Hotels

Opinion: Automation is the secret to personalisation in hotels

Ahmed Youssef

Ahmed Youssef

We couldn’t find a robot who was willing to write this article for us, so we enlisted the help of Amadeus’ Ahmed Youssef instead. Here’s what he had to say…

Technology is a divisive topic. On one hand, it’s seen as a silver bullet solving any number of challenges. On the other, it’s the necessary evil taking people’s jobs and creating a cold, impersonal guest experience.

It’s almost impossible to predict the ramifications of replacing humans with technology until it actually happens. However, in an industry where personal touches matter a great deal, we are treading a fine line between innovation and over-kill. We can’t call ourselves the hospitality industry without people.

Technology hasn’t (and never will) change the needs of our guests – a clean room, discreet service, a quick and seamless check-in/check-out. However, guest expectations have increased over time and will continue to do so as personalisation becomes the next new norm.

To stand out, a hotel needs to deliver personalised services with speed and accuracy.

Technology is the enabler in this new ‘race of service’, but it’s important to remember that guests do not specifically seek automated or self-service over human service. In fact, our research shows that almost two in every three guests (63 per cent) prefer interacting with hotel staff than self-service technology.

However, guests do desire experiences that are memorable, shareable and surprising. Technology is the key to empowering hotel staff so they can have more meaningful and personal interactions with guests. For example, Carnival Cruises’ give their guests a wearable called an Ocean Medallion to wear during their trip. The medallion identifies guests to the onboard crew and provides them with the passenger’s information so they can understand their preferences without needing to ask.

The future of the industry will be driven by a complex set of interactions between guests, technology and staff. The important decision is choosing where and how to integrate technology into the business. Where do you automate, where do you keep services human, and how can you blend the two together to deliver an enhanced experience?

In evaluating these options, hotels should first ask whether the technology adds value to the customer’s experience, or if it empowers staff to deliver service levels above and beyond previous norms? If the answer is no, then you are likely installing technology for innovation’s sake, which may end up being expensive and counter-productive.

However, when implemented correctly, technology can empower staff to make insight-driven decisions that benefit the business and enrich guest experiences.

To realise this, the industry first needs to focus on upgrading its legacy technology to move away from fragmented systems, so that different technologies can connect seamlessly. Bringing data from multiple systems under one umbrella is key. From there, artificial intelligence (AI) can analyse the myriad of data collected and can provide staff with insights to help them work more productively.

For example, daily decision-making, such as room assignments and turnover schedule scan be automated by a system that draws on data such as guest preferences and personalised check-in and check-out times. Possibilities for human error are reduced and occupancy is maximised. Staff are highly responsive and can access real-time insight at any time to solve tasks, whether they are checking room occupancy, event operations or stock.

In-depth guest profiles are created from aggregating multiple data streams. Staff are highly trained in using these profiles to identify “micro-moments” in which to engage guests, both before and during their stay, delivering a positive, memorable experience.

Many of these examples show that technology delivers most benefit when it is used by attentive, well-trained staff. That is why one of the biggest challenges facing our industry is the crusade for talent. For the industry to grow, we need to attract and grow the best talent, especially younger generations.

Leanne Harwood, the Managing Director of Australasia and Japan at IHG says to do this, we need to change the image of the industry.

“To start, we need to stop using the term ‘service industry’ and refer to ourselves as hospitality,” she said.

“To avoid alienating the next generation with the idea of servitude. Let’s show millennials, who focus increasingly on experiences over things, how they can bring life’s best experiences alive through true hospitality.”

Technology plays a big role in attracting millennial talent, who are digital natives. When they enter a workplace, they expect to be able to have the same digital tools they have grown up with to do their job. Therefore, it is important to provide hotel technology that looks and feels like the technology they use in their daily lives.

Tech augmented hospitality – where humans and technology collaborate together – will be the service model of the future. The right technology, deployed in the right context, can deliver real competitive advantage. However, knowing when not to automate a solution is just as important.

For more information on the tech-augmented hospitality service model, please read our whitepaper Drivers of Change in Hospitality.


Ahmed Youssef (Joe) is the EVP of corporate development and marketing for hospitality at Amadeus.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Road & Rail

Australia has the second most expensive public transport in the world

Readers familiar with the quality of Sydney’s commuter trains may need to take a moment before reading this. That is, if you’re not currently stuck on a delayed service.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Royal Caribbean announces world’s first carbon-neutral cruise destination

A South Pacific nation will be the home of Royal Caribbean’s newest private island destination, which is set to be pretty eco-friendly too.

Share

CommentComments

Midweek Interview

Midweek Interview with Collette’s Roger Clulow

This week we enjoyed a beautiful sunset with Collette’s senior global contracting manager. Well, he enjoyed the sunset, we emailed him and took a nap instead.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Virgin Australia to introduce ‘fly now, pay later’ option

Look, I’m sure all travellers would prefer a ‘fly now, pay never’ option, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

“A decision needs to be taken”: Visit Britain regional director talks Brexit and sustainability

Australians are not going to let Brexit get in the way when it comes to travelling Britain, according to regional director of Visit Britain, Tricia Warwick. Click here to find out why.

Share

CommentComments

Technology

Booking Holdings pulls support for Facebook’s controversial cryptocurrency project

The parent company of Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda has pulled out of a controversial cryptocurrency project spearheaded by Facebook.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Typhoon Hagibis update: More than 50 killed and a third of Hokuriku bullet trains submerged

by Christian Fleetwood

Emergency crews are racing against time to rescue dozens of people unaccounted for, after Japan was ravaged by its most powerful typhoon in decades.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

New travel brand to fill void left by Bentours

In big news for the local travel industry, a specialist tour operator has unveiled a new brand in response to the recent Bentours collapse.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Aviation Wrap: Airlines go pink for cancer awareness month, Boeing invests $30m in Virgin Galactic + MORE!

Looking for a legend to fly with over October? Check-in with this week’s Aviation Wrap to see who’s doing what for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

REVEALED: All the Aussie winners from the World Travel Awards 2019

Is your office trophy cabinet looking a little less bare since the weekend? This may have something to do with it.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Cruise passengers riot, demand refund over missed ports and blocked toilets

by Ali Coulton

Passengers were so outraged by their experience that they took to the ship’s atrium to wave signs and shout things. Some even dedicated entire Twitter accounts to the cause.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Destination NSW boss steps down after eight years

The woman who helped make NSW Australia’s number one destination once more and put Sydney’s Vivid Festival on the map has decided to pass on the baton.

Share

CommentComments