The Future Of AI For Hotel Owners Is Now
It is sometimes easy to read the hospitality market news and feel like if you don’t jump on the artificial intelligence (AI) bandwagon, you (and your hotel) will be left behind. The answer isn’t all or nothing. At the heart of the hotel industry is a core belief that hospitality thrives on human-to-human interaction, but that doesn’t mean that AI doesn’t have a place.
While AI may streamline tedious tasks, highlight guest patterns, and automate some day-to-day operations, it should be viewed as a valuable tool in your toolbox rather than a replacement for hospitality.
Technology Will Continue To Grow Exponentially
As technologies continue to improve everyday life, there are understandably some growing pains as AI becomes more and more integrated. Does that mean you have to be all in on everything AI? No. It’s OK to pick and choose!
You probably already use AI technology without realizing how seamlessly it is integrated into hotel operations. An easy example is a booking CRM (pick your favorite)…most, if not all, of the current CRM systems include some pricing analytics.
Most marketing and social media platforms offer analytics so hotel owners can see what messages resonate with followers. Newsletter programs allow for A/B Testing, a simple way to see what messages are more well-received by guests than others. Both CRM and newsletter programs offer the ability to create templates to help automate reoccurring tasks such as a reservation confirmation letter or a thank you after a guest checks out. All of these use technology that bridges the gap to more automated AI opportunities.
Set A Clear Goal, And Start Simply
Hospitality marketing outlets like to tell you every single thing AI can do for your hotel, from automating check-in, virtual assistants, optimization of pricing, energy efficiency, hospitality trends, and the list goes on and on. It can get overwhelming for even the most fervent tech nerd. And it can be intimidating for hotel owners who already have their hands full with day-to-day operations.
As a hotel brokerage, we struggle with the same questions – how much is too much, and how much is just enough? As hotel owners, we know that time is at a premium, and yet, learning to integrate new technology can be time-intensive up front for gains later, and it can be challenging to set clear goals for using AI in our day-to-day routine.
Focus On Technologies That Automate Repetitive Tasks
While it may seem that automating tasks risks making your hotel sound clinical and disconnected, that doesn’t have to be the case. The whole goal of automating repetitive tasks is to free up time for more one-to-one guest interactions. Let your genuine desire for quality guest services come through in the tone of your marketing, and use the time you save to have meaningful contacts with guests who may need more specific assistance.
Use Analytics To Help Set Your AI Goals
As hotel owners, it can be difficult not to be everything for everyone, especially at smaller properties. We get it. People who tend to be drawn towards hospitality as a career (not just a job) desire perfection that surpasses other industries in terms of service and quality. The upside is that most hotels have a treasure trove of guest information at their fingertips. When guests visit, how far out do they book? Do they bring a pet with them? Are they traveling for business or vacation? Do they book directly or through an OTA?
Analytics can help you take a deep-dive look into who your guests are versus who you believe them to be, while AI can help automate a customer journey tailored for that specific guest.
An Example Of How AI Can Help Target Market
Consider the different needs of your guests and how AI can help to target them more efficiently in the future. While the examples below use AI to send messages, ultimately, it is your staff’s knowledge of a guest that will help start your guest on a specific “client journey.” AI can augment understanding of guest preferences, but it will never replace excellent service and keen observation of guest activities.
For example, after a business trip, your business traveler receives a thank you for staying with us email. Your business email follow-up may offer corporate discounts on future stays, upsell meeting and event spaces for conferences, or tout your new remote work business center with excellent connectivity for their next trip.
Meanwhile, the guest who stayed at your hotel for a family reunion might receive an email with a “tell-a-friend” discount, information on activities and events coming up that are family-friendly, or even a free “extra” when you stay with your children. Friends who came for a “friend’s weekend” may receive offers for spa treatments, etc. You get the idea.
Utilize AI To Your Advantage
It is sometimes easy to think of AI as cold and robotic, but like anything else, AI is a tool to be used in the toolbox of savvy hotel owners. Pick and choose your AI carefully, especially when getting started, and let it assist you in tailoring more customized guest experiences. With the proper tone and voice, AI can help support your brand and continue to build customer loyalty with more personalization and less time spent on repetitive tasks.
Rather than think of AI as the enemy, think of it as an opportunity to free up your valuable time, allowing you to take your service to the next level. After all, hospitality will always be about people who offer exceptional service.