“How Chatbots & AI Are Transforming The Hospitality Industry”
By Miloš Žikić
Hospitality industry has experienced tectonic shifts over the last few years. But drivers of change didn’t come from the inside. The advances in technology have reshaped and are still reshaping traveler experiences and expectations. This was the main trigger.
Communication as well as discovery of destinations, hotels, activities, and anything related to travel and lodging became so effortless that service providers had to adapt rapidly. This new reality demanded from them to be in front of customers, wherever they are and provide relevant, personalized experiences.
This is in no way an easy task, but it’s absolutely necessary. People rely on getting the information they need, when they need it, in a few steps. This is how they make decisions around their travel experiences.
Now, let’s look at how technology, specifically AI and chatbots, can help service providers in the hospitality industry to deliver better customer experiences.
Customer Journey: From Research to Booking and Beyond
How does your typical journey to booking an accommodation look like today? When you decide on a destination, you search for the best hotel deals on Google. Next, you may jump to social media to check comments and recommendations for a few hotels before you commit. And finally, you’ll book your stay through sites like Booking.com or AirBnB. But there’s an even easier scenario.
What if you could book through a chatbot that’s available on the booking website or on the messaging apps you already use? And what if all you needed to do is tap a few buttons to get personalized, contextual recommendations and book whenever you’re ready?
AI-powered chatbots are one of the coolest things that happened in the hospitality industry lately, and they’re used for many different purposes e.g. booking bot, concierge bot, etc. Their biggest value? They enable guests to easily converse with the service provider and to instantly get recommendations based on their preferences and past behavior.
Messaging apps are how we connect with people in our lives, how we reach out to businesses for support, and increasingly how we get information and make purchases.
The latter is now possible because messaging platforms are enabling rich experiences that go beyond text. The conversations within those platforms are augmented with app-like features e.g. quick replies, buttons, menus, and more, which makes purchases extremely convenient and easy.
Now, let’s look at another relevant use case. When you arrive at your destination, you can use mobile check-in and avoid any wait time. In hotels that provide smart service, this could be an action that triggers a welcome message from a concierge chatbot that you can use, among other things, to make room service orders.
What to expect in future?
All of this is a reality, and more and more people expect this level of seamlessness and automation when it comes to their travel and lodging experience.
Smart technology will continue to make it possible for hotels to predict and personalize even more of the services they provide to their guests based on previous visits data. Chatbots will soon be able to integrate every aspect of the traveler/guest experience to do everything from sending personalized deals notifications to making reservations at the nearby restaurants and venues.
So, while at your hotel room thinking about where to go out for dinner in the evening, you can just ask a concierge bot and get instant recommendations without having to search online or call the reception.
In the near future, we can expect to see more hotels, travel agencies, airlines, etc. using chatbots to improve guest experience, reduce operational costs, and tap into new sources of revenue. Technological revolution always follows the same pattern – who doesn’t adapt and adopt new tech, usually remains left behind in the constant struggle for new customers and markets.
With generations of digital native customers who are traveling more and more, the hospitality industry will be forced to meet them where they are – in messaging platforms, or risk losing this important segment to more tech conscious businesses.