Results suggest hotels are lagging other industries and have opportunities to improve in their use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in disciplines from revenue management to guest personalization.
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GLOBAL REPORT—An unscientific poll of Hotel News Now’s readership of hotel industry insiders suggests that hoteliers are not making enough, or the best, use of artificial intelligence, including machine learning.
On a letter-grading scale, 49% of respondents to an online poll conducted in October 2019 gave the hotel industry a “C” on its use of AI and ML, and more than 38% scored the industry below average, with 11% giving it an “F.”
Compared to other industries, the hotel industry ranks “right in the middle,” according to 32.7% of respondents, while 49.1% put it in the “bottom 50%.”
“The hotel industry is very segmented and is far behind other industries in terms of AI and machine learning,” one respondent wrote. “With more hospitality technology companies consolidating, hopefully there are more efforts toward integrating the systems and information sharing, to reach for better customization and projection.”
Another respondent put the hotel industry “about seven years behind” in its integration of AI.
More than half (60%) said the hotel industry best uses AI and ML in the discipline of revenue management. Use of AI and ML in guest personalization in hotel operations was also considered a strength for the hotel industry by 21.8% of respondents, though 48.2% said this is the area where the industry can make the most improvement.
One respondent suggested the industry could achieve greater efficiency by focusing on AI, writing: “There are many mundane and robotic tasks in our industry that could be reduced to AI functionality thereby improving our associates’ job satisfactions as well as our owners’ bottom lines.”
Another saw it as a “tremendous opportunity … to tap into the companies out there that are leading the way.”
Despite the industry’s shortcomings and the potential of the technology, 69% of respondents said their companies are not planning to invest in AL or ML in 2020.
Not all saw this as a negative.
“While it is widely known the hotel industry is typically behind others in terms of growth, I’m not sure the hotel industry should be at the forefront (of AI/ML). The industry is all about the human interaction and reducing that feels counterintuitive,” one respondent wrote.
“AI can help prevent the human errors that can occur in any business operation; however, I feel as though it removes the element of personal connection which the hospitality industry is established on,” another agreed.
But others said AI should be viewed not only in a positive light, but as a necessity.
“Consolidating and analyzing data is critical to understanding if our hotels are successful and what will make them more successful in the future and yet most of us are woefully ill-equipped to do so. Building technological infrastructure for this is as necessary as a cell phone in today’s world,” one wrote.
“I think we need to position AI as a positive and necessary approach in the hotel and lodging industry. It does get significant headwinds from labor, but operators, brands and ownership will need to leverage technology over the next 10 to 20 years to operate hotels,” wrote another.
Some questioned the efforts that companies claim to be making toward integrating AI, suggesting they’re not all valid or useful.
“The industry is a total laggard. Many firms/vendors pretending to offer AI-backed solution are fakes. No transparency. AI is a hip word but very few people understand the possibilities and applications,” one wrote.
Another asked: “What percent of ‘AI’ in hospitality is just tech companies using the words for marketing, not the actual product?”