AI is modernising the hotel sector and business travel

Ever more present, this technology is becoming an integral part of travellers' habits. How is it affecting modern travel behaviour?

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As artificial intelligence continues to play a part in our daily life, it is also becoming increasingly useful in the hotel and travel sectors, given the many concierge services it can deliver in real time. It’s an advantage that the industry is employing more and more. 

Tailored services in a click

If you're familiar with the high-end hotel industry and booking services in general, the chances are you've noticed it: artificial intelligence, or ‘AI’, technology is becoming ever more present in the form of virtual assistants, or handy suggestions that appear at just the right time. Whether used for booking tickets, reserving a room or indicating your preferences, nothing beats a chatbot that can meet all your requirements at any time of the day or night. Algorithms capable of suggesting the best hotel for your next trip already exist. AI possesses a powerful weapon that is becoming more and more effective: technology that allows it to capture your data, your questions, your activity history, and even the tone of your voice, transforming it into a highly personalised response. By studying all our data, much more quickly than a 'human' employee could, AI can find solutions to our problems (a room, a flight, a service) and even anticipate certain needs (change a flight in the event of a delay). It’s therefore no surprise that hotel operators are investing in these solutions to improve their overall service. Accor, for example, has some 10 people working at its Innovation Centre to study the possibilities of AI.

Modernising customer service

In addition to its fun side, AI offers plenty of other opportunities. It’s also an ideal tool for meeting customers' key expectations: providing real-time personalised recommendations and budget management. As for industry professionals, using an artificial intelligence solution is extremely attractive. Singlehandedly, AI promises to:
  • strengthen and modernise customer service, meeting guests' needs around the clock and immediately; 
  • encourage customer loyalty by proposing tailored offers based on their preferences;
  • allow for better cost management and control through its capability to process a multitude of data and files in real time. 
This explains why the marketing strategies of all hotel chains now include AI among their top priorities. 

Ever bolder ways of applying AI

As for examples? More and more are becoming available on a regular basis. For bookings and travel, and TripAdvisor are good examples of companies that are using chatbots to communicate with users directly during their search. But AI doesn't stop there. Start-ups such as Destygo now also operate on behalf of companies (Aéroports de Paris, MisterFly, Carlson Wagonlit Travel) to respond to travellers directly via their favourite messaging channels (Facebook Messenger, text message, apps, etc.), without going through customer services departments, which are often very busy. It’s an undeniably convenient service for providing the reactivity that business travellers require. This is something of which Accor is aware. In 2018, it acquired its own chatbot, which is available on its website and messaging accounts, as well as through its application.

As for hotels, in terms of artificial intelligence, the pace has been stepped up significantly. Last summer, Marriott International Hotels (USA) tested the voice assistant Alexa (Amazon) in their guest rooms as an on-demand personalised room-service facility. But, in terms of AI, it’s Asia that’s pioneering the latest innovations. In November, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts partnered with the famous Chinese application WeChat to open its first smart hotel in Shanghai. The concept allows guests to do everything through the messaging app. They can book a room via WeChat, order and pay for meals at the hotel, set the air conditioning or even adjust the lighting. In Seoul, the Accor Group has started testing a smart guest room where everything is voice controlled. Opening the door to your room with your smartphone, identifying yourself using facial recognition, or having your favourite music played in your room: these options will no doubt become increasingly available in the near future.

Published by Magali on 13/02/2019 Photo credit: © AndreyPopov

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