“Alexa, order wine,” could soon be the preferred way to order room service without lifting a fingertip. Amazon introduced the Amazon Echo to hospitality providers on Tuesday. Using voice-activated technology, guests and hoteliers alike will receive a helping hand.
“Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them,” Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon, said in a press release. “Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests.”
The device connects to the hotel’s system and allows guests to control in-room amenities, such as lights, thermostats, blinds and televisions. The virtual butler can book hotel services, such as spa appointments, and provide facility hours.
The electronic concierge is built to work with pre-existing hotel technologies, which eliminates the need for equipment upgrades. The technology often operates with popular in-room entertainment providers. Examples include using Alexa with World Cinema or GuestTek to manage video experiences.
Property managers have the ability to customize Alexa with different skills to suit guests’ needs. An IT department can build a script that is adaptable to the services the hotel wants to provide. Or managers can select from a list of pre-set skills.
This summer, Marriott International will feature Alexa for Hospitality in its Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels and Autograph Collection Hotels.
“So many of our guests use voice technology in their home, and we want to extend that convenience to their travel experience. Guests of Charlotte Marriott City Center and Marriott Irvine Spectrum will be among the first to experience a curated list of Alexa for Hospitality features,” Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of Marriott International customer experience innovation, said in a press release.
The company said it will evaluate guest feedback to improve Alexa functionality in the future.
Amazon says Alexa can be customized for a hotel’s brand. Marriott is taking advantage of this feature, offering free virtual TED talks via its TED partnership. Amazon suggests properties select default music stations that match the hotel’s atmosphere.
This is not the first time Amazon has flirted with the idea of hotel partnerships. Last year, Marriott began testing the device in its Boston hotel and Wynn resorts installed the device in all its rooms at the Las Vegas property. Wynn, however, used Alexa for Business. The technology, launched in 2016, allowed for customizable tasks, but was limited to what it could do for hotels specifically.
Trouble in Paradise
The announcement of Alexa’s assistance comes months after Amazon received criticism regarding recorded conversations. Earlier this year, a conversation between a woman and her husband was sent to a random person on their contact list. For meeting professionals, this lack of privacy can be concerning.
New York Magazine reports Amazon will delete all hotel voice recordings daily. Also, the device will be muted by default. An Amazon spokesperson described it as an “opt in” experience.
Amazon also finds itself running into murky waters with hotel owners. Some, like CEO Greg Mount of Red Lion Hotels Corporation, are concerned the rise of personal voice-activated technology will lead to voice-activated bookings. The problem is that companies like Amazon and Google are collecting big data on consumers: devouring all their interests and habits. So, when a person asks, “Hey Alexa, book me a hotel,” it could fine tune the results so greatly that a large chunk of properties won’t appear to the potential guests. This could leave many in the industry vying for the smallest sliver of attention.