Marriott Puts Alexa in Hotel Rooms
In June Amazon launched Alexa for Hospitality, and announced Marriott as the product’s launch partner. Marriott has chosen the Charlotte, NC Marriott as one of two test locations, the other is the Marriott Irvine Spectrum in Los Angeles. The Charlotte Marriott began offering Alexa services last week, and the Marriott Irvine Spectrum will roll out Alexa at the end of the month.
Users will be able to ask Alexa to control room temperature, lighting, the TV, play music, set an alarm, give weather updates, travel updates, order room service, housekeeping, call reception, and check out. Amazon writes on its website,
Alexa for Hospitality integrates seamlessly with your existing amenities and services to become your guests’ virtual concierge.
Hotels Turn to Alexa
Including voice assistants in hotel guest rooms has been discussed for quite some time, and both Marriott and Alexa have a history of working towards that goal. In 2016 the Wynn Las Vegas said they would have an Amazon Echo in every Las Vegas Hotel room by the Summer of 2017. During the Fall of 2017 Marriott announced a joint venture with Alibaba to include the Tmall Genie in 100,000 Marriott Hotel Rooms. The Wynn Las Vegas not only made use of Alexa for Hospitality, but Alexa for Business as well, in order to have a back-end dashboard able to control multiple Echos and perform tasks catered specifically to their company using Amazon Web Services.
Intrusive or Innovative?
Not everyone is as excited about the inclusion of voice assistants in hotel rooms as Amazon and Marriott, however. Some potential guests feel that the inclusion is intrusive, offers very little benefit and lots of privacy concern. This is why guests will be able to choose whether or not they would like to share a room with Alexa and can also request that the Echo speaker be taken out of their room. To address these privacy concerns, Amazon says they will delete all recorded conversations at the end of each day, that hotels will not be able to access voice recordings, and that no personal information needs to be shared in order to use the Echo. Security concerns prompted Senators Chris Coon, D-Del., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to write an open letter to Jeff Bezos demanding more information on the security of the Alexa platform.
In addition to privacy concerns from guests, workers at Marriott hotels have very loudly voiced their disapproval of the inclusion, because it would risk their job security. A New York Times article in September discussed the stress Marriott workers feel over the inclusion of Alexa in Marriott Hotels, and the automation of jobs in the hospitality industry in general. An excerpt states:
Maria Mendiola, a concierge at the San Jose Marriott, frets that Amazon’s agreement to deploy its Echo device in hotel rooms across Marriott’s properties will eventually make her position pointless. ‘Alexa might do my job in the future,’ she said.
In response, a Marriott spokeswoman said that the chain was not deploying technology in order to eliminate workers, and instead was “personalizing the guest experience and enhancing the stay.”
After this piece was released, thousands of Marriott hotel workers went on strike over their concerns of job loss due to automation, in addition to improvement in working conditions and better pay.
It Makes Sense, Though
Marriott’s solution to the Alexa controversy is to let consumers decide. The trial period in Charlotte will allow the company to see if Alexa will be rejected by hotel guests or utilized enough to be deemed a worthy investment going forward. The negative reactions from consumers and staff alike could end up being unwarranted and just another example of the initial friction that happens when a new technology enters a new market. It could be that hotel guests like asking Alexa to turn on the TV or adjust the temperature with voice commands and it could be that hotel employees like the decrease in calls from hotel guests about how to turn on the tv or how to use the room thermometer. But what really matters to Marriott and Amazon is if and how much hotel guests engage with Alexa during their stay. That is what will determine the scope and size of their partnership going forward. Not media hype. It’s truly up to the guests of the Marriott in Charlotte, North Carolina.