by Robert McGarvey
The first batch of Alexa hotel skills is showing up in the Amazon library and the blunt question is: are they worth your time and bandwidth to download?
I am a big Alexa fan – there are three in my apartment, all different models – and have urged its adoption in everything from hospitality to banking. Sure, I know the privacy concerns and I still say the cure is when you are having a convo you want to stay secret – really secret – unplug Alexa. Poof, end of concerns. I have never done that so assume what you will about my life.
In hotels I am very excited about the possibility that, soon, we will get answers not by calling the front desk or thumbing through an often out of date and neglected and incomplete hotel guest services guide, but by asking Alexa.
Alexa, can I have more towels? Will you turn down the room temperature three degrees? Alexa, set a wakeup call for 6 a.m.
At home I use Alexa – and also Google Home (Siri is seriously bad, imo; I never use it anymore) – to give me lots of info (what’s the weather? Will it rain today?) and also to perform simple tasks (turn on the living room light) and play music. I can also ask for BBC news briefs.
There are reasons to be optimistic about voice controls in hotel rooms. Lots of big players – Marriott included – have pilots. At least one third party developer – Volara – has taken big steps in making Alexa real and useful in hotel rooms.
So I was excited to see that at least some hotels now have their own Alexa skills – meaning you go to an Amazon page, click on the skill and the enable button and suddenly you have controls at a hotel.
Or don’t you?
This Hotel Business story really awoke my interest: Red Roof Intros Amazon Alexa Skills Technology.
What’s important is that it is next gen. It puts the Alexa hotel skill not only in the hotel room, but in your home and office. For frequent guests at a particular chain or property, this could be a game changer.
Of course I immediately enabled the skill and got busy asking Alexa questions.
The Red Roof skill did not perform well, by my scoring. The problem: a limited set of abilities.
I asked where the nearest Red Roof was. It told me to log into the website.
I asked how many locations Red Roof has. It told me over 500, then made a silly joke (“they all are special to me and call me on my birthday”) It finished by telling me – you guessed it – to go to the website “to find an inn.”
The Hotel Business piece flagged this particular skill, do you have any deals? So I tried that. It told me to go to the website.
What did Red Roof hope to accomplish with this Alexa skill? Hotel Business has the answer: “As consumers continue to rely more heavily on technology in their daily routines at home, we created the Red Roof skill for Amazon Alexa in the spirit of added convenience and ability to deliver important, decision-driving information directly to current and future guests,” said Kevin Scholl, director of digital marketing and partnerships, Red Roof. “Our technology is living and we’ll continue to add information to best support users based on consumer demand and aim to provide booking capabilities in the future.”
We’ll see about that last bit because the Red Roof skill really, really needs new powers. It’s a rather lame skill right now.
A more fun Alexa skill is Lake View Country House – in Windmere, England, Wordsworth country. Ask how to get to the house – it even gives bus numbers from a nearby train station! It will tell you what room availability is on a particular date. It will not tell you prices, however, and neither will it accept bookings via Alexa. But for a one-off country house in the Lake District, it’s a fun skill.
There really aren’t hotel skills much of use on the Alexa skills page.
It’s a better verdict for Flight Finders.
There you’ll find Kayak, United, Korean Air, Heathrow, Philadelphia Airport, and a few more. They all have some uses.
Also with Alexa skills are travel advice company Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a growing number of concierge type services, and lots of information based skills.
Bottomline: Alexa is getting more robust. Can you truly plan and book a business trip using only it? Not now. But soon. Very soon.
Skills have to become much more powerful. But they will. They will.
How cool is that?
But I’m a sucker for anything that lets me dodge calling the front desk. How about you?