Beyond the front desk: Why your hotel needs a chatbot

Learn how artificial intelligence is disrupting the hospitality industry and how chatbots can help hotels exceed customer expectations while lowering costs.

Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Martina Ivanović

Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Digital disruption has led to higher customer expectations, communication barriers, and increased online competition for hotels, large and small. And it’s become increasingly harder to overcome these challenges without the right tools and technology. In fact, in 2022, the World Travel and Tourism Council officially recommended that hospitality businesses “adopt innovative technological and digital solutions to improve daily operations.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping many industries, including hospitality. The AI in hospitality market alone is estimated to value over $8,000 million (about $25 per person in the US) by 2033

But how can AI help hotels meet changing consumer expectations and increase staff satisfaction? 

Chatbots powered by AI technology can help. 

Imagine a traveler finding themselves stuck in an unknown city overnight. They stumble across your hotel online, but the number they call to reserve a room is busy and they need to sort out their accommodation fast. Then they realize they can message you on WhatsApp. Within minutes, your chatbot assesses room availability, applies a loyalty discount, and the customer writes positive reviews before they even check in. 

Using AI-powered chatbots in hotels has many more benefits than meets the eye. Let’s dive into what a hotel chatbot really is, the key advantages, how some hotels are already using them, and how you can set one up, too. 

What is a hotel chatbot?

A hotel chatbot is an AI-powered assistant designed to interact with guests in a conversational manner, typically through platforms such as websites, mobile apps, or messaging apps. Hotel chatbots are programmed to understand natural language inputs from guests and respond with relevant information or assistance based on existing knowledge, aiming to enhance the guest experience and streamline communication with hotel staff.

Hotel chatbots leverage natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to accurately understand and respond to queries. They operate 24/7, providing round-the-clock assistance to guests. By offering instant and personalized support, hotel chatbots enhance the overall guest experience and optimize hotel operations.

Here are a few ways you can use a chatbot in your hotel: 

  • Booking assistance: Helping guests make room reservations, check availability, and provide information about rates and promotions. 
  • Answering common questions: Providing details about hotel amenities, policies, local attractions, dining options, and other relevant information. 
  • Room and concierge services: Facilitating requests for room service, housekeeping, transportation arrangements, restaurant reservations, and other guest services. 
  • Check-in and check-out procedures: Assisting guests with online check-in, providing digital room keys, and facilitating the check-out process. 
  • Feedback collection: Soliciting feedback from guests about their stay experience and handling complaints or issues in real-time. 

Hotels looking to deploy a chatbot can choose between a rule-based or AI-powered chatbot:

  • A rule-based chatbot responds to customers with menu options that trigger keywords. For example, “type 1 to see our room rates or type 2 to speak to the front desk.” Once they respond with the proper keyword, your chatbot knows which message to send next. 
  • An AI-powered chatbot, on the other hand, provides a conversational experience where customer intent is recognized and responded to accordingly. For example, a customer can say: “Hi, I want to reserve a room for 3 guests this Friday.” And your chatbot will respond with: “Sure, we have a king suite available for $150 per night. Would you like to reserve this room?”

Your new AI guest assistant

AI chatbots powered by conversational and generative AI, take it one step further, enabling them to create new content and converse through text, images, videos, and other forms of communication, in a human-like way. This eliminates the need to predefine responses, since generative AI creates them on its own based on data it’s fed, while conversational AI reshapes the content into responses that mimic natural human interactions. 

This takes personalized conversational customer experience within the hotel industry to a new level. 

Imagine there’s a big weekend event happening, and your contact center or front desk is flooded with guests trying to make last-minute reservations. It would be considerably hard to get in contact with every guest and give them proper service, such as reviewing their loyalty status or applying discounts they might qualify for.

Now imagine you set up an AI guest assistant. Customers can message you on their favorite chat app, and your chatbot can serve them within minutes. Your AI assistant knows the customer’s previous bookings, loyalty status, room preferences, dietary restrictions, and any other relevant information that would affect their experience. The best part? Your customer doesn’t need to repeat this information, because your chatbot knows it all based on a few basic details such as their name and address or birthday. 

