Scheduled for: Interviews/ Category:
With nearly every hospitality organization discussing the implementation of AI-powered technology in 2024, is the AI revolution really needed? And if so, how can organizations best use the wide range of AI technologies for each of their business goals and objectives?
President, ProVision Partners International [Linkedin Link]
David Chestler is recognized as an icon of the global hospitality and travel industry, having forged a successful career in hotel technology that spans over three decades. He currently serves as President of ProVision Partners International, Inc, a hotel and travel consultancy and marketing firm that he co-founded in 2019. Since beginning his career in hospitality in 1989 with Utell International, Chestler has held leadership roles with some of the industry’s most prominent organizations, where he consistently delivered global scale and growth by developing high performance teams focused on complex technology solutions.
SVP Strategic Marketing, ProVision Partners International [Linkedin Link]
A veteran of the B2B travel and hospitality technology industries, Andrea has developed and implemented successful, comprehensive integrated marketing and communications initiatives for high-growth organizations around the globe, from technology startups to established Fortune 500 public companies. As president of her own PR and marketing agency for over two decades before joining ProVision Partners in 2021, Andrea led the PR, advertising and marketing programs for a “who’s who” of global hospitality technology solution providers, industry associations, resorts and destinations.
Kim Lantis: Hello and welcome to dojo.live this Thursday, January 11th, 2024. My name is Kim Lantis and I’m super excited to be hosting the conversation today that we’re having. We’re kicking off a five-part series on the show, a collaboration between dojo.live and ProVision Partners. It’s all about “Doing More in ‘24” and identifying how to take the next step with AI. Here to kick it off with me I have ProVision individuals David Chestler as well as Andrea Mane. David is the President of ProVision Partners and Andrea is their SVP of Strategic Marketing. David, Andrea, thank you so much for joining us today on dojo.live.
Andrea Mane: You’re welcome, we’re excited to be here.
David Chestler: Thanks for having us.
Kim Lantis: I’m super excited. You know, throughout this series we’re going to be looking to answer and help companies, hospitality companies in particular, achieve a couple things, right? I understand that to be, first and foremost, how to proactively prepare their organizations for AI planning and deployment which can feel a little overwhelming.
We’re also looking how to establish AI infrastructure, making it efficient, scalable, well-managed, future-proof – I love that word! Determining the best paths forward – if that means a build versus buy model… and, of course, techniques for delivering such tangible business values, fostering trust across the organization, and a whole lot of things!
Before we dive in more to what we’re going to be talking about in this series, we would love to kind of get to know the two of you a bit better. If you could please just share a bit of your background, your passion in travel and hospitality, and what sort of led up to ProVision Partners.
David Chestler: Ladies first.
Kim Lantis: Alright, Andrea! [laughs]
Andrea Mane: I have been in the hospitality industry on the PR/marketing side of B2B Hotel Technologies for more decades than I would like to admit on a public channel like this… but I joined ProVision Partners after several decades of having my own PR marketing company. I’m happy to be with this magnificent group of consultants who are very knowledgeable about the industry and we’re excited to be here to talk about AI because we’re passionate about new technologies and innovations for our industry. AI has, of course, become the most powerful tool that we have out there right now and there are many, many uses of it. We’re excited to hear David’s take on that today.
Kim Lantis: Yeah!
David Chestler: Thank you. ProVision, we’re kind of player/coaches. We were formed, all of us came from the industry, we’ve had successful pre-lives, and we came together with the thought that we can be more outcome focused, truly on hospitality and travel. We have the marketing/PR/media side which Andrea runs. We also have a consultancy which Sally Kelly and Greg Pesik, who’s one of the founders, run. They have phenomenal depth of both character and skill. We came together, again, because we had this vision that back in the day it used to be you hire IBM and you know you won’t fail. Well nowadays a lot of companies look to large consultancies, and we felt that creating more of a boutique style, like a law firm almost – focused purely on Travel and Hospitality – where we have the depth of resources globally to help private equity, asset owners and investors, operational and vendor companies that have gotten the proof of concept and need to scale beyond that or are legacy and have gotten to that S curve where it starts to trend down and they need to turn it up, right? That’s something that we try and help with – being transformational.
