Amazon in deal with Marriott to make Alexa a ‘virtual concierge’ in hotel rooms
The program offers the potential for better customer experiences, but privacy concerns could slow deployment.
Amazon has announced a deal with Marriott hotels to put Echo devices in rooms to act as a “virtual concierge.” Marriott had been testing the new service, called “Alexa for Hospitality,” which enables hotel customers to order room service, contact housekeeping for additional towels, check out or talk to the concierge — essentially replacing the in-room telephone.
Marriott told Reuters the rollout will begin this summer at Marriott’s “select” properties (e.g., Courtyard, Four Points). But Amazon wants to put these devices in more hotel chains and vacation rentals around the globe.
Services and capabilities can be customized and do a broad range of things: “Alexa simplifies tasks for guests like playing music, ordering towels, controlling in-room temperature or lighting, finding local restaurants and attractions, calling, and even checking out. Alexa makes delivering a great customer experience simple.”
Some hotels have implemented messaging for some of these services (e.g., checkout), but a voice-controlled experience would be more user-friendly and offer a broader range of capabilities. Indeed, virtually every system and appliance in the hotel room (i.e., lights, thermostat, TV) could potentially be controlled by Alexa.
Amazon says that users will also be able to connect to their own Amazon accounts in hotel rooms, “allowing them to call personal contacts, play their favorite music, and listen to Audible audiobooks.” The company is also encouraging hotel properties to build custom skills: “Create a differentiated experience by building a skill that lets guests naturally access property information, services, and amenities.”
Hotels will get access to a dashboard with analytics about guest engagement and other data. The downside that both Marriott and Amazon will need to overcome is potential guest concern over privacy or that in-room conversations or activities are being captured or recorded. Every press mention or TV feature about the new program will come with this caveat.
The hospitality program is a subset of Amazon/Alexa for Business. Hotels (right now by invitation) can use any of the Echo family of devices to implement the program. Accordingly, Amazon anticipates bulk orders of Echo devices. To give you a sense of scale, there are roughly 5 million hotel rooms in the US alone, according to STR Global.
Marriott International is the largest hotel chain in the world, with roughly 30 brands, approaching 6,000 properties in more than 100 countries. Users exposed to Alexa in hotel rooms, who don’t own one of these devices at home, might then be inclined to go and purchase one. So, it becomes a kind of global marketing channel for Amazon as well.