Hotels are using AI and Big Data to connect with guests in new ways and to surpass guests’ expectations. While these technologies are impacting many industries, they have the potential to utterly transform how we travel and how hospitality organizations run. Why? It’s all down to the tremendous amount of data that travel industry companies have. Their extensive customer records contain each person’s likes, dislikes, purchases, frequented destinations, and interests. Plus, hotels often partner with airlines, restaurants, and other attractions, providing these entities with even more information about individual customers’ preferences when they pool data.
Below are five ways hotel companies can use AI to generate bookings, solve customer service problems, and create a win-win situation for guests.
Reaching the Right Customers with the Right Offers
The first and most common application of AI and Big Data is in marketing. When brands zoom in on the individual customer, they can rev bookings and increase customer satisfaction. The secret is in personalization. Not everyone leaps at a “20 percent off” coupon—others are more attuned to unique experiences such as adding an artisan cheese and charcuterie tasting to a hotel stay, or luxurious upgrades like complimentary spa treatment. Big Data can help hotel marketing teams identify the most effective offer and AI can make sure it gets to the right person at the right time.
Enhancing Booking Engine Performance
AI can also be used to enhance the performance of booking engines. A recent example is Avvio’s booking platform, Allora, which uses learning models to help hotels maximize their bookings and improve customer experience. It incorporates information from every single transaction on a hotel’s online direct booking channel. Using customer data and AI to find each guest’s perfect combination of hotel, air travel, and rental car can help travel companies put together very attractive, very targeted offers.
AI-Powered Virtual Concierge
The idea of an AI-powered virtual concierge keeps popping up, as well. We’ve seen hotels in Tokyo and New York use robots to handle check-in duties (or, in the case of Japan’s Henn-na Hotel, all duties). And two years ago, Hilton introduced Connie, an AI-powered robotic concierge whose role is mostly limited to answering questions and making suggestions. Robot concierges may or may not take off, but virtual concierge hotel apps are already a reality. These can allow guests to specify anything from room temp to pillow preference.
Another realistic AI solution is the smart chatbot. This could be presented as part of a mobile app or as a voice-activated, in-room device along the lines of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. We’re already seeing chatbots manage routine customer service inquiries—in a hotel setting, they will soon be routinely ordering meals, processing check-ins, suggesting restaurants and other local activities, and booking tickets or reservations.
Enhancing Guest Experience
This brings us back to AI’s other well-established superpower—creating the ideal customer experience. This becomes essential when the customer’s experience didn’t meet their expectations: unacceptable check-in wait times; noisy neighbors, slow WiFi, booking problems, etc. Using the insight from an AI-enhanced CRM, hotels can turn this from a negative experience to another win by offering a personalized perk or amenity when remedying the problem.
At least in customer service, the AI Improvements list goes on. The more you know about a customer, the better the experience you can provide.
Hotels that have already adopted AI are trimming operating and maintenance costs, marketing more effectively, and delighting their customers. AI isn’t a passing trend; it’s becoming a necessity in the travel business, and we can expect it to continue making big changes for hotels and their guests.
About the Author
Anil Kaul, co-founder and CEO of Absolutdata, has over 22 years of experience in advanced analytics, market research, and management consulting. He is passionate about analytics and leveraging technology to improve business decision-making.