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BUSINESSTODAY 27 January 2022

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OPINION 27.1.2022 Alexiei Dingli Prof Alexiei Dingli is a Professor of AI at the University of Malta and has been conducting research and working in the field of AI for more than two decades, assisting different companies to implement AI solutions. He forms part of the Malta.AI task-force, set up by the Maltese government, aimed at making Malta one of the top AI countries in the world W e've all been to different hotel rooms. Some are more stun- ning than others and leave a mark. But most of the time, many of their rooms have a similar layout, which is pretty much standard. While this is un- derstandable because the needs of many travellers are pretty much the same, one thing distinguishes a pleasant experience from an exceptional one. e distinguish- ing factor is customer service. If done well, it can turn the customers into brand ambassadors of your hotel because, aer all, the brand is what people say about you aer they leave the room. Traditionally, the most expensive hotels upped their service by employing more people. One to hold the door, another to carry the luggage, and a personal butler in the room for high-end hotels! e truth is that even though it's lovely to pamper oneself when you're abroad, many people cannot afford these additional services. So as soon as tourism slows down, these are the first services to get the axe. However, this should not be the case, and technology can quickly take over some of these services. Of course, there is always a capital investment involved, but most of the time, the costs are with- in reach, and hotels can recoup them in no time. Another factor that many fail to consider is the opportunity loss of not in- stalling such systems. First of all, a hotel with these features is much more desir- able for customers than a similar hotel without them. Second, the status quo is not an option these days, and while some hotel managers are napping on the idea, others are moving forward with imple- menting such features. Let me show you what I mean with an example. e Smith family decide to go on holi- day. ey know that doing so with small children can be stressful, but they decid- ed to give it a go. As soon as they booked their hotel room, they received an email asking them to install the mobile con- cierge, a chatbot that will assist them throughout their stay. rough the chat- bot, they can choose amongst several rooms, so they opted for one with a view over the pool, thus allowing their eldest children to enjoy themselves but under their watch. Since their flight lands in the early hours, they booked transport to the hotel— with the click of a button. When they reached the hotel, the driver loaded their bags on the automated trol- leys, taking them directly to their rooms. Screens on both sides of the entrance greeted them and asked them to follow the lights along the way. ey did not have to do any paperwork since all the docu- ments, and credit card details were sorted beforehand through the app when they were still at home. And if they have any problem, they can either reach out to the chatbot on their app or invoke it through the hotel in a similar way they do at home with their digital assistant. Of course, they can always have a word with one of the hotel's human workers, and they will be more than happy to assist them too. As they walk towards the lift, it automat- ically opens and takes them to the correct floor. It was alerted by the centralised Artificial Intelligence (AI) system. ey reach their hotel room in no time, tap the app, and their door opens automatically. e automated trolley waiting outside moves in and delivers their luggage. All the room configurations can be set automatically for their phone. Temper- ature, wake up call, loading appropriate content on the TV (since they have kids), opening or closing of curtains, and so much more. e app also proposes an ideal program for all the family— fun time in the morning, followed by lunch at the zoo. In the afternoon, a visit to the museum when the little one is napping in his pushchair. Later on, while the chil- dren have fun at the hotel's kids club, the parents can enjoy a nice romantic dinner. Of course, if this is too much for one day, the Smith's can always edit it or even ask the AI to create a new one. e nice thing about it is that the app will purchase all the tickets beforehand. e app will take care of transportation too! Whether they opt for public transport or luxury transit, they will find all the tickets ready. Practi- cally, all they need to do is go out and have fun. Gone are the days of endless hassles trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. In the end, everything works like magic! From the hotel's point of view, things are much more efficient. e AI system manages all of the operations. Aircondi- tioners are switched on and off automati- cally, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Lights are switched off in areas with no people and automatically adjusted based on the weather conditions outside, thus avoiding useless wastages. When an air conditioner, a lightbulb or other electron- ic device malfunctions, a technician is summoned, thus ensuring that the hotel operates in mint condition. In the end, everyone is happy. Guests have the time of their lives, and the hotel is run efficiently with minimal environ- mental impact. e incredible thing is that the investment required for most of these systems is not prohibitive but with- in reach. Furthermore, the benefits are massive, not just financially but mainly in terms of reputation. So what are you waiting to make the stay of your guests magical? Room for service Ariel delivers room service to a guest at Hotel Sky

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