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Tourism robotics and human capital innovation: Marriott’s case

As a labor-intensive service sector, the hotel industry has long been troubled by the shortage of human capital. Factors like high personnel mobility, inadequate night service staff and uneven personnel quality have added to the difficulties of quality control in hotel services. Given the rising demand for contactless services during COVID-19, the incompetency of traditional hotels in delivering intelligent services has been fully exposed. In the context of consumption upgrade, there is a clearer trend toward 24/7, customized and real-time hotel services. Delivering better services and building popular brands provide an effective means for the hotel industry to enhance its competitiveness. The advent of the AI era has pointed the direction for hotels to overcome its human capital challenge and provided the technological underpinning for enhancing the service capability of hotels. Marriott has been endeavoring to overcome the limitation of traditional service model with intelligent applications and raise the satisfaction and loyalty of Marriott customers. The main objectives of the initiative are to enhance the capability of front-line services; deliver smooth customer services throughout the process and ensure targeted marketing management. Since the initiative started to be implemented in 2019 the use of robots in front-line services has increased the contact points between hotels and residents, expanded the scope of contactless services, eliminated the blind spots in guest services, and put in place a two-way communication channel covering the whole business process, while reducing the size of service personnel. With the use of Pepper robots, Marriott is now able to provide high-quality guest services around the clock, and the night service is no longer dependent on the double-shift of hotel staff. Also, ChatBotlr answers most of the customer inquiries and makes recommendations in real time. With reduced amount of repetitive work, the front desk staff now have more time to serve the personalized demands of hotel guests, and the efficiency of the workforce has notably improved. Marriott has adopted multiple ways to streamline the complicated process of hotel booking, payment, check-in and checkout, and provided cardless access to hotel guests through its service Apps. With regards to the improvement of customer services, the information and data contributed by robots have provided an important underpinning for re-engineering the hotel service process and optimizing human capital management. By avoiding the drawbacks of the traditional model of department-based guest services, a supply system has been put in place, which responds to customer needs, dispatches hotel resources in real time, and attends to every detail of hotel services. At the same time, the online platform of smart hotels has expanded the service scenes of hotels and enabled real-time, sophisticated and smooth service experience for guests. For example, Marriott guests can now send their requests by SMS to ChatBotlr. The Marriott chatbots on Slack, Facebook and other social media platforms also provide guests with exclusive services through multiple channels. Before guests arrive in the hotel, the chatbot makes room recommendations based on their check-in time and number of persons and send information about the restaurants and attractions in the neighborhood to the guests. During check-in, the HDL intelligent control system makes connection with the TV, lighting, music, air conditioning and other service facilities, and collects information of the hotel rooms to provide guests with more targeted and convenient services; the “Smart Interactive Experience Room” allows guests to tailor in-room amenities to their individual needs through voice control or mobile Apps. After check-out, the chatbot reaches the customers to give out coupons and other rewards and get their feedback in the form of questionnaire, replacing the old-fashioned way of text messages and emails. For improving targeted marketing management- Marriott has set up the MLive platform to monitor real-time data on social media through multiple screens and predict new marketing trends. The platform supports marketers in developing new and creative promotional initiatives and building closer ties with customers through efficient communication. In Marriott’s offi cial direct sales channel, the hotels provide guaranteed best rates in order to access the spending and personal information of some of the guests. Through real-time interaction with hotel guests, ChatBotlr creates accurate customer profiles, and sends personalized service information and recommendations for promotions to them after learning about their preferences, thus increasing the chances of marketing conversion. Marriott is now providing online virtual experiences and travel ordering services. In 2019, Marriott launched the Bonvoy Traveler program, which integrates the tourism resources of all countries and regions where Marriott hotels are located to provide a unique travel experience in the destinations for hotel members. The hotel guests can make travel plans and order services on their own based on the information, thus reducing the need for consultation with hotel staff. The Marriott Bonvoy™ Moments program provides its members with an exclusive VIP experience that enhances the value of travel by creating unforgettable memories. The platform recommends hotels in the surrounding area based on the information of the destination, allowing guests to purchase hotel products and redeem experience events. It does not only use hotel resources as an attraction point but combines the hotel’s own resources with the local tourism resources, making the online platform a gateway for interested customers and saving the hotel’s marketing costs. Finally, VRoom virtual travel service, which was launched based on Teleporter, allows hotel guests to order VR devices to their rooms, and enjoy an immersive experience of travelers’ stories through the “VR postcard” provided by the hotels.