While our teams in Ireland were taking a well-earned day off for the St Patrick’s Day bank holiday I joined the panel for an engaging and interesting debate today, on the topic of Artificial Intelligence vs Humanity.
It was hosted by our friends at International Hospitality Media and The Ritz, London. The event brought together colleagues from across the accommodation sector, including Avvio partners Cheval Residences, all of whom had the opportunity to debate the future of AI technology.
Following a light breakfast, Andrew Harrington from AHV Associates gave a presentation on ‘Beyond the banks: how can hospitality companies finance their growth?’, before we moved onto the group debate, ‘Artificial Intelligence v Humanity’, with the motion: ‘The rise of the machines: artificial intelligence is good for hospitality owners’.
I was proposing this alongside Ray Goetz, GM at the Arch Hotel, and the motion was opposed by Steve Lowy, Chairman of Hotel Marketing Association. There was some interesting debate tabled for and against AI.
In-Person Customer Service: AI already delivers in-person customer service. We are already seeing the development of robots with artificial intelligence and the potential for this technology to grow is enormous. Already, it is able to deal with basic customer-facing situations.
Chatbots and Messaging: AI can be deployed for front-facing customer service and has been shown to be extremely effective when it comes to direct messaging and online chat services, responding to simple questions or requests cost effectively. For example, AI chatbots have been utilised on social media platforms, allowing customers to ask questions and get almost instantaneous responses around the clock.
Data Analysis: AI can be used to quickly sort through large amounts of hotel data and draw important conclusions about customers, or potential customers.
Enhanced guest profiles and customization across the guest experience: Guest data must go far beyond email, age, and address. Central data intelligence warehouses can weave disparate databases and create a “Single Version of Truth,” which includes guest history, value, preferences, behaviour, satisfaction, and intent. Hotel systems for property management (PMS), point of sale (POS), central reservations (CRS), call centre, food & beverage, and spa all contain the data to improve guest experiences and build loyalty with constant guest preference learning.
Investment: Companies are committing huge sums of money in support of this technology, they are doing it for a reason – to make our lives and hotel guests stays easier.
Data Breaches: AI has the potential for numerous internal and external privacy and data breaches, misinformation that could affect a hotel’s reputation for good
Cyber Attacks: Hotels are at risk of cyber attacks: criminals and adversaries are continually attacking our computers with viruses and other forms of malware. AI algorithms are no different from other software in terms of their vulnerability to cyber attack.
Safety issues: The introduction of AI robotics in the hotel raises safety issues for hotel owners. Traditionally, an employer is responsible for recognising known workplace risks, devising a safety strategy to mitigate these risks – it’s dangerous to implement.
Programming Errors: Hotels risk programming errors in AI software. We are all familiar with errors in ordinary software. For example, apps on our smartphones sometimes crash. Major software projects can be riddled with bugs. Moving beyond nuisances and delays, some software errors have been linked to extremely costly outcomes.
Out of control Super-Intelligences: Humans continue to fail to correctly instruct the AI algorithm in how it should behave. Suppose a guest tells an AI assistant to “get me to my room as quickly as possible”, would the autonomous robot system put the pedal to the metal and drive at 30mph while running over guests? An extreme example maybe, but fears centre on the prospect of out-of-control superintelligences that threaten the survival of humanity.
Hotel Heightens Human Touch: Service-driven hotels don’t need AI as they will pride themselves more on exemplary service and the human touch – there will always be a market for that, translating into premium pricing and heightened profitability.
It was certainly an interesting and lively debate, and has reaffirmed that perceptions of AI have changed even in the past 12 months since we really starting talking about AI technology solutions for hotels.
I look forward to continuing the conversation with more accommodation providers over the coming months, and tonight at the Serviced Apartment Awards which take place in London. Many of Avvio’s serviced apartment clients are up for awards, including SACO and Cheval Residences, and we’re up for the ‘Best Use of Technology’ award, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a few Avvio wins tonight – I’ll be sure to enjoy a Guinness or two in honour of our Irish colleagues!