A lot of people talk about revolutionary changes. We like more of a renaissance, where we can actually help you focus on a transformation, the skill that it takes, knowing where the landing is going to be, right? A lot of those things are critical areas of focus that we help bring to companies. Again, operators, owners, and similar. So, as a consultancy, we believe that we’re more aligned with that outcome, success-driven focus than trying to get more hours, right?
Kim Lantis: I love it. I love it. You know, you used a really interesting word in your introduction of ProVision, and that was Revolution. A sort of Revolution versus Renaissance. It brings me to my first question for the both of you today and that is this “AI Revolution” And I think the first question is, you know, we hear it everywhere – and my question is, if it’s really needed? I mean, I get this understanding that, particularly in the hospitality industry, right, that AI Tech is something that everyone’s going to be trying to implement in 2024. And so, my question is, why? Why is it needed?
David Chestler: Well, AI’s been around for years, just so you know. And there’s a number of different variations of AI. The one that caught everyone’s attention and was a lightning bolt was this Generative AI thing. Let me also just state for the record, there’s no sentient robot that’s going to come out and attack everyone, right? They’re not going to check you in. They’re not going to watch you while you’re sleeping. Sentient beings don’t exist. The focus on AI and Artificial Intelligence, of which there’s many permutations, right? Conversational AI is one, the chat bot, the Learning AI, right?
The generative is the one that takes all of that knowledge and is able to produce fresh content. And all of a sudden that got everyone excited because they started running their speeches through it or doing their research. That was great. Running code through it and API. That’s the progression. And with computer vision, which I think is going to be important, robotics, right? Machine Learning which we’re all using in Large Language Models that we talk about. The Deep Learning that was necessary with Predictive Analytics, right? These are all components of AI. Fuzzy logic expert systems.
So, the focus on it right now is really that excitement of the computer generating stuff on its own. And I think the thing that we keep proselytizing is that no one’s really going to lose their job to an AI computer. It’s the potential of someone using AI more effectively than you and they will take better advantage of the market and the conditions than you can and it’s that ability to amplify or augment your skill set, your knowledge, the awareness, the testing, all of the things, either internal facing analysis or external for the personalization and customer. That’s what we’re kind of getting to. How can we deploy it? That’s the excitement of what AI has brought.
But it’s also created, and Andrea and I talk about it frequently, this AI washing, right? Where I’m going to put AI into everything I do – my investment decks, my promotional material. The thing that we want to make sure everyone’s aware of is that AI is a technology. And as we found with security and the whole rush to PCI and the controls that we put in, where we tried to lock down data, right? We created roles specifically for that – the CISO. And this security officer was able to then bring a broader focus to how do we deploy, not just once, but over and over. And that’s what I think we’re trying to make sure people think about AI in the right context. It’s a technology. It needs to be deployed. Are we looking across the organization and our customers, colleagues, and business operations and figuring out how do we deploy it? And that’s the area we’re trying to get everyone to focus on.
Kim Lantis: I think that makes a lot of sense. What do you see with AI as the most practical applications in the hospitality industry as it stands right now? Maybe what might be the top three that organizations might be interested in grabbing on to or getting ahead of the curve? Because if you don’t do it then somebody else is going to do it better, like we were talking about. There’s no robot coming to steal my job but somebody who utilizes the technology better than me will!
Andrea Mane: Absolutely.
David Chestler: Yep.
Kim Lantis: So, you know, a hotel who’s using a technology better than my hotel will beat me out.
David Chestler: It’s being used now. Fraud detection is probably a great way that it’s being deployed quickly to analyze. Predictive maintenance. Revenue management right now is very popular. You have almost this dichotomy of full automation versus “hoomans” [humans] involved, right? And how much do I trust what the system is telling me for dynamic pricing? And with attribute distribution coming it’s going to get even more complex because I need to now have the ability to count the number of rooms, the types of rooms, the attributes per room, and I need to dynamically manage that with rate inclusions and attributes, and other things to do… Oh my God!
