One Croatian company has developed a type of artificial intelligence purely for hotels, and as of next summer, various hotels belonging to the Jadranka Group will have the brand new system made available for their guests from around the world.
”Alexa, what can I do today?” a guest of the Lošinj Bellevue Hotel will soon be able to ask.
”You can go and visit Susak and Ilovik, or visit the wellness pool. In the evening, I’d suggest going to the Matsunoki Japanese restaurant,” Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, will respond.
As Novac.hr/Filip Pavic writes on the 10th of December, 2018, no, we’re not talking about some dreamlike hotel in the year 2048, but about 2019’s tourist season in the hotel accommodation belonging to the Jadranka Group. This Croatian hotel company, will become the first in Croatia, and in the world, to introduce a special type of ”hotel artificial intelligence” to its accommodation facilities.
“We’ve created a system of artificial intelligence that will give to each guest, in a given moment, taking into account the enormous amount of data, a prediction of the type of content and services the hotel has that they might be interested in,” explained Marko Lukičić, a member of the board of directors of the Jadranka Group, who is also the co-founder of Acquaint, the Croatian company which thought of and then designed this artificial intelligence system, which is solely for hotels.
As has been said, the whole system, which is currently called Amenity Recommender, is fully functional and is currently being tested in five hotels belonging to the Jadranka Group on the island of Lošinj – The Bellevue and the Alhambra, which are both five-star facilities, as well as in Aurora, Vespera, and Punta, each with a four-star rating.
”The plan is to equip the rooms of Hotel Bellevue with Amazon Echo, which are speakers through which the guest can talk to Alexa the virtual assistant, before the next tourist season. She will ”lend” her voice to our artificial intelligence system. We will also connect the system with the hotel TV system and customer relationship management system (CRM) to be able to communicate with the guest across all channels,” Lukičić added.
Namely, this hotel artificial intelligence system will be a kind of virtual consultant and tourist guide that will try to predict what the guest wants to see and experience while on holiday. Excursions, restaurants, museums, wellness, diving courses, massages, yacht rentals, etc.
The ”virtual receptionist” will choose three specific recommendations for the guest among the 750 available services, taking into account enormous amounts of available data. Among other things, the age, sex, country of origin of the guest, as well as who they’re with on holiday, the room in which they’re staying and the which period in which it is will be taken into account to provide the best recommendations. As extensive as that is, that is not all. The system will also ”keep its eye” on the weather and change the offers recommended should the weather take an unfavourable turn.
”It’s important to emphasise the fact that this artificial intelligence deals with anonymous guest information and based on this data, it is not possible to detect the guests’ identity. It doesn’t accumulate data, it simply processes it,” explained Lukičić, noting that the rules of the Personal Data Protection Act (GDPR) will be absolutely respected.
The constant advancing of technology has been bringing in the question of just what will happen to staff, human staff, that is, who used to be the ones to perform such tasks. Will they be replaced by artificial intelligence? No, says Lukičić, stating that the intentions behind this innovative invention were never to remove the need for a human touch in this industry.
”The receptionists will have a key supervisory role, and they’ll also get acquainted with artificial intelligence with courses. Provided with information, they will be able to offer a more quality service and create an even better experience for the guest,” added Lukičić.
Otherwise, the whole story came to light just two years ago. Back then, Lukičić, as the responsible person for the digital transformation of the Jadranka Group, was given the opportunity to test his artificial intelligence idea which has been ”seducing” him continually from back in his student days spent at FER.
“When we began with that whole story, of course, we tried to find an already finished solution. We contacted companies which already have their own artificial intelligence platforms, such as Google, IBM and Microsoft, but we’ve come to the conclusion that they could only offer us generic intelligence or a chatbot. We needed something much more precise,” recalls Lukičić. His list of criteria for the hotel system of artificial intelligence was highly specific and seemingly impossible to reach at the time.
“We were looking for a company that had profound expertise in hotel industry, expertise in machine learning and data knowledge, as well as programming, to make us a special type artificial intelligence. As expected, we couldn’t find such a company,”
Lukičić realised that in order to truly get their hands on what they needed, they had to set up their own company that would bring all these skills together properly. In other words, start completely from scratch. He readily admitted that after this Croatian company was created, the actual process of developing artificial intelligence was a painstaking one.
”A lot of statistics, linear algebra, learning, programming, studying, and discussion were needed to eventually have a very small number of code lines. And, there you go, the artificial intelligence was born. But with the science-fantasy part of the story, there was also a business story,”
According to Lukičić, besides its futuristic possibilities, artificial intelligence also provides the possibility of raising hotel revenues in a very specific way. Namely, artificial intelligence of this kind requires very little investment and relies solely on customer spending. There is no need to expand accommodation capacities or raise prices, which are the traditional ways in which to raise revenue. The goal, he says, is to increase the overall value of the facilities through subtle content delivery, without aggressive and offputting sales pitches and a bombardment of offers.
”According to our tests, in regard to a four-star luxury hotel on the island of Lošinj, which has very low maintenance costs, the profits after the introduction of artificial intelligence doubled,” stated Lukičić, noting that the benefit will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of hotel, its existing maintenance costs, as well as any planned investments for the future.
As far as further plans are concerned, Lukičić hopes that by the end of the year, Acquaint, which currently has only six employees, could sign a global agreement to introduce their system to some European and Asian hotels.
”We’re already working with Oracle engineers to create a certified interface for our product. That would make Oracle one of our sales channels,” says Lukičić, referring to the Croatian company’s collaboration with a multinational IT company. They are also in contact with Amazon, the largest e-merchant whose voice technology is being used already, but for any type of official co-operation, he will have to open an office across the pond in the United States.
“All this gives us enough arguments to say that what we do makes sense even though we’re currently a research and development company and we aren’t making any revenue,” Lukičić concluded.
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