My wife is a frequent business traveler, and before I could even finish asking her if she’d like Alexa in her hotel room, she answered “Hell yeah.” Evidently, her first impulse upon walking into her hotel room is to ask Alexa what time it is, and what the weather will be the next day. If she could order up room service — she’d be all set.
So it appears that Amazon is on to something with its new Alexa for Hospitality program. Amazon’s virtual assistant will be available this summer in select Marriott, Westin, and St. Regis hotels, among others.
Alexa enabled rooms will allow guests to play music, find local businesses, order room service, contact housecleaning, call the front desk, check out and more all by just asking. Amazon says that soon guests will be able to connect their own Alexa accounts so they can call contacts, access personal music and listen to their audiobooks.
Hanging over all this is whether you want an always-listening device in your hotel room. And that is a legitimate concern, but here at The Spoon, we’re most interested in the eating part of Alexa for Hospitality and where that will go.
At its most basic, the ability to order room service through Alexa is pretty cool! And this could be an easy way for hotels to increase the amount of money guests spend on food. Each time a guest walks into a room or wakes up or asks Alexa a question is an opportunity for the hotel to advertise a happy hour, wine tasting or other experience that involves spending money.
There’s also an opportunity to upsell guests as they order room service (“Would you like to add a glass of wine with that?”) And while the data hotels collect from Alexa will be anonymized and aggregated, creating an Alexa skill tied to loyalty or rewards programs could yield even more opportunities for personalization when you can connect your account to the hotel Echo.
As with most things with Amazon, Alexa for Hospitality isn’t just about selling a bunch of devices to hotels. It’s about broadening Amazon’s ecosystem to get you to use more of its services.
So consider what Alexa devices in hotel rooms could do for Amazon’s restaurant delivery business. You could ask Alexa for a local Thai restaurant recommendation, and have that food delivered to your door.
This assumes, of course, that hotels allow that type of functionality. They may be inclined to block food ordering from outside restaurants and drive you to the hotel eatery’s $25 cheeseburger.
But money talks, yadda yadda, if Amazon figured out a way for the hotel to wet their beak on the outside delivery transaction, management could probably find a way to make it happen. In fact, funneling all of the guests through Alexa to order food from the outside could ensure that the hotel gets a cut of every transaction instead of missing out as people just order food on their own through Grubhub or UberEats or Dominoes.
Given the popularity of virtual assistants, I wouldn’t be surprised if they became as standard as mini-bars in hotel rooms. With the ability to add skills that increase revenue and choice for the guests? That could have everyone saying “hell yeah.”