The hotel & travel industry is clearly in need of redemption. Considerable change and disruption are forecast, and only the most adaptable will survive. Rapid change through AI and technology may be the need of the hour.
Artificial intelligence has enabled innovations and new opportunities to enhance customer service, and to boost customer retention, as well as to improve operational efficiency for many a business. Computer Vision, the new field of AI (also known as Vision Intelligence or AIVI) that trains computers to interpret and understand data from visual images and videos and then react to what they see, could well be the biggest ray of hope for the Hotel and Travel industry.
Several companies in the hospitality sector are gearing up to leverage the use of digital technologies to develop their overall business and enhance customer experiences.
By making sense of visual data in the same way as humans do, AIVI removes the need for constant eye balling of multiple TV monitors, and thus enhances video surveillance by detecting intrusions and unauthorized activities, and alerting the security mechanism. Physical monitoring of parking areas, restaurants, bars, pool decks, and perimeter boundaries becomes possible without human intervention since the computer receiving the camera images have been taught to recognize patterns, and identify and alert when there are anomalies.
Cameras are also easily taught these days to detect weapons and firearms in camera footage, and programmed to send alerts to the security team, which no longer has to keep monitoring the camera feeds. This reduces reaction time and might even stop violence before it starts. Detection of suspicious packages or bags lying unattended also helps improve overall security.
Surveillance thus assumes a whole new meaning with the adoption of Computer Vision.
Computer Vision also helps to provide personalised service and support, for example by recognizing VIPs as they arrive for check in so that they can be prioritized for enhanced service. There is nothing a guest loves more than being given Customised and Proactive service. This is particularly true in luxury hotels.
At the other end of the spectrum AIVI also helps to alert presence of any undesirable person or known criminal. Face recognition is now a fairly well established technology that it can manage even staff access to restricted areas, thus ensuring guest and employee security.
Age recognition through Vision Intelligence also helps in controlling, say, sale of alcohol to minors without need for identification. Such measures aid in reducing load on Security and other personnel and free them for focusing on more critical tasks.
Monitoring and managing Covid protocols in crowded areas like a bar or pool-side also results in customers feeling safe and cared for. Random increases in guest traffic in certain service areas are also captured and alerted to management for any staff reallocation. Patterns of guest movement inside the hotel premises can also be collated to aid staff formations.
Improving kitchen efficiency and reducing food waste is a recent application based on computer vision that might well revolutionize food management in the not too distant future. It is based on capturing and processing food waste data non-intrusively by using cameras powered by Vision Intelligence directly over the bins, without human intervention and without affecting the operations.
Food waste data is considered as the most vital input in cost cutting as well as in reducing carbon emission. With more images being processed VI gets smarter each day and learns to give smart outputs without human errors, which eventually helps the kitchen management to take informed decisions.
Potential of AI in Hospitality
In a business sector where margins are tight, embracing the potential of AI is a step in the right direction. A McKinsey report on the global economy two years back had said that companies which ignore AI might actually see a major drop in cash flow. This could be very true of the hospitality sector more than any other. Vision AI is at a stage that it can play a transitional role and presents an opportunity for this sector to improve efficiency and widen margins.