And these are guys that have been using spreadsheets for years that are now getting into automation that’s maybe 45% penetrated in the market. So now you have automation revenue management. You have chatbots and virtual assistance. That’s another way it’s being utilized right now. And then personalization… So that’s the outward-facing way to start using AI: that I can now start understanding my customer, giving them what they want. I know it’s a business guy, not a family – all those types of things that allow me to start to make you think I know you.
Kim Lantis: I love it. “To make you think I know you.” And I think it kind of goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning of the show with the Generative AI as what really got people excited. And to me I think it comes down to the tangibility of it and the interactive nature of it, right? The “human” component to Artificial Intelligence I think is what we’re really connecting with.
Andrea Mane: Right.
Kim Lantis: And I think that’s part of what’s going on here. How have you seen that play out, Andrea, in terms of just marketing or making me think that you know me?
Andrea Mane: Well, I think it’s helping us to know our customers better. And on the hospitality side, that is what hospitality is all about: knowing your customer, knowing what their needs are, what they want from their stay. And I think on the guest facing side, that is working splendidly. We have clients that are using it for interactive chat that’s generating responses to reviews and things like that and guest requests. And then that dovetails into the operational side, on the back of house side, that’s helping staff do their jobs better. So, the beauty of AI is that diversity, I think, of how it can be used in hospitality.
Kim Lantis: Mmhmm. To create truly “the home away from home” that we strive for.
Andrea Mane: Right. And it’s giving guests that peace of mind that, “Yes, this property does know me and they’re meeting my needs,” and it’s increasing guest satisfaction, which is really what it all comes down to, that is, pleasing the guest.
Kim Lantis: So, we’ve touched on a lot here on the variety of applications of AI within the hospitality industry. I guess the next question is, amongst this whole variety and to avoid, I think you said the term was “AI washing,” how can we make sure that our business goals and objectives are aligning with these trends? Or even choose maybe which trend is best for us at any given moment? Or where we should focus our efforts?
Andrea Mane: Right. Well, I’ll let David speak to that a little bit but that kind of goes into the whole Design Led Thinking that we are proponents of. Back to your point, Kim, from the beginning. Do we need AI? Yes, I think most companies do need some level of AI to help them increase revenue, guest satisfaction, that sort of thing. But what do they need? And it’s getting to that, “What do I need?” because there is a diverse range of AI Technologies.
Kim Lantis: Exactly. And I know we are going to deep dive into this in two weeks from now with Design Led Thinking and with Sally, but let’s touch on it a little bit, throw out that bone there. How can we align the AI trends with our business goals?
David Chestler: Well, if you think about Idea Led Thinking, right, or Design Led Thinking, it really is taking that empathy that we have for guests and colleagues and better exploring how we’re providing said services. So where are the touch points that we need to focus on? And that’s why we kind of like the idea of breaking down the silos.
There was an interesting – Airbnb, I think you’ve heard of this company? One of the things that Mr. Chesky announced in one of his earnings calls was that they were breaking down the silos of Product Marketing and blending that into Marketing and Sales because the understanding of the product and the ability to deliver said service that is desired, that’s all planning. And how do I optimize it for the guest? For the colleague as well? And in using empathy in the design phase and doing the testing so that we understand the real core requirements that are needed, right? That’s why we said taking the silos down. If I have Sales, and Marketing, and IT Operations all working together, recognizing marketecture is changing – because how I recognize a credential, Web3, all these things, are starting to really transform how we recognize loyal, or even recognize a previous guest.
Retargeting that’s being done in SEO and SEM, all of that is how we get to the guest and how do we personalize. But then, how do we optimize those offers? How do we go back into the operation and see what is being requested and be able to select the right packages, right? The right offering? Provide the right imagery or the text? And a lot of that is going to be kind of designed by this core group looking at where the touch points are. Is it, again, outward facing? Is it inward facing? And how do I then generate those results through modeling and evaluation that enable me to get validation in my deployment.
