AI’s Rapidly Evolving Landscape and Its Impact on the Hospitality Industry

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, has been around for decades and can be defined in one way as the simulation of human intelligence, specifically by machines. The first discussions regarding artificial intelligence originated back in 1956, the first chatbot went live in 1964, and college students were commonly studying this concept by the late 1980`s. There is nothing new about the idea of AI, so why is it that the world suddenly launched into a frenzy regarding AI and the potential capabilities that could arise through this technology after a half-century?

In the last five to ten years, scientists and researchers have redefined what the world views possible through the work of AI. The publishing of open-sourced machine learning algorithms has expedited collaboration and innovation by making AI technology available to the public at large. This breakthrough in science and cooperation has sparked investment and exploration into AI that we are seeing rapid acceleration of its deployment and implementation into all aspects of society. Machine learning models are becoming so advanced that they can now mimic a biological neural network through artificial neural networks.

How Does Generative AI Compare?

When thinking about AI, it’s important to understand the different types of artificial intelligence that exist. As we defined earlier, AI is just a machine mimicking human intelligence. One subset of this concept is Machine Learning and the algorithms that come with it, but there is a more advanced subset of AI known as Deep Learning. A branch of Deep Learning is what we know today as Generative AI. This is the type of AI that has created so much popularity on the topic in the last two years. Generative AI is a type of AI that allows tools such as ChatGPT to work and it’s also the type of technology behind all those fancy images and portraits that are posted on social media with an artificial intelligence hashtag.

Generative AI is the most advanced innovation that the world has ever seen and ChatGPT, which is the most well-known and widely used application of Generative AI, quickly acquired 100 million users within the first two months of being publicly available. This technology is a simple input/output transaction, but the possibilities are endless. The input, known as a prompt in AI, can be either a question or a task that leads to the machine generating new content in the form of text, image, audio, or video. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Generative AI is that it can accumulate conversationally through a series of inputs and outputs to further refine the final product to the user’s wants and needs.

What Are the Security Concerns and Risks With AI?

As with anything related to data, the internet, and company policies: risks and security paramount. For instance, all data uploaded to ChatGPT may be used for further training of the model and may be leaked publicly and if an employee was to input private company data or other sensitive data to the platform it could potentially result in serious ramifications. However, with any new innovations that become available in the workplace, there is always a risk in being too late to the party with new technologies. If used safely and appropriately, programs like ChatGPT and other Generative AI tools can lead to significant competitive advantages in the marketplace.

It’s important to take a step back and consider what result is desired with the implementation of AI and is that goal feasibly accomplishable without the use of such technology. If AI is absolutely needed or could substantially improve upon the desired result, then it is worth evaluating the need for AI on an organizational level. Common things that go wrong when using AI tools are incorrect or nonsensical outputs, social manipulation, data breaches, and privacy violations. This technology can be misused either unintentionally or maliciously and it’s critical to have contingencies in place that prevent any form of misuse from occurring.

We also must remember that human error exists, so we must also understand that the possibility of error still exists when machines are built with algorithms intended to replicate human intelligence. Hallucinations are a phenomenon in Generative AI in which the technology generates false or misleading information presented as fact. If ChatGPT is asked a question, it’s natural response is to process that question through its artificial neural network and access the relevant data to help answer that question. Since the machine has access to virtually all of the available information in the world, it’s going to choose the response with highest statistical probability of being correct, but statistics are never absolute. This is why due diligence and fact verification are essential best practices when using AI.

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What Is the Place of AI in the Hospitality Industry?

Hospitality businesses are complex. They often operate in moving parts with large staffs and multiple integrated technologies and systems. AI is expected by many to incite a revolution that forces traditional, inefficient practices to be replaced by newer, more efficient ways of doing things. For a hotel, this could be as simple as chatbots that handle guest communications 24/7. It could also be used to screen guest communications and escalate qualified issues to a live human representative. This solution helps all guests feel equally attended to but also manages the workload of each staff member ensuring they are better equipped to handle the bigger issues. Additionally, for an elevated guest experience, is the ability for AI to personalize any conversation when it has access to the guest’s name and preferences.

While chatbots, personalized and generic, are proven and easily implemented in today’s world, there’ are many more ways to use AI to improve upon the traditional guest experience. Consider employing AI at a hotel with smart home technology that allows guests to voice activate lights and appliances. Think further beyond that to a branded concierge-like product that allows the guest to ask for recommendations, book appointments, and order meals as if it were a casual conversation with their own dedicated concierge.

Internally, AI might be something worth using for scheduling preventative maintenance or predicting other maintenance needs within the organization. It can also be used for evaluating and reducing the overall environmental impact of a hotel operation. AI can also be used for looking at trends to assist in decisions like pricing strategy. For example, the hospitality industry has had access to modernized pricing tools for optimized revenue generation for a while now but think about how much better it would be with AI predicting those trends and adjusting prices in real time without waiting for a pricing tool to analyze the data being fed to it.

What Does This Technology Mean for Jobs?

AI should be thought about in a way to enhance human ingenuity. It should not be something corporations consider as a replacement for human labor but rather a complimentary tool that allows employees to get their work done better and faster. Of course, better and faster completion of a job may lead to the lessened need for a human workforce, but it could also lead to completing more work with the same number of people that have increased productivity and efficiency with the use of AI.

There is no doubt that Generative AI and the possibilities that come with it will change the world. Knowing how to use it appropriately and responsibly is going to be paramount as we usher in a new age of improved production with this exciting technology.

Republished with permission from Hotel News Now (copyright, April 2024).

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