It’s incredible to think about how quickly Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gone from futuristic sounding theories in the pages of science fiction novels to real-world commercial applications. And it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the world of hotel management—where some of the brightest minds in the business are constantly working to innovate in an attempt to get an edge—that AI has quickly found a home in the world of hospitality.

Understanding the way AI is already being used, along with its still-largely-untapped future potential, can give us some important insights about where hotel management is today—and where it is headed in the years to come.

AI as a marketing tool

As the world has become almost exclusively digital, the volume of data that hotels now have access to (about their customers, the marketplace, the operational nuances of their own property) is vast—and growing. AI gives us the tools we can use to do something with that data; to make sense of the Big Data deluge and identify hidden patterns and potentially lucrative opportunities. AI tools are already being used to determine marketing budgets and optimum resource allocation, determining the most effective customer acquisition channels and calculating expected ROI for different marketing initiatives.

AI as a revenue management optimizer

AI tools and analytics platforms are extraordinarily effective at analyzing complex systems to determine the most efficient and effective way forward. This makes them superb revenue management tools. Predictive technology already allows leading hotel management firms to predict notoriously tricky fluctuations in demand and coordinate staffing accordingly, reducing labor costs, optimizing resource allocation and minimizing avoidable waste. As those tools become more refined, broad seasonal forecasts have already become more precise, allowing some properties to make daily—and even hourly—predictions. The best AI tools integrate a whole host of disparate variables, from occupancy patterns and competitor metrics, to market and seasonal dynamics, to optimize pricing, boost occupancy, and make smarter and more strategic decisions about how to set rate and maximize revenue.

AI as a service-enhancer

AI can beused to identify best guests and frequent travelers for targeted timely communications, and to create a more personalized hospitality experience. The ability to cater to individual guest preferences andcultivate a more personal, more welcoming, and consequently more memorable experience can be a critical differentiator at a time when hotel brands are constantly struggling to distinguish themselves in a crowded and competitive marketplace.Some hotel brands are using AI platforms to sort through large volumes of feedback consolidated from surveys, online reviews and independent ratings sites to ensure that negative issues are addressed quickly, identify patterns and be proactive about and guest preferences and priorities.

AI used to interact with guests

AI is being used to power direct messaging communications technologies and online engagement to answer guest questions. Whether it’s a call to the front desk or on inquiry through a website, social media channel, or mobile app, “chatbots” and other smart messaging tools can provide meaningful answers to questions from guests and potential guests. A timely response is expected by today’s guests and 24/7 vigilance would be nearly impossible with live human responses.

The fascinating thing about AI is that we are just now beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. While AI-enhanced automated engagement is able to answer basic questions and streamline some customer interactions, brands like Hilton have already conducted high-profile experiments with more responsive robot concierges and other automated service tools that not only interact with guests, but “learn” over time and become increasingly effective. Meanwhile, the behind-the-scenes insights and under-the-hood AI-powered marketing and revenue management tools are only going to become more refined, more powerful and more sophisticated in the years ahead.

Predicting demand. Personalizing service. Reducing costs. Enhancing efficiencies. It’s not hard to see why AI-powered platforms are proliferating—and why the future of hotel management will be characterized by the continued growth and evolution of valuable AI tools and technologies.