Sam Sugarman is senior vice-president of asset management at leading real estate private equity company Trinity Investments. As the hospitality industry, known for its personalised service, stands on the cusp of a technological transformation with AI, she explains how the new tech presents a unique opportunity to elevate the guest experience and optimise hotel operations, and gives valuable insights into AI’s adoption and its role in driving revenue growth.

Cautious embrace: understanding the lag in AI adoption

While AI has taken root in many industries, hospitality seems to be lagging behind. Sugarman attributes this to several factors. “Primarily, hospitality remains a high-touch industry, which many fear AI could compromise. Financial concerns also play a role, with AI implementation requiring significant investment in technology and training,” she explains.

“Additionally, integrating AI with the multitude of existing systems could pose challenges, and there are concerns about data privacy and security.”

Sugarman adds that the industry is grappling with a talent shortage in AI expertise “with high turnover and organisational resistance to change.”

Finally, there’s the question of guest perception, “especially if not implemented correctly or if implemented with poor UX [user experience],” she cautions.

A personalisation powerhouse: AI tailors guest experiences

Despite these challenges, AI offers substantial benefits for guest personalisation.

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“AI’s ability to customise experiences by predicting preferences from prior behaviours or from similar guest profiles is particularly valuable for resorts with a wide range of offerings,” highlights Sugarman. By analysing past behaviour and similar profiles, AI can curate experiences before, during and after a stay.

“AI potentially enables more accurate suggestions for activities, upgrades and experiences tailored to individual guests, moving beyond the limitations of generic welcome letters before arrival,” she suggests.

This targeted approach enhances satisfaction and fosters loyalty. Guests receive offerings aligned with their interests, leading to a more memorable stay and increased spending on amenities.

Beyond hospitality: AI as a revenue generator

AI’s impact goes beyond guest experience. It plays a significant role in boosting hotel revenue. 

“AI’s role in fine-tuning ad impressions and conversions is just the beginning,” says Sugarman. “With upcoming enhancements, we’re looking at even sharper personalisation and targeting strategies, ramping up the efficacy of our digital marketing investments to secure a solid return on investment )ROI) on every dollar.”

Sugarman predicts a surge in conversion rates and guest engagement as AI masters seasonal trends and market nuances.

“Likewise, in revenue management, the integration of AI with predictive analytics is set to revolutionise profit optimisation, offering more precise forecasting capabilities. This evolution promises not just growth but a smarter, more strategic approach to our financial goals.”

A glimpse into the AI-powered future

Looking ahead, Sugarman envisions a future where AI elevates both efficiency and personalisation. 

“Chatbots will soon handle not just FAQs [frequently asked questions] but also tailor recommendations, freeing up staff for higher-level tasks,” she predicts.

Marketing will also be transformed. “Marketing will get a boost from AI, using data analysis to send guests bespoke offers, enhancing loyalty and ROI,” says Sugarman. 

Predictive analytics will also streamline operations. From setting optimal room rates to anticipating maintenance needs and ensuring accurate staff scheduling, AI will contribute to a smooth guest experience and higher profitability.

Imagine smart rooms that automatically adjust to personal preferences, offering unparalleled comfort. This is the future envisioned by Sugarman, where AI empowers the hospitality industry to deliver a truly exceptional guest experience.