With the widespread adoption of in-house apps, instant messaging and even robots, hotels are on the cusp of a chatbot revolution.
Chatbots are already working hard in the hospitality industry, from taking fast food orders to helping travelers plan their trips. While conversational AI is very much in its infancy in the hotel sector, it certainly has plenty of potential, says Nigel Symonds, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9. So how could chatbots change the hotel industry?
1. A new reservation channel
Earlier in August, Icelandair launched a booking bot, leveraging Facebook’s new chatbot development toolkit. Modelled on a text conversation with a real travel agent, the bot not only offers and takes reservations for flights, it also suggests a layover in Reykjavik.
Elsewhere in the travel industry, Expedia, again taking advantage of Facebook’s technology, launched a basic bot to help travelers book hotels.
According to Symonds, in order to stave off fierce competition from online travel agencies (OTAs) and encourage direct booking, hotels should be looking to follow suit. “From our perspective, hotels definitely want to start integrating this technology,” he says.
Indeed, Hyatt Hotels, who began using Facebook Messenger in late 2015 told Skift that “creating and deploying a Facebook Messenger bot is something that we will explore in the future.”
2. Enriching the pre-arrival experience
“Booking additional services is where the power is,” says Symonds. At the moment, hotels usually send out an automated email several days in advance of a guest’s arrival, suggesting amenities like spa treatments, airport transfers, and dinner reservations.
“It would be great to have chatbots doing this,” he adds. “The benefit of a bot is that it can interact with the guest, asking questions such as whether it’s a special occasion, for instance, and responding with relevant offerings.”