(This article first appeared in the July 2021 issue of our monthly newsletter for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, TTH Times)
July 19 2021: With the hospitality industry slowly crawling back to business after almost 18 months of shut down, it is very aware of the concerns of guests, many of whom are gingerly venturing out of their homes and home-towns for the first time. They want to see places, stay in safe hotels – with minimal physical contact with staff and strangers.
Which is why smart speakers and intelligent voice assistants suddenly become important.
Amazon’s Echo smart speakers are among the first to tweak their offerings for different business verticals --- including the travel and hotel business. Alexa for Hospitality simplifies tasks for guests like playing music, checking the weather, calling the front desk, ordering room service, controlling in-room temperature or lighting, and even checking out. With Alexa, you can customize your hospitality experience so guests can access your services and amenities more easily and quickly, using just their voice. Guests can ask things like:
“Alexa, when is happy hour?”
“Alexa, what is today’s room service special?”
"Alexa, what restaurants are on this property?"
Alexa for Hospitality remembers guest privacy. Guests’ voice recordings are not saved. No personal information needs to be shared with Alexa to use the device.
Three years ago the Marriot group was the first to place Echo speakers in guest rooms and lobby locations like the conceirge desk. Marriott placed smart speakers in its chain: Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels. Since then, other hotel groups have done likewise.
Amazon Echo Show 10
I have had the opportunity to try out almost every Echo device since the range came to India 5 years ago. And every year they have in size and audio quality – and most importantly, in understanding the plethora of Indian accents when people speak English or Hindi or Hinglish. Among all smart speaker options, I have found the systematic localization of Alexa behn to be sustained and thorough.
The latest in the Echo range that I have been using, is the Echo Show 10 – the variant where the speaker comes with a display. And 10 inches in the new model is the largest display yet. The familiar cylindrical speaker is stuck behind the display, allowing the screen to swivel, as it follows the user who could be walking up and down. Spooky, but useful!
I am here more concerned with the utility of such a device in a hotel or travel agency locale -- and a bit surprised that Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality outreach is still limited to the screen-less Echo range. They do say the Show range, with a screen, will soon be included, but all I can say is, what’s keeping you? There is a compelling use case for a screen in the hotel environment – to display a flight schedule or an in-room dining menu, instead of reading it out. The Echo Show 10 costs Rs 24,999, but I don’t see that as a barrier in the hospitality scenario .In any case, a worthy upgrade to the Amazon smart speaker-with-display range.- Anand Parthasarathy