Amazon’s Alexa is coming to a Marriott near you!

Marriott is testing Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality in 10 hotels representing five of their brands later this year. Is this the best thing since free WiFi in hotels or the latest tech flop at hotels? What will you be able to do with it and is your privacy at risk when sharing your room with Amazon’s Echo? Read my take on the latest technology advancement in the hospitality industry!

Ok, I’ll admit it up front: After more than 20 years in the technology industry, I’m clearly biased towards the latest hardware and software to make your life better. I’ll utilize a gadget, a new app or an online service where ever it makes my travels easier. 

But the hotel industry has a terrible track record with new technologies – you just have to look at the poor implementation of digital keys or online check-in – widely ignored by frequent travelers. I’ve also learned in my career that technology implemented for technology’s sake or as an island solution is not going to make customer’s lives better and will be a waste of money. 

Hotel room with Amazon Echo Dot, photo by Amazon

So, what is Amazon’s Alexa going to do for you at Marriott? The Alexa you know from home to play music, check the weather or order something from Amazon, has learned some new tricks for hotels, hence the Amazon name “Alexa for Hospitality”. Alexa has learned some new skills, like ordering room service, asking questions of the concierge, connecting you with the front desk or ordering extra towels from housekeeping.  Hotels will also be able to program their own skills, so a luxury hotel might allow you to call a limo to the airport or a beach hotel might answer whether surf is up. Unfortunately, for now you won’t be able to connect your own Amazon account to it at the hotel, so you won’t be listening to your own music, but to what ever the hotel likes – tune in elevator love music…

Marriott is testing Alexa at 10 hotels from their Marriott, Autograph collection, St. Regis, Westin and aloft brands. It’s curious that aloft is included as they previously tested Apple’s Siri in their “voice activated rooms”. Marriott has a partnership with TED and will make TED talks available as a special skill during this test. And they envision different skills for different hotels, allowing the brands to differentiate themselves.

stylish aloft room

After the news about privacy breaches on Amazon Echo devices, it’s reassuring to hear that no personal information is required ( or allowed, hence none of your music) to operate it, the hotels won’t have access to your queries or the answers and the data will be deleted daily.

As more and more people use voice activated assistants at home, it’s great to see this technology come to hotels as well, allowing guests to personalize their stay to make it perfect for them. 
To achieve that, this technology needs to be integrated into the hotel systems, for example requesting two extra towels needs to result in the towels delivered pronto – not a call from housekeeping what I want. 
The lack of integration is why for example online check-in at hotels has failed in my opinion. Because the online check-in is not connected to my elite profile, I won’t be able to confirm an upgraded room during online check-in – and have to trudge to the front desk anyway. 
I never used check-out on the room TV – because I couldn’t get a needed invoice printed or emailed. 
For any hotel to make this work, the voice controlled assistant needs to not only tie into the hotel systems, but also into the loyalty account profile with all my preferences, and ideally, my Amazon (or Google) account, so I can listen to music or order online, just like at home.

Bottomline: It’s great to hear that hotels are looking into technology that is quickly making its way into our homes. I hope they use the tests to figure out how to improve the guest experience and deliver it as part of an integrated solution – or it’s just another pilot that will be wasted money. 
I’ll be happy to try this out, but I’m not holding my breath that it will make a big difference in my hotel stay anytime soon!

You can find out more about “Alexa for Hospitality
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