AI and the inevitable future of hospitality

Written by Klaus Kohlmayr, chief evangelist, IDeaS

The hospitality industry is rapidly diving into technology such as cloud, biometrics, IoT and chatbots. This acceleration has been particularly noticeable in the uptake of artificial intelligence (AI). From marketing and customisation to pricing and revenue management, AI has become a key player.

A few years ago, ‘big data’ was an inescapable phrase. The advancements in computer processing and data storage made it possible for computers to ingest and analyse record amounts of data – so much so that it produced the smart applications we use every day on our phones.

As we look at the advancements in AI that Google, Amazon and Apple have brought to the market, we can begin to see a direct correlation. AI infants such as Bixby, Alexa and Siri have graduated from pre-school and are entering higher education.

Bixby is becoming more established

Essentially, we are witnessing a movement into a different level of interaction through machines and software comparable to the advancements we saw in mobile app development and cloud technologies a decade ago.

We’re also seeing a rapid rise in newcomers to the market. Start-ups that are making the booking and customer experience more personalised, sophisticated and guest-centric – leading the way toward new levels of customer engagement and satisfaction.

“The integration of AI into our lives is so pervasive we take it for granted”

In this environment, if you’re not automating your business and fully leveraging the gains technology is offering, you’ll soon be left behind as your rivals become increasingly competitive and innovative in keeping their guests happy.

The integration of AI into our lives is so pervasive we take it for granted. In retail, for instance, add-on items are more effectively suggested – in cybersecurity fraud can not only be prevented, but it can also be detected – and in healthcare, the success of specific treatments can be more quickly understood.

In hospitality, the initial focus has been in improving the guest experience, but I believe the more intriguing use of AI is the emergence of technology platforms that consolidate data. For instance, some platforms now allow you to expand your revenue management horizon beyond hotel rooms into areas such as parking and conference facilities.

Using advanced analytics has the potential to unlock processes and provide better decision-making power to those who need it. Platforms that consolidate data to increase efficiency and enhance AI systems will not only help you make better decisions but will also enhance the guest experience.

Innovations such as the Internet of Things are rolling out fast

In much the same way we have seen rapid technological advancements occur in restaurants, retail and healthcare, we are seeing a direct crossover into hotels. From big data to AI, from chatbots to the ever-present Internet of Things, from the cloud to biometrics and robotics – innovations are rolling out at a dizzying rate.

Big advancements emerging in hospitality today are in integrated distribution strategies and their intertwined relationships with sales, marketing, loyalty programs and revenue management.

“AI is only as good as the data that feeds it”

Hospitality professionals must remember though, that AI is only as good as the data that feeds it. If you’re not already working on consolidating, aggregating and future-proofing your data, you won’t get the full benefit and efficiencies out of automation.

New technology is supposed to make life easier, not replace you. Essentially, it’s about establishing the right balance between human and AI. If you have an artificial analytical assistant doing your most repetitive tasks, you can concentrate on adding value by setting the right long-term strategies.

The rise of the machines is upon us, and it’s time to lose the fear of giving up control. We must embrace these changes and invest in the infrastructure and tools needed to become efficient, effective and empowered.

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