Voice Search Next Big Thing in Hotel Distribution and Marketing

As one of the most exciting trends in hotel marketing and distribution strategy, voice search has galvanized the hospitality industry, both in preparation for evolving consumer behaviors and technology advancements. Termed “the next billion” by the Wall Street Journal, voice search through digital assistants is here and the possibilities for the technology are endless.

With the forthcoming generation of Internet users worldwide preferring communication with images and, most importantly, voice activation, there is a great opportunity for hotels in this landscape. Speaking to a digital voice assistant that can understand and execute a request comes naturally to humans. Seventy-three percent of users would like to be able to complete tasks by speaking to a virtual assistant, and the world’s tech giants are striving to meet that want.

Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana dominate the market in digital voice assistants; Amazon alone has sold over 20 million Alexa units so far. By 2021, more than four billion mobile assistants will be used globally, and many of them will have the functionality to execute travel bookings (Juniper Research).

Microsoft claims that travelers in Great Britain are increasingly researching accommodations through their Cortana digital assistant on mobile devices with hotel searches seeing an increase of 343% year-over-year and flight searches increasing by 277%.

So, what is the reason for the surge in digital voice assistants? The advancements in mobile devices has been the main reason for the incline. Remember Apple’s Newton, the much-heralded personal digital assistant (PDA)? This product failed miserably in the early 1990s due to the absence of the mobile channel at the time.

In the future, the adoption rate of voice search and digital voice assistants, and especially their mobile versions, will increase even faster with technology becoming even more sophisticated, and voice assistants will become integrated into consumers’ everyday lives.

There are many iterations of the voice-assisted technology in travel and hospitality, including:

  • Voice Search Assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and other speech-recognition agents with artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Mobile App-based Digital Voice Assistants: these are specialized assistants that can help navigate a particular application, product or service, already used for customer support by many online retail companies.
  • Auto Digital Voice Assistants: installed in many new models of upscale automobiles, Google Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Nuance being good examples in this category.
  • Home Digital Voice Assistants: Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home fall into that category, already used in millions of households.
  • Smart TV-based Voice Assistants: these allow consumers to search for movies and video content through their TV. Amazon FireTV and Direct TV’s voice-activated remote are good examples in this category.
  • Wearable Voice Assistants: Apple Watch’s Siri and other examples are already being used by many consumers.

How do digital voice assistants make money in the hospitality industry?

The main players are jumping into voice search with a single objective in mind – to make money. In hospitality, it’s expected that all three business models for digital voice assistants will be used:

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