HM on location: How AI can help solve data, marketing dilemmas

MINNEAPOLIS—Artificial intelligence can create a billion incredible experiences for users, even in the hotel industry, but it isn’t the golden ticket to solve all marketing and revenue-management problems. But AI can solve a lot of problems and issues by using a blend of machine intelligence and human enterprise, Go Moment CEO Raj Singh told attendees during a session at the annual Hospitality Industry Technology Exhibition and Conference, which is being held this week in Minneapolis. Go Moment is the creator of the smart concierge Ivy. 

One of the best uses of AI in hotels is what’s not visible to guests, Singh said. For example, sending out 1,000 messages to guests instantly at 4 p.m. to find if they need help making dinner reservations for that evening. When a guest replies back, he or she can be directed to the concierge to find the perfect spot. 

“AI can be used to proactively help find a guest’s needs, resulting in a happier guest and higher [return on investment],” Singh said. 

Artificial intelligence is machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and computer vision, said Kimberly Nevala, strategic advisor at SAS. Essentially it helps hoteliers, and others, do what they do today but better and faster, she said. 

“AI is just a tool in our toolbox,” Nevala said. “It makes use of a scale of data that we couldn’t use in the past. It understands and uses it in discernible patterns.” 

Raman Rama, president/chief technology officer/chief information officer of Sarona Holdings, told attendees that AI helps rent out empty rooms. “AI can help eliminate the ‘gut feelings’ of revenue management,” he said. “At the same time, if my occupancy is going to be this much, it can help predict how many staff that hotel should have for the increased guests and how much food the property should have on hand as well.”  

But with all the advantages of AI, the human enterprise aspect of interpreting and preparing for the massive amounts of data won’t be going away. “We are farther away than we think from using AI in creating the obvious customer experience,” Nevala said. “It’s a fine line between presuming and what we actually want you to do to serve us.” 

A tip for hotels to decide if AI is the right tool to help them in their operations is to ask a revenue manager or marketing manager: “If you had an assistant, what would you have them do?” That is a way to take away the mundane yet important tasks and give them to AI to solve faster and better, Nevala said.