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THE CONCIERGE CONUNDRUM
THE CONCIERGE CONUNDRUM
Will artificial intelligence and virtual reality spell the end of the hotel concierge?
GRETCHEN KELLY
Not so long ago, when you checked into a hotel, you could ask to see the concierge to help with plans like theatre tickets, to find out the hottest new restaurant in town and to get directions to the local museums and sites of interest. This individual – who, at the better establishments, often sported a golden lapel pin with two crossed keys would take out a sheaf of maps and make notes for you. On your return from a night at the theatre, you’d see the same friendly face who would ask if you liked the show.

Today, particularly in smaller hotels, that friendly helper is more likely to pop up on your phone as he/she does at The Arrive Hotel in Memphis. “Hi ya’ll,” says the text message (laying on the Southern charm thick). “Please text us if you need directions or anything else. We’ll be glad to help.”

The Arrive Hotel is not the only property using virtual technology to substitute or to supplement the full-time job of “concierge.”

Courtyard by Marriott, for instance, uses an interactive GoBoard, an in-lobby LCD touchscreen where guests can search news, weather, restaurants, flights and other details. Marriott’s Renaissance brand uses its proprietary Navigator technology to help guests find their way around town or do a deep dive experiential journey, with a database culled from the opinions of local experts. If guests want a one-on-one experience a human “navigator” can help, too.

Let’s Chat

Burgeoning chatbot technology that lets artificial intelligence talk back and interact with customers has led to the creation of a new concierge program called Bebot, a chatbot that acts as a hotel concierge. Its inventors, Bespoke Inc., say that the program “is designed to empower guests through instant, real-time assistance such as exclusive recommendations for both popular and little-known sites in the area, answering questions only hotel staff would know about, or even making restaurant bookings.” Bebop is in use in several hotels in Japan but is making its way to the US soon.

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February 2020