Alexa, don’t take it personally

Amazon has launched Alexa for Hospitality, bringing its voice assistant technology to hotels and vacation rentals. The system can be customized to include guest information and allows guests to request services like room service. It can be configured to control “smart” hotel room functions like adjusting the thermostat.

Marriott International is Amazon’s launch partner and will introduce the system at some Marriott, Westin, St. Regis, Aloft and Autograph Collection hotels this summer. Two Roads Hospitality is reportedly jumping in to test Alexa, as well.

(Flickr | Stock Catalog)
(Flickr | Stock Catalog)

This is big news and it’s a cool piece of tech if you’re not creeped out, like me, by a cylinder listening and talking to me in that HAL 9000-like voice. It’s also a piece of hardware I assume hoteliers must purchase that will likely be obsolete inside a year or two. I won’t even get into all the potential operational and training complications, as well as privacy concerns. Most important to me, it’s so impersonal and contrary to what hospitality is supposed to be about. Aren’t we connected enough?

I guess there is no stopping the automation of our lives and customer service, but I urge you to first ask your guests if they really want and need this service in their rooms. Yes, it could replace all those archaic in-room tablets I’ve rarely used, and as Amazon suggests it would allow guests to sleep in the dark with no more bright-eyed alarm clocks. But I travel with all the devices I need, thank you, and prefer to be given a number to text for guest services, requests, etc. And I don’t mind using a switch to turn off my lights and close my blinds.

Yep, I am 60, an old man in the demographic and psychographic world, but I know how to use technology and I know when I want a more personal touch – like when I stay in a hotel. I am sure the Gen Zs and beyond will be right at home with the voice assistant and it is simply the wave of the future, but maybe the next gen will one day understand personal interaction is, well, personal, and that it’s a good thing for all of us.

Hoteliers, including Marriott, talk a lot about creating communal, experiential, personalized hotel stays. I know those concepts can stand alongside this virtual assistant strategy and serve to embellish it in some ways, but is this really in sync with the culture you are trying to create?