Russell Of Hotels


Is Your Hotel Spying on You in the Name of Better Service?


Photo courtesy of Thinkstock




Everyone wants their hotel to know what they want before they do, but maybe not like this.

One five-star hotel in Tokyo, The Prince Gallery, has recently opened up and an enterprising blogger at “God Save The Points” stumbled upon that among other things laid out a little Orwellian craziness the hotel will be embarking upon to better serve their guests.

I’ve seen Terminator; this is how the robots win.

The hotel’s “e-service” system will share information between the hotel’s departments to let the entire staff know things like a guest’s likes, dislikes, preferences and so on. There’s more, though. The company has also employed an artificial intelligence (AI) that will analyze these data points to populate recommendations to “enhance” the experience.

“Enhance” by the way is clearly code for “sell more to.”

Think of these hypothetical situations: Maybe someone heads to the gym and checks in with the attendant. That attendant then plugs that information in, and that guest’s in-room tablet populates with lighter fare at the restaurant or a protein-packed, post-workout treat. In another scenario, perhaps a stay is predicated around a birthday or anniversary. From there, the hotel knows the guest is in a festive mood and the soft sells of amenities get a little more frequent.

The positives, of course, are endless. There’s a ridiculously good chance that this sort of system actually does make most stays more enjoyable, and it’s not absurd to see the very normal customer service-type reasons a hotel would want to include something like this.

Travel also isn't the only industry doing this—not by a longshot. Think back. Do you remember the shift from a grocery story sending random coupons to the grocery store you frequent sending you coupons for things you buy? Or, how about searching for a product on Google and then having banner ads featuring that product and products like it from now until kingdom come?

Does it help? It can.

Does it make people queasy? Yeah, yeah it does. What should make you queasier is that hotels have been doing this for years.

It’s why hotels want you to book directly with them and not through an onlinetravel agency who gets all that precious info. Hotels want to be able to send you (really you, not a generic you) an email and remind you about all the stuff you liked during the last stay and how you can upgrade the experience.

Overall, is this really a big deal? Not to me, but some people get awfully upset at the idea of companies tracking and retaining their information. If you’re one of those people, this is just another example of today’s technology looking over our shoulders in new and inventive ways. 

The question is not whether or not your next hotel stay will feature much of this same kind of data mining. It almost certainly will. Instead, the question travelers need to be asking is just how much of this they're willing to be comfortable with. 


Russell Edmond