Market Spotlight: Travel and Hospitality

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Speech technology is suddenly and very visibly at the center of many industries—especially when it comes to customer interactions. Between the popularity of chatbots as marketing and customer service tools and the rising popularity of voice-activated home assistants like Amazon’s Echo, consumers are getting up close and personal with our industry. Moreover, people are demanding speech technology be integrated into nearly every facet of their lives—even when they’re on vacation. And the travel and hospitality industry is listening.

Hoteliers Take Notice 

Take, for instance, hotels. “At a high level the consumer voice-activated experience is aggressively leaking into the enterprise,” says Jean Turgeon, vice president and chief technologist at Avaya. And that, he says, is also true for hotels. 

Turgeon points out that many hotels have already replaced bedside phones with tablets, but that’s not good enough anymore: “People have an expectation that they no longer have to touch a device.” Hygiene—interestingly enough—is a factor. When you start thinking about how many people before you have touched the phone in your hotel room, you may prefer to forgo touching it as well. 

But, of course, people have survived for generations without voice-activated amenities in their hotel rooms, so what’s different now? Expectations. 

Some hotels—mostly four stars and above—are experimenting with integrating speech technology at nearly every level of business. “As hotels refresh…they really want to transform the experience,” he says. That can include using voice activation to do everything from closing the curtains to changing the color of the room’s lighting. Wynn Las Vegas equipped thousands of its rooms with Amazon Echos. In many ways, Turgeon says, this is part of a larger trend. The best hotels are trying to make visitors feel more comfortable and at home by, for instance, letting people access their own Netflix accounts on hotel TVs. And as consumers’ homes become smarter and more integrated with voice systems, so too will hotels. 

Not all speech technology integrations in the travel and hospitality industry are customer facing, though. In fact, like a lot of other industries, there are many practical, behind-the-scenes uses for your favorite speech-activated devices in the world of hospitality. In March, IDeaS announced it had integrated a revenue management tool with voice control devices. Hoteliers on the go can use IDeaS’s G3 RMS product by using their Amazon Echo or Google Home. 

Before You Book

When it comes to speech technology in the travel and hospitality industry, all the changes aren’t happening as part of the in-room experience. In fact, those kinds of direct-to-consumer experiences are still experimental. Meanwhile, companies like DialogTech are using speech analytics to help the hospitality industry better understand its customer calls.

Alain Stephan, vice president of analytics services at DialogTech, says his company can “connect the dots between marketing activity and phone calls.” As an example, Stephan, says, DialogTech was able to tell one cruise line how much of its paid media resulted in not only new leads but new reservations. And when a call doesn’t result in a booking, DialogTech can tell its customers whether it was still a productive call.

Stephan says that advances in machine learning has helped DialogTech—which has an OEM relationship with Nuance—to more efficiently learn about each call. It can help a company determine whether a caller is a brand loyalist—and offer upgrades accordingly—or if they’re a proxy caller (i.e. a travel agent). 

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