Big Interview: The status quo on AI's role within the hospitality industry

Big Interview: The status quo on AI's role within the hospitality industry

Markus Feller, CEO of SaaS hospitality management and communications provider Like Magic, reveals the impact of AI adoption and implementation

Q: How will AI change the way guests and employees interact with hotels & serviced apartments  over the coming years?

A: The transformative potential of AI in the hospitality sector can only be fully unlocked by recognising that its utility extends well beyond enhancing the guest experience alone.

In fact, it is on the employees’ side of things that we are seeing some of the most game-changing advancements in its use. This is especially true when it comes to automating routine and mundane tasks. AI and tools such as Like Magic are already freeing up a huge amount of headspace for employees, enabling them to focus on what really matters – being good hosts.

AI-powered insights can also help managers by offering predictive task management, reducing the stress of unexpected workloads and helping to prioritise jobs and maintenance in the most efficient order possible.

Guests, however, don’t just benefit from a more attentive and fulfilled workforce. We're evolving towards a model where AI doesn't just respond to guest needs - it anticipates them, creating a seamless and intuitive guest journey. For instance, we can analyse a guest's preferences and past behaviours to tailor every aspect of their stay, from room ambiance to entertainment and dining recommendations.

Q: What are the most significant impacts of AI on operational efficiency within hotels? 

A: The far-reaching automation of tasks and other administrative processes is what will ultimately prove most transformational for hotel operations. Predictive analytics powered by AI can forecast occupancy, optimise resource allocation and manage inventory, ensuring that hotels are operating at peak efficiency with minimal human oversight.

AI also facilitates smarter decision-making by providing employees with insights derived from data analysis, highlighting trends and identifying areas for improvement. This could range from adjusting staffing levels in real-time based on anticipated needs, to tailoring marketing strategies that cater to a prospective guests’ culture or personal preferences.

AI has already taken over many of the day-to-day property management tasks previously done by humans. This means that the industry will quickly become comfortable with AI taking charge of key operational decisions, as well as instructing staff, and dealing with finances – all completely autonomously.

Q: Aren’t you often asked about the ethical implications of AI? How can it be a good thing that this technology will ultimately replace people’s jobs? 

A: There is no getting around the fact that humanity is on the cusp of a technological shift that will be as significant as that of the industrial revolution. The dawn of AI will inevitably make some jobs obsolete, just as the mechanisation of agriculture made horse-drawn ploughs obsolete.

But its proliferation in the hospitality sector shouldn’t be viewed so much as a means to lower staff numbers for the sake of it, but rather as a means to ‘right-size’ the number of employees a hotel actually needs. Remember, this is an industry that has long grappled with a labour shortage - a problem that will also be overcome with technology.

AI is effectively mitigating the current mismatch between the supply and demand in hospitality professionals by decreasing the need for lots of staff. Critically, it allows employees to focus on what really matters - interaction with guests.

Q: Do you think some hotel types will embrace AI quicker than others? 

A: It’s inevitably going to be the big budget brands that will be quick to leverage AI – especially when it comes to staffing.

These are businesses that make money via economies of scale. They’re operating on razor-thin margins much of the time, so anything that’s going to save them time and money without compromising on guest satisfaction is going to be attractive to them.

Our own platform is already seeing hotels in Germany operate with 80% fewer employees thanks to technology which can do most of the jobs humans can do. It really is only a matter of time before the big, affordable players in the hotel sector pounce on AI.

But there’s also an important role for AI in luxury and five-star hotels. These establishments just have different priorities - they may not want to reduce staff numbers at all, they may prefer to instead redeploy staff away from admin work to being good hosts and delivering a better guest experience.

Q: How can AI play a role in enhancing a hotel's overall sustainability credentials?

A: Sustainability isn’t just something we’d like to achieve via AI, it’s an inevitability. Tech is going to be key to unlocking some of the hospitality industry’s greatest challenges when it comes to protecting the planet. 

For example, we can use AI and tech like Like Magic to automatically predict which rooms will be unoccupied and automatically adjust heating, cooling and lighting accordingly. And make no mistake, the savings – both in terms of money and a hotel’s overall carbon footprint – can be significant when we hand the reins over to AI. And even without AI, we are helping hospitality to increase their sustainability footprint by integrating our platform with leading smart room providers. This in turn provides the data needed to trigger sustainable behavior on the guest side via the intuitive digital guest journey. On the employee and operator side, this data is consolidated in a genuinely meaningful way, offering the insights required to take significant steps towards reducing their overall carbon footprints.

AI assists in long-term sustainability planning. By aggregating and analysing data over time, we can identify patterns and trends that inform better decision-making around energy use. These could include establishing optimal times to engage renewable energy sources, or when to schedule maintenance for energy-consuming equipment to ensure it operates at peak efficiency.

Ultimately, AI empowers hotels to make smarter, data-driven decisions that align with their sustainability goals. And with consumers becoming evermore mindful of their impact on the planet, embracing such technologies is not just a strategic move for the hospitality industry; it becomes a powerful message to guests.