Staff and specialist shortages are not temporary challenges that can be overcome by good personnel marketing. Efforts to make the industry more attractive are right and important, but not sufficient to counter the problem. A fundamental restructuring in the hotel industry seems necessary. But to do so, the understanding of technologies must first change.
The rapid advances of AI systems have caused a stir around the world in recent months. People's opinions and attitudes toward the use of these systems could not be more different. They range from enthusiasm to indifference to fear and rejection. However, the introduction of ChatGPT has clearly shown that the development is real and cannot be stopped. What remains an open question is how technological advances can be leveraged for the hospitality industry in the context of staffing shortages.
What is AI, anyway?
It is often mistakenly assumed that AI is exclusively holistic systems or humanoid robots. This notion comes from science fiction movies or popular science media, which convey the idea of artificial intelligence as a human-like being.
In reality, AI refers to a collection of technologies that enable computers to perform complex tasks normally reserved for human intelligence. These technologies are based on statistical methods, machine learning, and big data analysis. For example, AI systems can translate texts, perform speech recognition, recognize patterns in data, and make decisions.
Concrete application scenarios in the hotel industry have already been highlighted in the previous blog post. Chatbots for guest communication, systems for waste and resource management or - as in the case of Hotellistat - AI-supported recommendations for pricing and responding to guest reviews are examples.
Impact of the use of AI systems on human resources and the working environment in the hotel industry
Clearly, when AI systems are used, time savings occur. Technology takes over tasks that previously took human resources. This allows staff to have time to once again provide guests with personalized high-touch service. AI systems should not be seen as a substitute for labor. After all, the hotel industry is a service-oriented industry where the guest experience and personal contact are paramount. A lack of staff has a direct negative impact on guest satisfaction.
But AI systems also play a crucial role in employee satisfaction. This is because the systems can relieve employees of physically stressful, monotonous and repetitive tasks. By putting the focus back on the core competencies of "being a host," the job becomes more attractive. Of course, jobs and job titles will also change, as the use of AI will eliminate areas of responsibility and replace them with, for example, monitoring functions of the systems.
When AI systems are used, costs can be saved and revenues increased through process optimization. The technologies can work around the clock, do not need vacations and the running costs are usually low. Cost savings achieved as a result can in turn be passed on to staff and ensure fair wage levels. This would allow the hotel industry to once again distinguish itself from other industries in the current competition for personnel.
However, it must not be forgotten in this train of thought that the role of technology must be reflected in the budget planning of hotels. Those who want to adapt to the current staffing situation and rely on automation and digitization must assume that these will initially involve monetary investments.
We are in a VUCA world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and we must continuously adapt to new developments. Every hotel is different, and accordingly the AI-based tech stack that can or must be deployed to operate in a service-oriented and commercially successful manner in the future will look different. However, it is undisputed that AI systems already offer significant advantages for the hotel industry and hoteliers should seize the opportunity to use them for themselves.