Now what could have been a hit-or-miss situation has turned into a positive, personalized experience. 

10 ways a chatbot boosts your hotel experience

Chatbots can serve your hotel in a multitude of ways. From inviting new guests to helping longtime customers and easing processes for your hotel staff. Here are just a few of the key advantages: 

Enhanced guest experience 

When powered by AI, your chatbot can personalize each interaction and use conversation and profile data to share information that’s tailored to a guest’s preferences and interests. For example, if a guest is checking in with children, your chatbot might recommend a nearby amusement park. Or if there’s a big game happening during their visit, it can share game details and links to buy tickets.  

Now your chatbot is an extension of your hotel, impacting not only a guest’s accommodation but their overall trip and loyalty to your brand. 

Reduced operational costs 

Hotel chatbots take away tedious, mundane tasks from your staff. What used to cause long wait times at your front desk or call center can now be resolved within minutes. From making reservations and handling check-in or check-out processes to handling room service orders and setting up transportation – a chatbot powered by AI can automate repetitive tasks and lower operational costs. 

Increased direct bookings 

Aside from offloading from your front desk, a hotel chatbot can work as a sales assistant too – capturing leads, answering booking questions, and converting more website visitors. They are the first contact many guests, or those discovering your hotel for the first time, connect with. And as the first touchpoint, your chatbot can provide special offers, guide guests through the booking process, answer payment queries, and more – reducing your time to reservation.

Personalized marketing and upselling

Through machine learning algorithms, your AI hotel chatbot can analyze customer data such as demographics and preferences. This makes it easy to send targeted promotions and suggest relevant upgrades such as spa packages, restaurant reservations, or local tours and attractions to guests during their stay. 

Improved guest feedback and reviews

Listening to what guests have to say is one of the surefire ways you can enhance your hotel experience. And a hotel chatbot makes it easy for them to share the pros and cons of their visit. Whether requesting feedback after checkout, offering surveys during a guest’s stay, or promoting an incentive for customers who share their thoughts, you can train your chatbot to listen to what customers have to say and address concerns promptly – improving guest satisfaction. 

Multilingual support 

Hotels are one of the most diverse places in every city. Hosting guests from around the world can cause language barriers that affect the hotel experience. But thanks to natural language processing and AI technology, you can build a multi-language chatbot that automatically translates queries – breaking down language barriers and giving every guest the experience they deserve. 

Accessibility and inclusivity 

Chatbots have simplified the hotel experience for guests with disabilities too. Now, guests with hearing impairments can read your voice messages with speech-to-text features, and those who are visually impaired can hear your messages with text-to-speech.  

This can help them complete bookings, navigate hotel premises, communicate with your staff, make special requests regarding room setup and amenities – and in the worst-case scenario, ensure they receive tailored instructions during an emergency such as a fire alarm or evacuation. 

Data-driven insights 

Each interaction a guest has with your chatbot can be used to fuel data-driven decisions that improve your hotel experience. Here are a few examples: 

  • Identify guest satisfaction levels and areas of improvement through frequently asked questions, common complaints, and surveys 
  • Optimize your pricing strategy and tailor promotional offers based on booking patters such as peak booking times and popular room types 
  • Improve marketing campaigns and increase conversions by leveraging guest demographics 
  • Optimize workflow efficiency based on service performance metrics including response times and resolution rates 

Brand differentiation 

Although some hotels have already introduced a chatbot, there’s still room for you to stand out. Chatbots that integrate augmented reality (AR) give you an opportunity to introduce a virtual experience alongside the in-person experience. You can offer immersive experiences, such as interactive quizzes or virtual tours of your facilities and surrounding area. Or gamify your loyalty program by enabling your chatbot to award guests points for completing certain tasks during their stay – such as sending a picture of their breakfast before 10am. 

Future-proofing your hotel 

Soon, guests will expect a seamlessly integrated virtual and in-person experience. 

One way to meet these future expectations is to invest in a “smart” hotel room – where your chatbot is integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) devices to allow guests to control room temperature, lighting, and entertainment systems through voice commands or chat interfaces.

