encouraging users to sign up and return.  The Hopper app analyzes billions of flight prices daily to predict how they are going to change and the best timies,  to gly, and "watches" flights to notify you when to buy tickets. The app will watch flight prices until they hit their expected "good deal" range, and then sends a push notification that you should hop back on the app and book your flight.

But what happens if the user doesn't turn on push notifications? This is one of the elements of UX deisgn - if your app doesn't properly encourage people to allow notifications, then the main benefit of using your app is lost, and getting back to the point is cumbersome. Hopper recognized this problem and watched as user went through several different versions of the app on boarding process. The noticed that forcing people into accepting notifications too soon pushed them away. Bu adding a simple "not now" to the notifications sreen during the onboarding, users were allowed to get more familiar with the app, and, more importantly, trust Hopper before allowing push notifications. "And trush takes time," Pantellis said, "Our willinghess toallow user to take a look around, before being forced into deciding whether to do so or no, helped establish just enought of it."
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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