Virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are the modern way to request room service or housekeeping in many hotels and on cruise ships.

Hotel concierges are used to tackling a wide range of questions and requests, but not many could do so in seven different languages and without a moment’s hesitation.

That’s why they are finding their roles increasingly under threat from voice-controlled devices powered by artificial intelligence, such as Amazon’s Alexa or the recently launched Zoe on MSC cruise ships.

Zoe is programmed to respond to more than 800 of the most commonly asked questions with thousands of different variants of each question. She can help reserve restaurants and excursions or check a guest’s bill — all in an impressive seven languages.

Alexa for Hospitality

Given that many customers already have this technology at home, the use of virtual assistants to speed up the fielding of queries is an obvious move for the hospitality industry.

Village Hotels was the first firm in the UK to install the Amazon Echo Dot, enabling guests to find out gym opening times, things to do in the local area or to request wake-up calls.

Amazon has set up is its own division called Alexa for Hospitality to meet industry demand, with global clients including Marriott International. It has also started enabling Amazon customers to temporarily connect their account to the Alexa-enabled device in their hotel.

Power to disconnect

Not everyone is happy to find a voice-controlled device in their room, however. At a recent industry conference in the United States, Best Western Hotels & Resorts president David Kong said that a pilot program involving Alexa had not gone well.

“If someone wants an extra towel or to say a light isn’t working, they can use Alexa to communicate with us. But what we found out was when most people got into their hotel room, they disconnected it,” Travel Weekly reported him as saying.

Travel agency Kuoni also posted a recent video on social media highlighting the knowledge of its staff concerning popular tourists destinations compared with the answers given by voice-activated technology.

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