March 18, 2020
Staffless hotels are, as the name suggests, hotels which have very few, or zero, staff members. They use technology rather than staff to interact with and assist customers. This makes sense to us as consumers because examples of artificial intelligence in our daily lives are becoming increasingly common. Facebook recognizes and tags you in photos while Amazon learns what you like and recommends items to buy. It’s not impossible then to imagine a world without many hotel staff members.
These hotels aren’t some distant possibility, they're a distinct probability. As these hotels begin popping up around the world and customers not only embrace them but demand them, they will become more commonplace. They’ll move from being one of the latest trends in technology to becoming as ubiquitous as the smartphone which is no doubt at your elbow.
Bill Marriott, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, Inc., famously had this to say about staffless hotels: “A hotel that employs zero to few staff members to get their everyday things done, i.e. check-in/out, handling guest issues, and delivering other important services like rendering recommendations to engage your guests better and rethinking their existing experience is known as a staffless hotel.”
These hotels appeal to independent-thinking travelers who look forward to seeing examples of artificial intelligence during their travels. These travelers want to do the business of getting into their accommodation themselves. They don't want to converse with hotel staff, choosing to instead experience their destination or settle into the comforts of their accommodation. In the same way, these hotels appeal to those managing them. Slashed staffing and operations costs are just too appealing for those whose job it is to manage the bottom line.
To gain an understanding of how staffless hotels work, think about the types of questions that hotels receive daily:
Conversational software bots could easily be answering these basic questions. Chatbots are able to use text and voice to simulate an intelligent conversation with people in their native language. Dealing with a chatbot feels familiar to customers who are able to converse at their convenience. Because chatbots are on duty 24/7, customers are able to ask a question whenever it occurs to them.
The benefit to hotels, aside from cutting costs, is that they’ll have access to their guests’ data, making it possible to personalize the experience and provide the services which guests are asking for.
Conversational AI bots are hard at work (already!) in the hospitality sector. They help travelers to plan and book their trips, find entertainment while there, and arrange tickets and transportation. The use of these bots lowers costs for hotels, making the adoption of these examples of artificial intelligence all the more desirable for hoteliers.
Smart sensors are another of the latest trends in technology which are expected to revolutionize this sector. By using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and wearable devices, staff members will be notified when guests check out of the hotel and their rooms need cleaning. Connected room service carts will notify staff when they’re empty and ready for removal once they’ve been placed in the hallway. Sensors are even able to pick up maintenance issues with elevators and escalators.
Staffless hotels have already been established with great success, or the idea is being explored, in Scandinavian countries, Germany, and China. If you’d like to learn more about how chatbots and other examples of artificial intelligence can improve CRM in the travel and hospitality industries, read our recent article. It details how the latest trends in technology can positively influence user experience for travelers.