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Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are not yet mainstream in the hospitality industry, but according to research presented at last week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, the situation will be much different by 2025.

Scott Lampman encourages listeners to use technology to remove the friction of guest experiences.

Scott Lampman and Sundar Swaminathan of Oracle Corporation, a computer technology company, presented research quantifying the growing acceptance of these technologies. The technologies are providing new ways for hotels and restaurants to personalize the guest experience.

Lampman, vice president of casinos, said it’s an exciting time to be in the hospitality industry because these technologies can be deployed rapidly and because consumers are quickly adapting to them.

“Our ability to innovate and drive adoption of these technologies is starting to accelerate,” Lampman said. He said 45 percent of hotel guests would like to have the option of selecting their room online, and that the expansion of kiosk and online check-in is driving this acceptance.

Facial recognition acceptance grows

One of Oracle’s studies found that both hotels and their guests are more accepting of using facial recognition technology. Nearly three quarters of hotel operators (74 percent) support using facial recognition to identify guests and 70 percent support using it for allowing room access.

A 62 percent majority of guests support facial recognition to identify guests and 41 percent said this capability would cause them to visit the property more often.

In restaurants, consumers indicated they like being recognized without having to provide their name or a loyalty card. About half (49 percent) said facial recognition and 3D imaging would improve their restaurant experience.

Nearly half of restaurant operators (46 percent) said facial recognition technology and 3D imaging will be mainstream by 2025. Operators said it would be used for security, food quality/portion control, recognizing guests, measuring guest sentiment and recognizing staff.

Virtual reality gains ground

Sundar Swaminathan notes consumers are not yet ready for robots in restaurants.

As far as virtual reality, both operators and guests see benefits of such technology in hotels.

Most hotel operators (68 percent) see virtual reality being used for staff training while 64 percent envision it for guest entertainment.

Most guests (66 percent) support having virtual reality for touring properties during booking.

Restaurant operators think virtual reality will be mainstream in their establishments by 2025. More than half of them see it benefiting restaurant flow (53 percent), design optimization (53 percent) and staff training (51 percent) while half see it helping in the area of guest entertainment.

AI in restaurants?

When it comes to artificial intelligence in restaurants, about a third of consumers (34 percent) said suggesting items based on past experiences would improve their experience and 36 percent said they would like to have this option.

A similar number (32 percent) said being automatically charged and not having to wait to pay would improve their experience and 34 percent said they would like to have this option.

As for virtual assistants, 31 percent of consumers said ordering via a virtual assistant would improve their experience while 42 percent said they would like to have this option.

Robotics: mixed response

One area of disagreement between hotel owners and guests was the acceptance of robots.

Most hotel operators (68 percent) said they want to see robots used for check-in and check-out and 62 percent would like it used for cleaning.

By contrast, only 33 percent of guests said they want to be greeted by a robot and 37 percent said it would be invasive. Only 22 percent said it would cause them to visit more and as many said it would cause them to visit less.

“People are not quite ready for robots in the restaurant industry,” said Swaminathan, Oracle’s senior director for industry solutions marketing, travel and transportation.

Half of the consumers said being greeted by a robot would not improve the experience and they would find it invasive.

Many restaurant operators, however, expect robots to be mainstream by 2025. They see robots active in cleaning, staff training, quality checking, kitchen food preparation, serving guests and greeting guests.

Guests OK with personal data

One of Oracle’s consumer studies found that many guests are willing to provide hotels with personal information.

  • 56 percent are completely comfortable releasing information about their preferred spoken language. (21 percent are moderately comfortable.)
  • 46 percent are completely comfortable releasing information about food preferences and allergies. (25 percent are moderately comfortable.)
  • 36 percent are completely comfortable releasing information about entertainment preferences. (28 percent are moderately comfortable.)
  • 30 percent are completely comfortable releasing information about destination activity preferences. (29 percent are moderately comfortable.)

When asked during the question and answer period what hotels and restaurants should be doing about all this new technology, Swaminathan said they need to be investing in it to drive a better guest experience.

“The more we can remove that friction, the better we are able to serve our guests,” Lampman said.

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