Think of Artificial Intelligence and hotels and, inevitably, robot butlers come to mind. In July 2015, the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki opened its doors, but on arrival, guests were welcomed by robots, instead of the usual Front Office ‘human’ staff. The robots are able to make eye contact and have face-recognition technology embedded within them allowing them to recognize repeat guests, as well as detect their temperatures.
In August 2015 Aloft South Beach, USA, debuted a robot butler that delivered room service, called Botlr. The robot is able to deliver basic room service amenities such as bottled water, food and towels. Located at the Front Desk, the robot is able to deliver goods to the guest in his or her room, or by the pool, in an average of three minutes, as compared to 30 minutes it would take a human. At $20,000, this piece of equipment could potentially pay itself back many times over in the course of its lifetime.
While robot butlers and Front Office staff certainly capture the public’s imagination, they are unlikely to evolve into anything more than a gimmick, and actually replace staff, at least not on a mass scale. Research has shown that we still prefer human interaction, and robots have a long way to go before they are able to hold a proper conversation – as anyone who has listened to a bank’s automated answering machine will attest.
The real value of AI will emerge behind the scenes, in the back-of-house area. For instance, AI could be used to forecast staff skills sets, and match them directly to the relevant job in real-time. For example, it would know that a group of Japanese tourists are due to check in in three days, it would identify the best, most qualified group of employees to deal with these guests and automatically assign them to work on those days the guests will be in house. It could also initiate a short term Japan-specific training program, where staff are given refreshers on Japanese language, habits and potential pitfalls etc. The data gained through mobile and online learning would feed directly into the system, allowing it to identify and assign the most suitable employees for the most suitable tasks.
AI can also be used to forecast stock and supplies. Knowing that during the next three weeks the hotel occupancy will be particularly high, thanks to a group of US delegates visiting for a major conference, the system will ensure extra food is brought in, including extra burger patties and fries. It would know when the major city events will take place throughout the year, and what number and demographic of delegate will attend, as well as stay at the hotel. Based on this data it will be able to make the necessary orders.
This is an extract from the Qooco White Paper (June 2016). To view the full White Paper, please visit Qooco White Paper