Dream Hotel Group began beta testing Amazon’s voice service Alexa, along with its partner Volara, at The Time Nyack, one of the company’s upscale hotels.
Beta testing with Amazon Alexa will continue through the end of the year when Cooper and his team will then decide whether to implement the technologies across all Dream Hotel Group properties, including those under the Dream Hotels, Time Hotels, The Chatwal and Unscripted Hotels flags.
In the meantime, Cooper is closely monitoring Google Home’s advancements in the voice technology segment, as well as those of Apple.
He points out that although all three technologies are on par in terms of capital and talent, there are noticeable differences in their voice technologies; Amazon was first to market with Amazon Echo, which is geared to ecommerce and the Amazon ecosystem, while Google Home has integrated its search engine capabilities into its platform.
“No one is sure where Apple will fall in. The main concern with voice automation is privacy, and Apple’s core model has always been based around protecting users’ privacy.”
Cooper also acknowledges that Alexa was designed primarily for residential use, so part of the beta testing phase is to evaluate how the technology is most applicable to hotel guests and how securely it can be deployed within the commercial environment of hospitality.
Other concerns include guests engaging with the technology only to listen to music or worse, unplugging it.
In Nyack, Alexa has proven practical as a virtual butler service as hotel guests use the device principally to make service requests; be it to ask for additional towels, a wakeup call or even order room service.
Delivering a heightened and more efficient guest experience is precisely why the company chose to test Alexa, which is also a boon for TripAdvisor reviews.
Cooper recently noticed guests are specifically and positively calling out the technology in their reviews of the hotel.
Looking to the future, Dream Hotel Group plans to integrate Alexa with other technologies like in-room automations that control guest room lighting, blinds and even HVAC functions.
Following the July opening of the company’s first Unscripted brand hotel in Durham, NC, the management company also launched operations app Alice at the property, as well as at its Manhattan hotel Dream Midtown.
The group first started using Alice through its GoConcierge platform at Dream Downtown in 2015. Alice announced its acquisition of GoConcierge in September.
As the platform grew in strength, Dream grew with it to use Alice for all departments in its hotels.
Christian Cooper, vice president, IT at Dream Hotel Group says:
“We need to stay in line with new and current technology in order to enhance the overall travel experience for our guests.”
Like Alexa, Alice is improving guest service delivery at Dream Midtown.
Nearly all hotel guests carry some form of mobile device, and now they can contact the hotel via SMS anytime, anywhere, consequently rendering guest room phones little more than a safety feature.
SMS connectivity gives the hotel a chance to respond to guests in real time. Cooper says:
“We care about our guests, and it’s always been our goal to respond to requests instantly, and address any questions/concerns before it makes its way to TripAdvisor.”
For Dream Hotel Group, the logical progression of voice automation would be to integrate these technologies into every touch point of the guest experience to enhance and customize that individual’s stay.
“Consumers today are living increasingly connected lives online and that doesn’t change when they travel.
“Our core guest wants and expects a consistent and seamless experience at every touch point – before, during and after their stay – so that’s our goal; to focus on developing new technologies and solutions that make travel more convenient for our guests.”
Nevertheless, Cooper doesn’t expect any technology will replace the one-to-one interactions with staff that attract guests to lifestyle hotels.
“Hospitality will always have that personal touch, and there will always be a need for it, but technology is a great way to enhance the experience without being too intrusive.”
He adds that just as service levels reflect the level of luxury offered by a hotel, the opportunities to use technology in hotels will vary by the service style of any given property or brand.