Laura Calin, Oracle’s Group Vice President of Global Hospitality Strategy & Solutions, talks ChatGPT, AI, and tech with Spa Executive.
Oracle is a cloud technology company based in Austin, Texas, that provides organizations with computing infrastructure and software to help them innovate, unlock efficiencies and become more effective. Founded in 1977 by Larry Ellison, Oracle is one of the largest computer-tech companies in the world, offering cloud, license, software and hardware services.
Oracle Hospitality property management and operations solutions connect event sales, guest rooms, management, and POS, delivering the integrations you need to create exceptional experiences, as well as human capital and marketing solutions. OPERA is the world’s leading property management solution, which helps hoteliers manage the many facets of their business, from reservations, sales, upselling, and catering, to helping deliver personalized guest service, increase profitability, and encourage loyalty.
Laura Calin is Oracle’s Group Vice President of Global Hospitality Strategy & Solutions. As a member of the senior leadership team, she is responsible for driving business and charting the direction of Oracle Hospitality’s cloud services and solution portfolio for the Hotels, Casinos, and Cruise verticals. With more than 25 years in the industry, beginning as a software developer, Ms. Calin is known as a strategic thinker and problem-solver.
We asked her about hospitality tech, ChatGPT and generative AI, and how these things are impacting the industry.
Can you please talk about how technology has changed the hotel and resort industry over the past few years?
We have seen a strong resurgence in the number of hotel guests as travelers headed back to leisure vacations and business trips, but still the industry does not look the same as it did before the pandemic. Innovations that were implemented as necessities at the height of COVID-19 have become mainstays, as guests have come to expect a more low-touch and streamlined experience.
In the post-pandemic landscape, every interaction is now an opportunity for hotels to prioritize guest convenience and choice by presenting upsell offerings, as well as ancillary products and services. Additionally, hotel staff want the same friendly user experience on professional software as they have on consumer software, which makes onboarding new staff easier than ever and saves a lot of time and effort for your veteran employees, too.
Everyone is talking about how ChatGPT and generative AI will transform industries. How will ChatGPT transform the hotel and resort sector?
The full impact of generative AI on the hospitality industry is still unknown, but it’s clear that it has the potential to disrupt the status quo. The biggest winners will be the guests, as their experiences could improve drastically across the entire travel journey as technology grows more intuitive.
How can AI and other tech help with hospitality marketing?
Hoteliers who successfully integrate and leverage their data through AI will be best positioned to provide accurate, relevant recommendations, resulting in unparalleled guest experiences. For example, generative AI can better help hotels determine what attributes a visitor values most, at what price, and at which point in their journey they are most likely to upgrade or request services. Training the AI on property-specific information like inventory, pricing, and availability with historical guest interaction data from a cloud-based PMS could help generate timely guest offers and increase upselling revenue significantly.
How does tech enhance the end-to-end guest experience?
Every touch point that is connected to a hotel’s property management system provides an opportunity to give the guest the ideal stay. We continue to see hotels leverage technology to not only increase operational and staff efficiency, but also meet changing guest expectations for a high-value, but relatively low-touch experience. To achieve this, hotels need to evolve away from rigid and siloed business models, blend accommodation styles, and focus on meeting and exceeding new guest expectations.
What are some concerns or pitfalls companies should be aware of with ChatGPT and other tech?
Many questions and challenges remain to be solved before generative AI becomes mainstream, including security, data privacy, and regulations. But regardless of how generative AI is received in the industry, the first step for hoteliers remains their transition to the cloud.
Do you think guests will ever be weary or concerned about “too much” technology in a hotel or resort?
In general, technology is most useful when it gives guests additional options or choices to choose from. For instance, there are many customers who still place an emphasis on in-person services and prefer to come into a hotel and check in with a receptionist at the desk. Other guests may prefer to do it all on their phones and simply pick up their key, or maybe they want to use a kiosk that can guide them through the check-in process with a real human nearby if they run into any errors or have questions throughout the process. So, the value of the technology is providing as many choices as possible and allowing each guest to choose what best serves their needs. We don’t want the technology to feel intrusive, it’s there to make lives easier.
How would you combat this feeling?
When providing technology solutions, it can be helpful to focus on removing friction by eliminating extraneous actions that are purely administrative and have no value to the guest, such as payments. For instance, a preferred property management solution would only need a guest’s credit card information entered once, and then moving forward it wouldn’t need to be reentered, saving time and making future transactions easier. In that way, removing a point of friction can be replaced with an interaction that actually adds value to the guest experience, such as greeting visitors, providing an update on the property, or outlining activities and special experiences that can create loyalty.
We have seen robots delivering food & beverages poolside. In your opinion, will robots ever be standing behind a front desk?
To date, the early attempts at replacing desk staff with robots haven’t been successful. See Japan’s Henn na Hotel as an example, where guests complained that robots at the front desk could not answer basic questions. Still, automation is very popular. Some guests prefer automated or contactless check in and check out experiences, and robots or kiosks can provide that option to guests.
Moving forward, I expect we’ll see more and more automation, which will allow hotel staff to focus more on soft skills, such as interpersonal customer service interactions where staff can immediately best serve the needs of the customer. Even as hotels and their staff focus on becoming more efficient, I think in an ideal world there is a hybrid workforce, where humans and machines are going to be providing optimal personalized experiences for the travelers.
What are you excited about in the world of hospitality tech right now?
I am most excited about the recent and ongoing developments of open integration platforms for the hospitality industry, and how it has opened a whole new world of opportunities for hoteliers. Technologies like the Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform (OHIP) have really changed the game, and helped alleviate what was the biggest pain point for hoteliers in recent years.
We’re seeing an explosion of innovation in the hospitality industry and that is why there are so many startups in the hospitality space right now. Previously, hotels would only connect to maybe five or 10 solutions that had been around forever because they were the only certified integration offerings. Now it’s fast and cheap to test new solutions in your PMS and, if it fails, it’s no big deal. In that, I see a big opportunity for the industry to implement new innovative solutions and really revolutionize the experience for guests and employees alike.
Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.