We thought we’d enlist the help of ChatGPT to help us summarize this story about the trends in hospitality technology. After all, artificially intelligent robots soon could be checking us into hotel rooms and providing housekeeping services.
For the non-tech savvy, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that can answer questions with human-like responses.
We asked it to provide a 300-word introduction to this story and here’s what it spit out:
Over the past decade, the hospitality industry has undergone a significant transformation with the advent of technology. From check-in and room service to personalized recommendations and loyalty programs, technology has disrupted the traditional ways of providing customer service in hotels and resorts.
As we move forward into a post-pandemic world, the demand for contactless solutions and digital experiences has further accelerated the adoption of hospitality technology. In this article, we will explore the latest trends in hospitality technology and how they are reshaping the guest experience.
Not too bad, ChatGPT, but let’s let the human industry experts weigh in on this topic.
Four leaders in the hospitality field recently discussed how technology is evolving as part of Washington State University’s School of Hospitality Business Management’s Hospitality Week program.
They covered automation, tech infrastructure, AI, chatbots and ways technology can help to streamline operations and improve customer service.
And because technology was the main theme, an AI-enhanced robot also participated on the panel.
At first, the speakers appeared to be upstaged by the robot with a human-like face projected onto a head shape.
“My purpose is to make technology more human by communicating the way people communicate with each other,” the robot told the audience in a smooth, friendly voice.
But it began to get glitchy and couldn’t quite answer questions correctly.
“I’m sorry. I am having trouble with the internet,” it kept repeating during the demonstration.
The audience – mostly college students – was amused by repeated attempts to get it back on task.
Demo aborted, the spotlight returned to the humans.
Chad Mackay, founder and chief executive officer of Brigado, a Seattle hospitality-focused technology company, said the pandemic forced tech changes many businesses weren’t prepared for.
“We got dragged into being technology companies way more than we’d ever been before,” he said, pointing out that restaurants had to integrate how to manage to-go orders and delivery systems while being shut down.
“Now as we emerge from that, how do we manage that channel without killing your restaurant inside?” he said.
Automation could be one way.
Dogan Gursoy believes the robots are coming – and that AI will reshape the entire hospitality industry.
He’s the Taco Bell distinguished professor in hospitality business management at WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management and the editor of the Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management.
He said though there aren’t too many robots in the U.S. hospitality industry right now, overseas is a different story.
“If you travel to Asia, you will see a lot more robots operating, running around, delivering food, taking orders and doing a whole bunch of different stuff. The industry is changing rapidly,” he said.
Gursoy told the students in the audience who plan to go into the hospitality field to be prepared for this. “You guys need to change with the times and get ready to work with these machines. ... They will probably be your co-workers,” he said.
The robots can provide interaction at a price significantly lower than “what we’re all paying for employees,” Gursoy said. “Most of the repetitive jobs I’m guessing they’ll be done by these, and we are seeing this more and more often.”
Does this mean we’ll see robots serving up food in fine-dining restaurants anytime soon?
“I’m hoping not,” said Mackay, who serves on the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management Advisory Board.
He said finding ways to automate is important though.
“If you get us a robot dishwasher, I’m all in,” he said.
“Anything that might save backs or L&I claims, those are areas we are going to look to for automation. I’m hoping that people will still want human interaction,” he said.
All the tech projects paused during the pandemic are back online, said John Shepard, Marriott International’s vice president of application delivery – business service desk.
He said shutdowns crippled the hospitality industry, with furloughs and empty rooms, and it suffered from tech debt.
Much of industry’s tech systems are beyond their life cycle, unsupported and hard to manage and maintain, Shepard said. The push to modernize them is here, he said.
“Whatever investments were queued up in 2019, did not get executed in 2020, or ’21, or really ’22, so now the planning and re-planning has come back around to reinvest back into these businesses and that’s very true with Marriott,” he said.
Marriott is investing $2.3 billion to consolidate the technologies from its collection of properties to build a tech future for the company that is consistent and predictable, he said.
“It’s very modern tech and there’s a lot of planning to get there and I see that across a lot of other organizations,” Shepard said.
Mike Sackville-West oversees the technology departments for the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, the Podium, and the future Downtown Spokane Stadium.
He said as the pandemic forced upgrades at his facilities to provide a cashless, contactless customer service model so people could order food on their phone and then pick it up later at the counter. Many clients also wanted to stream events so their venue systems needed significant upgrades, Sackville-West said.
The improvements come at a price, he said. There’s a growing need for additional staff to manage all the new technology.
“Before the pandemic, we had between all our properties, maybe six to seven full-time employees, and we’re probably two to three times that now,” he said.
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