How hotel operators can leverage AI across hotel departments

Perhaps with one exception, no set of two letters has disrupted traditional SOPs like AI. An initialism for artificial intelligence, AI has become top of mind for many industries, including hospitality, which is eager to understand what this advanced computer-software program and its features portend for a people-oriented business.

AI was decidedly in the mix at The Hospitality Show when the inaugural event  presented a session on “How Hotel Operators Can Leverage AI Across Hotel Departments.” Led by moderator Jordan Hollander, CEO of Hotel Tech Report, the panel was composed of Mike Chuma, VP/global marketing for IDeaS; Adam Glickman, VP/brand strategy, Actabl; Luis Segredo, co-founder/CEO, Data Travel/Hapi; and Richard Valtr, founder, Mews.

Setting the outlook for hospitality, Hollander contended AI “is going to have a tectonic shift on the industry, so it's a really important topic to get our hands around.”

While it may seem AI has suddenly exploded over everything, Segredo noted it didn’t emerge yesterday.

 “From the CRM side—we work a lot with Salesforce—they’ve been doing a lot from an AI perspective for quite a while. If you look at it from the marketing side, from the segmentation side, and then also from creating dynamic content, you could actually create dynamic content and messaging, even on the websites, based on machine learning that’s sitting in the back end on data…they’ve had Einstein [generative AI for CRM] that they've been working on for quite some time.”

 Glickman observed just as hoteliers and solutions providers are reaching out via AI to segment different kinds of customers and what message is going to go to them, that same approach could be applied when it comes to engaging a property’s teams.

 “We heard so much over the last day-and-a-half [at The Hospitality Show] about how critical team engagement is, especially as we think about the labor shortage. How is [AI] going to help HR teams, people teams, stay much more connected to all the different roles within a hotel, communicating with people in their language of first choice? I think that's a cool opportunity,” he said.

Valtr said one of the most exciting things about 2023 and why “it feels like this is the year AI really takes over,” is due to the success of language model ChatGPT, which, according to developer OpenAI, is capable of generating human-like text based on context and past conversations.

 “And I think it's the user engagement, basically, that that company has actually had…the main change that everyone has to have in their mind, their framework…whether it's reservations, whether it's revenue management, whether it's actually more on the owner side, is: ‘How do I actually structure everything to an AI-first perspective?’…I think we're now at a level where we can trust the technology to do what [it was] actually kind of signed up to do,” he said.

Chuma indicated incorporation of AI into hospitality operations largely will be driven by hoteliers’ behavior in general, as historically, the industry has been slow to adapt technological advances.

“It's the willingness to accept and the willingness to understand that you don't need to have the function book and binder to be able to know how to set up the F&B,” he said, adding: “Two months ago I was at Cornell [University] on a panel and we were talking about the likelihood of hoteliers adopting AI in their operations. And two months ago, they were like: ‘No, we're not going to do it.’ And the reason was because they were scared about how they would deploy what they thought was a public model into a private domain. That problem has been solved as it's not a little known fact that Microsoft owns 51 percent of OpenAI and you can now have ChatGBT and OpenAI deployed inside of [cloud platform] Azure, which is a game changer.”

Glickman noted that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, when the industry saw the departure of a number of veteran employees, AI can help fill the gap in operations knowledge that new-to-hospitality associates/managers may have.

“They're not team members who have been in our industry for five, 10, 15 years. So, they don't have that inherent knowledge of what to do and when to do it. I think AI fills a role there, where it is taking insight of what actions to take, and then handing it over to junior AGM/director-level team members in hotels, giving them advice on what to do and when to do it. We see that [as] a major step change in hotel operations that lines up with this idea of both getting more done with less and helping educate newer managers so that they can grow in their careers,” he said.