Exploring Data: 78% of Travel Professionals
Updated: Mar 3
It has always been a key strategy of the hospitality industry to embrace technologies that improve service offerings. This has become even more active in recent years with the speed of innovation. The food and beverage sector has machines that can mix cocktails or flip burgers. In hotels, service bots can help guests with booking restaurant reservations or delivering room service.
Still, when it comes to voice technology, the travel industry as a whole has a long way to catch up. According to a recent report done by Travel Technology Europe (TTE), 73 percent of travel professionals are not yet taking advantage of voice technology. With millions of hotel guest rooms around the world, the untapped potential to develop this multi-billion dollar space is endless.
As voice technology develops, hotel groups are slowly starting to embrace voice assistant devices and install them in guest rooms. Wynn has already installed Echo devices in over 300 rooms of their guest rooms and plans to outfit all of its 4,748 hotel rooms with Alexa.
This move is something Wynn founder Steve Wynn believes will make all the difference for his guests, “The thing that Amazon has done with Alexa is quite perfect. If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made our job of delivering a perfect experience to our guests easier and help us get to another level, it is Alexa. The ability to talk to your room is effortlessly convenient.”
Marriott is also keen on welcoming voice technology into their rooms. The group rolled out voice devices in select hotels in their St. Regis properties, Westin Hotels, and Aloft Hotels to name a few.
While massive hotel groups have always had the deep pockets to tinker with new technologies, voice has proven to be important enough that boutique hotels are also setting aside budgets for voice assistants. For example, The Assemblage Hotel, a boutique hotel nestled on John Street in Manhattan, offers Alexa devices with custom meditation skills in all its guest rooms. As more and more hotels continue to make voice assistant devices a common feature in guest rooms, the industry is likely to continue in this direction to keep meeting guest expectations and comfort.
Whether it’s a family vacation or business trip, traveling can be a hectic experience for most people. With over 100 million voice devices in guests’ homes, many travelers have now become accustomed to the easy access to information offered by voice devices and some are even starting to travel with their Alexa or Google Homes to avoid the inconvenience of having to search for things manually.
In an effort to reduce this issue, hotels hope voice assistant devices can offer a feeling of “home away from home” for travelers with small comforts like easy access to relaxing music. Daniel Rausch, Amazon’s Vice President, said in a press release “Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests.”
According to Amazon, customer feedback has also been positive with 90 percent of users describing it as “good” or “excellent” on surveys. Marriott’s Vice President of Customer Experience Innovation, Jennifer Hsieh, explained the goal of making the often stressful switch from home to hotel easier on travelers, “So many of our guests use voice technology in their homes, and we want to extend that convenience to their travel experience.”
Travelers can gain access to helpful information like airport wait times, guided workouts, or local weather updates. Guest experiences within the property can be maximized and they can easily find out information like the hotel gym or pool operating hours. The devices have the ability to also let guests seamlessly take control of their room lighting, temperature, or order room service - ideal for guests who may have trouble getting around or prefer to not touch surfaces in hotel rooms.
For hoteliers, voice technology has plenty of benefits as well. To begin with, it’s an opportunity to introduce the hotel brand into the room. Whether the hotel focuses on health, music, local events, or otherwise, voice devices can be used as an opportunity to connect with guests through the “brand lens.” In room meditation experiences, pre-workout stretches, local events, etc. are all opportunities to have a conversation with guests and add value. Guests will remember the hotel for it and appreciate the amenity.
Moreover, busy or understaffed hotels who rotate hundreds of guests a day will be able to ease friction points within their operations. For example, devices can help guests expedite the check in process when there are long lines at the front desk.
Guest feedback also helps hotels figure out what guests really want and how to meet those needs. Alexa, when a guest chooses to use her, will help provide data similar to minibar or cable data which allows hotels to deliver services people really care about.
To make things easier on everyone, Amazon created Alexa for Hospitality, a program that gives hotels a set of tools to build travel related experiences. The seamless program offers integrations with key departments such as housekeeping and concierge to make sure the hotel can blend this program in smoothly. In hotel rooms, the platform lets guests voice control entertainment features like their TV.
A sub-industry is also emerging, and companies like Volara have developed to service hotels with proprietary software that leverage the best of Alexa, mixed with some easy to use tools, and added security features. Hotels are now finding options between building their own bespoke platforms, or partnering with these voice hospitality startups for more quickly scaled solutions.
Of course, with any major shift towards developing technology, questions about privacy often surface. The voice devices being used in hotels are muted when guests arrive and people are not obligated to use the machines. This should remove a degree of concern for people who either prefer not to use Alexa or aren't sure how to.
If a guest wants to go a step further, they can always unplug the devices entirely to feel extra secure. In many cases, guests can also ask for a room without an Alexa device, although research shows that so far at least 70 percent of people would choose an Alexa-enabled room.
As with any emerging technology, job displacement is often an early concern. It’s natural to fear the negative side of something new, but we find that people tend to overestimate the impact of tech displacing jobs and underestimate how long it takes to truly scale a new technology enough that it’s ubiquitous.
In this case, hoteliers are using the technology to work alongside the staff. For example, devices can give early notice of check-out which would help housekeeping prepare rooms for guests earlier. No voice device will be changing bed sheets anytime soon.
This technology is also still developing and in its early stages overall. Voice assistants will not be introduced overnight to the millions of hotels around the world so many people have advance notice of the changes this technology may affect.
As hoteliers continue to embrace voice devices and roll them out in their guest rooms, Amazon is likely to offer volume discounts on the devices and platform for hotels. Consequently, we’ll find more and more travel professionals taking advantage of voice technology to stay ahead of the competition.