And that’s what we’re trying to help organizations understand; not just “I’m going to put a chat bot up.” You might provide a bad experience there if you’re not answering the right questions. If you’re not training the API bots and similar how to operate within this environment – what’s right. An example, a while ago there was a death in the family, and I had to book a group of rooms. And in doing it, the conversational AI was very inappropriate and did not enable me to ask for the agent to help me to secure the multiple rooms at the rate that I saw online. And again, this is a normal conversation, but this global brand who’s using AI is not using AI. They’re deploying it but they haven’t tested it against the user.
Kim Lantis: They fell into the AI washing trap.
David Chestler: That’s it. So, I think the concern is how are we using these technologies? How are we measuring them? Modeling them? How are we evaluating? What are the actual factors that we’re using to determine that it’s working and valid, right? We talk about hallucinations that come with AI and some of the generative parts using it to just generate content and put it online without human or “hooman” intervention. That’s a very important fact, right? So what organization is doing that? Is it marketing? Is it in IT? How do you structure the business? These are all preamble things that we do, getting to a business understanding that crosses over to a technology understanding that crosses over to a consumer or persona understanding. And I think that’s the part that then allows you to go into the design phase and start to figure out where am I applying what technology, right?
Kim Lantis: Yeah. You know, I think you make a good point, going back to the “hooman,” the human side that we really need. And I think it’s particularly important, right, in the hospitality industry. Like we mentioned earlier, we go somewhere and we’re looking for a home away from home. The expectation is that it feels real, right? And so, we need to make sure that when you read something or feel something… we’re not dumb, right? We can feel like, I find myself being like, “Oh yeah, this is completely a bot. This is not a person who even wrote this,” or, “Nobody checked this,” right? And you can feel kind of duped.
And at the same time, I think I can forgive it because I’m like, “Okay, we’re working through it.” But I guess my question is, when it comes to these business goals and these objectives, you know, learning or choosing is it going to be Generative AI , Natural Language Processing, Large Language Models – all these things that you laid out earlier – is there a correct order of operations in the hospitality industry that organizations should be looking at? Like this is where you’re going to have the biggest ROI, and this is where you want to focus those efforts and really get it right. Or is that going to really depend from organization to organization? My question is, is there a magic wand, a recipe to follow?
David Chestler: Oh, of course. It’s relying on ProVision Partners and Encora. We know that! But the idea is every organization is different. Unless you’re aligned from the C-Suite down to the operational level that AI is a critical deployment. We did a word cloud with one of our groups; we’ve done several sessions with a publishing company as well, who’s very interested. And in one of the word clouds the biggest word right in the middle of that cloud was “scary.” And these are Data Scientists and CIOs and CTOs and people that are even Presidents of vendor companies and many of them are using it. They’re deploying it. We have clients that are using it and deploying it, all of the aspects of that wheel of AI, right?
But the main thing that’s happening is you have to go into each organization – you know for you to spend as Expedia and Priceline did to have the first integration of ChatGPT – they spend much more than most of our brands do on that technology. How does a hotel or a small group even try and play in that space? They have to rely on their vendors, whether it’s their CRS providers, PMS providers, any number of Revenue Management Integrations, Call Center Applications, and similar. How does that all integrate? And how do you get that large CDP, that data model that allows you to recognize credential? That takes a lot of planning! So, to think that I’m just going to turn a switch because the board member came down and said, “Kim, I want you to deploy AI for this company.” That is a big order. How do you eat an elephant?
You have to now start breaking it down into that Design Model of where am I applying it, where will it have the best application, then, where will it produce revenue optimally, right? It might be internal first because I can improve the content that I’m developing, even my patches for code or things of that nature. Or I could use it to engage with customers versus calling a front desk and getting caught because I’ve got a bus checking in or similar, right? There are all these various use cases that you could come up with and that’s the part of exploration that has to happen before you say, “I’m going to deploy AI.”
Andrea Mane: It’s because AI is not just one thing, right? It’s many things. So, I could use, from a marketing side, I could use the analogy of digital marketing. Like, “I’m going to use digital marketing.” Okay… there are many different types of digital marketing. What are you going to use? A website? You don’t just deploy it once and then leave it alone. It takes constant tweaking, constant testing, and changeable content. It’s a process. It’s not just a one-time thing.
