Virtual Voice Assistants in Hotels: Yes or No?

Will artificial intelligence find a place in hotels as an in-room virtual concierge?

A recent article, “Talking Technology: is this what hotel guests really want?” brings to light a potential future hospitality technology trend that is still in its infancy. Voice assistant technology, such as Apple’s Siri and Google Now, has emerged as a next-step development for mobile technology.

The article states:

“In the not too distant future, you will be able to lie on your bed in a hotel room and control room features and services entirely with voice commands. The technology behind this is already available. Many homes already have an Amazon Echo, an Internet-connected voice interface that connects you with Amazon’s Alexa voice service, providing on-demand music, TV, audio books, travel information and many other services through simple voice commands.”

Automation and artificial intelligence in hotels have received a fair amount of attention, especially with the emergence of robot hotels. Having a virtual hotel room assistant takes this current hotel technology trend to the next level, one that could be even more immediately impactful than robots in hotels.

Many hotels have in-room iPads or tablets installed that are capable of providing hotel room automation features, or room controls. From the comfort of their bed, guests can use a hotel room tablet to control the lights, temperature, drapes and more.

Voice technology takes this further. Devices with virtual voice assistants, such as the paired Amazon Echo and Alexa voice command platform, would allow guests to bypass picking up the touchscreen tablets for automated hotel room controls. They could simply say what they wanted aloud.

Available commands could also be expanded. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa can already be asked to give information about news and weather, play music, provide traffic reports. Imagine the possibilities of this talking technology in a hotel room of the future.

It would be like having a virtual concierge in the hotel room at all times available to serve the guest.

The virtual hotel concierge (think Siri or Alexa) would likely be able to improve the guest experience and become central to smart hotel rooms of the future, similar to how the Amazon Echo is being called by some the “Center of the Smart Home.” It could be a key piece of the hotel Internet of Things, providing easy control over numerous devices.

Hotels could personify the virtual hotel concierge for branding purposes instead of using the familiar names of Siri or Alexa. Different hotel brands could have different names for their in-room virtual concierge to create a more personalized experience for their guests.

Commands will be spoken directly to this virtual concierge, placing orders, making requests, or asking for information. There would be no delay in response, similar to the convenience of using in-room touchscreen tablets in hotel rooms now but with voice activations.

Consumer reviews of AI assistants have been very positive so far, but the day when we’ll see this type of talking technology fully embedded into hotel rooms is likely still far off.

Hotel in-room tablets and touchscreen control panels are the most advanced options widely embraced by hospitality as a means of providing guests with the conveniences of hotel room automation. The widespread popularity of touchscreen tablets like the iPad and the falling prices of the hardware have contributed to this hotel technology trend, as well as the improvements to the guest experience in-room tablets carry. They even contribute to the hotel AAA Diamond ratings.

Eccleston Square Hotel, known as one of the world’s most high-tech hotels, boasts a variety of cutting-edge hotel room technology, including in-room tablets with the INTELITY hospitality technology platform. But James Byrne, manager at luxury London hotel Eccleston Square Hotel, is quoted in the EyeforTravel article as being skeptical of how guests would respond to virtual voice assistants in hotels.

“I’m not sure this would work for all guests. Some might even find it frustrating,” Byrne said.

INTELITY CTO Chris Grey echoes the sentiment but believes this might appear on future hospitality technology trend lists. “It’s not hard to imagine a hotel guest speaking their requests aloud with phrases like, ‘Housekeeping, please bring me extra towels,’ or ‘Room Service, I’d like the Caesar salad at 7 o’clock please.’ The only significant unknown is whether guests will have concerns that microphones are present in their room.”