Should Hospitality care about Artificial Intelligence

March 20, 2024
Jane Louise

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) recently published research on artificial intelligence and possible considerations for the hospitality industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the process where computer programs learn, reason, and apply logic to tackle problems.

AI is instrumental in understanding data and simulating cognitive functions, relying on both data and algorithms (a set of rules) for its functionality.

It is already widely utilised, from cancer screening to hotel check-in robots, and often without or barely in our awareness, such as in email filters and predictive text on smartphones.

Through machine learning, AI systems continuously enhance themselves with data, automating tasks, making predictions, and aiding decision-making processes across diverse industries.

While AI has been around since 1956, where the term was first coined, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that AI gained public attention.

The release of ChatGPT in 2022 marked a turning point in the use of AI, making it accessible to millions and sparking global interest.

Today, various AI chatbots are widely available, heralding a new era where AI is accessible to the public. Despite uncertainties, the future of AI holds immense potential, shaping society in ways yet to be fully understood.

Early studies indicate AI’s potential to contribute significantly to the global economy by 2030, driven by productivity gains and increased consumer demand for AI-enhanced products and services.

AI is already being integrated into everyday business software, improving efficiency. Studies show that AI tools boost productivity, making tasks faster and easier.

The hospitality industry can benefit from AI integration across sales, marketing, and customer service.

The advent of AI in hospitality brings about exciting opportunities for innovation and enhancement across various points, from wayfinding apps to booking engines.

The WTTC report included some current AI examples from the Travel and Tourism industry, such as:

  • Expedia introduced an AI-powered trip planning feature in its smartphone app in 2023. This feature provides personalised recommendations for destinations, accommodations, and attractions.
  • Similarly, Tripadvisor enhanced its ‘Trips’ planning product by introducing a new AI-powered travel itinerary generator.
  • Last year, the Hilton launched its ‘Green Breakfast’ pilot, employing AI to slash food waste by 62% across 13 UAE hotels, resulting in the prevention of 726 tonnes of CO2e emissions annually.

Yet along with rewards, risks and challenges emerge.

The WTTC reports note that “AI systems access more high-quality data and use greater computer power, they become more accurate, creative and insightful”.

However, it is also important to note that handling massive amounts of data can present privacy, security and data governance challenges for AI developers and users, and that there is a significant data and ‘digital divide’ in the world.”

AI training is crucial. Organisations need to prioritise reskilling and upskilling.

Companies like Microsoft, Google, and IBM offer free AI training resources online, often in collaboration with training providers like TAFE. Peer-to-peer training and co-mentoring are also effective strategies for upskilling teams.

While AI’s impact on jobs is also a topic of concern, it is unlikely to lead to widespread unemployment.

Instead, AI is expected to create new industries, transform existing jobs, and enhance productivity. While some jobs may be automated, others will emerge.

Government support will be crucial for aiding the transition.

Ethics, governance, and standards are vital for AI development. Free resources like IEEE’s AI ethics standards and national initiatives aid responsible AI deployment.

Focusing on the future, and as the industry rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting to evolving traveller patterns is crucial.

AI is revolutionising every aspect of the traveller’s journey. To thrive in this dynamic landscape and secure customer loyalty, companies must harness the power of data with AI, enabling personalised experiences, efficient operations, and informed decision-making.

From inspiration to sharing experiences, AI is reshaping hospitality operations. Examples include:

  • demand forecasting
  • personalised recommendations and marketing
  • dynamic pricing
  • customer service via chatbots
  • enhanced customer experience
  • operational efficiency improvements
  • risk management
  • destination insights, and
  • sustainability initiatives

Yet despite the potential, the travel sector lags behind in AI adoption, facing challenges like skill shortages and infrastructure limitations.

The WTTC reports an Accenture recommendation of strategic actions, including leadership sponsorship, talent investment, industrialising AI, responsible design, and prioritised investments, to propel the hospitality industry into the AI-driven future.

As algorithms, data and computational power become more capable, accessible, and affordable, the full potential of AI in the future remains to be seen.

This article was written with the assistance of Chat GPT. For further information including free downloads of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s research, visit https://wttc.org/.


Tags

AI, Artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, hospitality


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