Kim Lantis: It is a process. Would your advice be to improve upon what we already do right? Do we perfect what’s do going well? Or is it better to utilize an AI tool in things that are maybe our weakest areas? Is there a debate there or is that also not a one size-fits-all?
David Chestler: I’m ready to jump in. I think that’s why each organization is different and why you need the cross-functional team. Where do I need it? If I could optimize my inventory and I could use a chat bot to take some of the calls that I’m getting [phone rings], like this one…
Kim Lantis: That’s the universe! That’s hilarious!
David Chestler: Right? And now that person that’s calling me right now, because they want to employ AI, can immediately speak to a chatbot, and find a way to get into a better engagement with the customer but also the operation. I get more data. I get better information that I now can use to build loyalty and personalization with that engagement and I’m not giving them a bad experience right at the front, or I recognize you and AI already identified several rooms and packages that might be really good for you. And that’s what I want to start putting into my e-commerce environment so that I can make it transactional not just something that I could think of behind the scenes.
So how do I action it and I think that’s where AI is heading, right? To not only be able to identify and solve problems but also then make actions or call to actions: your rates aren’t set properly, you have gaps here, you’re closed out on this day and you’re getting a lot of inquiries. All of these things can be programmed and developed to optimize the operation.
Conversely what does that do to the customer as they are engaging? You can give them better choices. There was a work group we’re part of with attribute-based search that talks about how people are starting to buy and what they like and what they want. Pizza was the example we used because a lot of people want a veggie or a meat lovers. But you have a whole bunch of people that want custom pizzas. AI is going to enable you to better understand the demand for all of that, enable you to buy the right supplies for all of that, to better position it in the market and also to recognize it internally, “How do I optimize that?” And that’s all using technology to help you better serve your customer, doing what you’ve been doing – back to your original question. So, do what you do well and augment it with AI. Supplement it, amplify it. That’s what you can do with the technology.
Kim Lantis: I love it. So, let’s just say for the sake of our show, we’ve convinced the audience, those in the hospitality industry. And they’re already hoping to or planning on implementing AI-powered technologies in 2024, and we understand that it’s necessary because if we don’t, we’re going to be left behind and the competition’s going to be able to do everything better than we are. And we understand that as much as we’d like for there to be a one-size-fits-all, a magic wand, an Abracadabra, we are going to have to do some deep diving and do some Design Led Thinking to figure out what’s best for us. But let’s take it back that one step, just this final step of, “How do I know that I’m ready and what types of structure might I have to put in place to project manage this type of deployment?” Yes, I’m going to do it. But do I do this in a build versus buy? And I also understand that you have a kind of cool acronym that companies could utilize as they project manage the deployment of these types of technologies.
David Chestler: Well, we didn’t create the acronym. It’s bank, B, A, N, K, and a friend of mine who’s in the IT business engraved in my head. But you always make sure you’ve got a budget, that you’ve got the person who’s got the critical authority to make those decisions in deployment; there’s a need, so you’ve identified where the problem is and I need a specific solution to apply there. So, “AI. I need AI,” right? So, I’ve got a budget, I’ve got the authority to work on it, I’ve got the need and, more important, I’ve got the knowledge.
Well, there’s going to be a gap, right? I could probably have three, but the knowledge piece is going to be important. And that’s, again, where we believe you’re going to sit down as a team and identify the areas. Is it operational? Is it customer facing? Do I need to be focused on the User Experience because that UX design is going to have an effect in a number of areas? And again, depending on my organizational size if I’m a single property? Does it influence my property in my restaurant? Do I have a meeting space? Do I have ancillary services that I can wrap into and automate and improve that positioning? Those are all the things that I start to think about. How does my guest engage with me and therefore how do I want to engage with them? And that’s really going to be the start, right That vision quest, what’s that User Experience I want, and then trying to take that journey.
Journey mapping is also important because it helps you identify all of those touch points and areas. And always remember to include the facility because the facility is a living entity. IoT has made our buildings alive.
