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Select Marriott Hotels Have a New Permanent Guest: Alexa


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As emerging technologies become more and more a part of our everyday lives, the hospitality sector is following suit. Starting this summer, Marriott International is rolling out Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality, a version of the Amazon Echo specifically for hotel rooms.

The device will enable guests to call the front desk, order amenities or room service, inquire about the local attractions and adjust features in the room such as the lighting and temperature. Starting properties include the Marriott City Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Marriott Irvine Spectrum in California, and St. Regis in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Alexa for Hospitality is a choice for our consumers to have a more seamless way to connect with our desk and with our services we provide,” said Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of customer experience innovation at Marriott International.

When asked how the partnership came about, she explained that voice technology is something that emerged strongly last year, and Marriott wanted to explore how this could be used in hospitality. “We did an initial exploration with a few partners, and Amazon was one of them,” said Hsieh. “From that early work we saw Amazon really work towards identifying a hospitality-appropriate version of voice technology.”

What if hotel guests feel uncomfortable about having a robot-like device that talks to you in their private space? No problem—Alexa is always an option for guests. “If for any reason the guest doesn’t want to have Alexa in the room, they can have it removed easily,” said Hsieh.

To further address privacy concerns, Hsieh noted the default function for Alexa in hotel rooms will be “mute,” so guests will have to activate the device if they wish to engage. Amazon has also “put in place some pretty robust methodologies” to ensure privacy, including the deletion of recorded utterances on a daily basis, ensuring hotels do not have access to these utterances, and that Amazon does not have access to guest information.

“For Marriott, privacy is a top priority,” said Hsieh. All Marriott gets from Alexa are “aggregated, anonymized reports, such as ‘33 percent of your guests have asked about location of the nearest restaurant,’” she said. This helps Marriott better understand where gaps in their services are.

Additionally, Marriott is opening it up to each of its hotels to let them make the decision on whether or not they want to invest in Alexa for Hospitality. The cost of the initiative was not disclosed, but Hsieh confirmed it’s up to each of their properties to decide on implementing Amazon’s technology.

“For hotels in Silicon Valley, it might be a really good decision, whereas hotels in really tertiary markets, they may not choose to do the investment,” she said. Marriott will not be asking their locations to make any renovations specific to Alexa for Hospitality.

As of now, consumers cannot connect their personal accounts to Alexa for Hospitality to play their own music or call personal contacts. However, Hsieh did note information from Amazon saying this is expected to happen later this year.

This feature also seems convenient for partnering with third-party delivery companies, but Hsieh explained that Amazon’s device is only to access current services that Marriott brands offer.

“If in the future a hotel has a partnership with a third-party delivery provider, and someone would typically call the front desk to order, the Alexa device is just another way to do that,” she said.

While some may love this new ease brought on by advancing technology, others might not be thrilled about another device possibly listening in. At least it’s just an option—for now.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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