You can also set up a hands-free experience with voice recognition technology that enables guests to make requests, ask questions, and control room features through your chatbot using natural language commands. 

Choosing the right chatbot: Must-have features

The technology that powers your chatbot is what will differentiate your hotel from the competition at each stage of a guest’s journey. Certain features and functionalities are what turn basic interactions into a memorable conversational experience. 

Here are a few key features to consider when building your chatbot: 

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP): Your chatbot should be equipped with advanced NLP capabilities to understand and respond to natural language queries effectively. 
  • Integration with booking system: Seamless integration with your hotel’s booking system to allow users to check availability, make reservations, modify bookings, and inquire about rates. 
  • Integration with messaging platforms: Compatibility with popular messaging platforms such as Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS for easy accessibility and communication. 
  • Multilingual support: Ability to communicate with users in multiple languages to cater to a diverse range of guests. 
  • Seamless handoff to human agents: Capability to seamlessly transfer complex queries or requests to human agents when necessary. 
  • Security and privacy: Ensure robust security measures are in place to protect customer data and maintain privacy standards, especially when handling sensitive information like booking details or personal preferences. 
  • Analytics and reporting: Capability to gather data on guest interactions, preferences, and trends, providing valuable insights to improve the chatbot’s performance and enhance guest experience. 

But even with the right features, simply building and deploying a chatbot can only go so far. This is why it’s important to have an adaptable and scalable solution that connects these features, interactions, and data to deliver a conversational AI experience, including: 

  • A customer data platform that uses generative AI to recommend products, locations, and services based on guest profile data. 
  • A cloud contact center that enables seamless agent takeover, without losing conversation history or context. 
  • An authentication system to verify guest identity and prevent unauthorized access to personal data. 
  • A data center that provides you with a secure and reliable data storage solution that’s compliant with the latest regulations and standards. 

Combining the right technology, features, and solutions will help you build a chatbot that enhances customer service, streamlines operations, increases security, and ultimately drives guest satisfaction and loyalty. 

Chatbot in hotels: Top use cases with examples

Several hotels have already done this. Here are a few examples: 

Marriott International 

Marriott International built a chatbot named “MC” (Marriott’s Chatbot) on Messenger. MC assists guests with booking rooms, providing information about hotel amenities, and addressing common queries.  

The chatbot also offers personalized recommendations for local attractions, dining options, and activities based on guest preferences and previous interactions. 

Aside from guests, MC assists job seekers to easily apply for open roles based on discipline and Marriott location. 

Since this implementation, Marriott has experienced more than 60% of its users returning to its virtual assistant with an average session lasting 4 minutes

Source: Chatbot guide

Hilton Hotels and Resorts 

Hilton introduced its chatbot, Xiao Xi, in 2020. The chatbot assists Hilton members and guests with answers to questions including hotel information, local weather, and current promotions. It can also provide additional advice on travel and entertain guests by offering smart suggestions and tips through training. 

And Hilton guests love it. With a 94% customer satisfaction rating, Xiao Xi has replied to more than 50,000 customer queries since its launch. 

Radisson Blu Edwardian 

“Edward” is Radisson Blu Edwardian’s AI chatbot – enabling guests to check and request hotel amenities such as towels or room service, get information about local bars and restaurants, and share complaints through SMS. Powered by natural language processing, guests interact with the chatbot in a human-like way and can be assisted by a human agent when necessary. 

Since its launch in 2017, Edward has helped over 28,000 guests from 99 countries in 59 languages, handling requests in an average of 2 minutes. 

Ready to welcome your AI guest assistant?

As technology continues to develop, guests will expect immersive experiences that blend virtual and in-person interactions. Chatbots can help hotels streamline communication, enhance guest experience, and drive efficiency in various aspects of their operations.  

And although it can seem like a long and winding road from where you might be, using a scalable solution with a team of industry experts standing behind it can make it a painless process. 

The right platform and team can take the guesswork out of: 

Set up your hotel chatbot

Talk to an expert

Learn more about chatbots

Mar 22nd, 2024
11 min read
Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Martina Ivanović

Senior Content Marketing Specialist