Kim Lantis: Literally.
David Chestler: Yeah! There are a lot of sensors, and you know, I saw on a recent survey that Wi-Fi is the most important technology that everyone wants when they check in a hotel. But now you’ve got more demands on it. There are so many things… It’s focusing on: Do you have a budget? What is that budget and does it match what your vision is? Or is this a long trek and I’m going to start to use small touchstones of measurement and budget to implement and test?
And at the very least, you should be using some form of AI every day. Going into ChatGPT and even testing it. Writing something and then running it through the system. I’d never just send it out. I always quality check and do human “hooman” intervention. But I think the more you get comfortable with it, even knowing where to go – entering some pictures into Midjourney or similar and generating the look of you as Viking or something! Those are all fun things you could do with AI. But how do you now transition it into the business world? And unless you’re testing the fences, you’re going to get eaten by a dinosaur at Jurassic Park, right?
Kim Lantis: [laughs] I love that analogy! And I love what you’re saying, just the suggestion of playing with it every single day because you know that word map you were referring to earlier, that word “scary” is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller and I think that is definitely one of the goals.
David Chestler: Truth.
Kim Lantis: You know, we’ve come to the end of our half hour today, the end of the first segment of our five-part series. And it’s a good thing it’s a five-part series because it became very clear today that we could go on and on and on and on.
Andrea Mane: There’s a lot to discuss.
Kim Lantis: Of course. So, join us audience. Please do join us, like we said, every other Thursday from now through March 7th. So, the next show, the second part of the series, will be happening on January 25th and that’s going to be all about the Design Led kind of Thinking, the Planning component where to go with AI. And we’ll follow that up with segments on Implementation, Deployment, and Testing and Iteration. Nobody wants to get eaten by a dinosaur.
David and Andrea: [laugh and shake their heads]
Kim Lantis: I love it. David, Andrea, thank you so much for spending your time and your wisdom with us today. We look forward to continuing the conversation on the 25th.
Andrea Mane: Thanks for having us, Kim.
Kim Lantis: Thank you. Bye, everyone!
Introduction to the Series:
- The episode introduces a five-part series in collaboration with dojo.live and ProVision Partners, focusing on how to leverage AI in the hospitality industry in 2024.
Why AI is Needed:
- The discussion starts with the question of why AI is necessary. David Chestler emphasizes that AI has been around for years, but recent advancements, especially in Generative AI, have generated excitement. The goal is not to replace jobs but to use AI effectively to gain a competitive advantage.
Practical Applications of AI in Hospitality:
- Practical applications of AI in the hospitality industry include fraud detection, predictive maintenance, revenue management, chatbots, virtual assistance, and personalization for improved customer experiences.
Human Connection in AI:
- Andrea Mane emphasizes the human connection aspect of AI in the hospitality industry. AI is used to understand customers better, enhance guest satisfaction, and create a personalized experience.
Aligning AI Trends with Business Goals:
- The importance of aligning AI trends with business goals is discussed. Design Led Thinking is introduced as a methodology to identify where AI can be most effectively applied within an organization.
Building Cross-Functional Teams:
- The need for cross-functional teams involving various departments like Sales, Marketing, and IT Operations is highlighted. Breaking down silos and collaborative planning are essential for successful AI implementation.
Practical Implementation of AI:
- The hosts discuss how organizations can know if they are ready for AI implementation. The “BANK” acronym (Budget, Authority, Need, Knowledge) is introduced as a guide. The importance of understanding the organization’s needs and having the knowledge to implement AI effectively is emphasized.
Playing with AI Every Day:
- David Chestler suggests that organizations should play with AI every day to get comfortable with it. Experimenting, testing, and gradually implementing AI technologies help reduce the fear factor associated with new technologies.
Upcoming Series Episodes:
- The episode concludes with an overview of the upcoming episodes in the series, which will delve into Design Led Thinking, Implementation, Deployment, and Testing and Iteration in subsequent weeks.
In summary, the episode provides valuable insights into the current state of AI in the hospitality industry, emphasizing the need for a strategic approach and collaboration across departments for successful implementation.