The Illusion of Paradise: A Critical Look at Hotel Marketing in an era of AI

I possess a deep appreciation for hotels, I could easily imagine myself living in one. Having been a guest in over 70 hotels in the last two years, I've become somewhat discerning, constantly selecting the best features from each and constructing an ideal imaginary place in my mind. But is it fair to expect any real destination to live up to such a dream?

While guests may have high expectations, hotels often contribute to this dilemma through carefully curated websites, social media, photos, and taglines that paint themselves as the pinnacle of luxury—even when the experience might be rather more modest.

The allure of hotels and travel destinations has never been higher. My travels in 2021 and 2022 brought me face-to-face with breathtaking views of Thailand, Bali, and the Maldives, frequently depicted as idyllic in travel imagery. Yet, the lack of tourists can change the reality dramatically, with plastic pollution marring otherwise unspoilt landscapes.

Carefully framed photographs can hide less glamorous realities, such as queues beside a picturesque waterfall, crafting an illusion of serenity and exclusivity that is often far from the truth.

In this era of technological advancement, AI has emerged as a fascinating tool for crafting artificial realities. Some may say that we already dwell in a world of fabrication, particularly in travel imagery. The line between authentic and artificial is increasingly thin, raising important questions about our consumption of travel experiences.

If we are already navigating a landscape shaped by manipulated images and marketing, the integration of AI might not seem like a drastic change and maybe it could improve things instead.

This artificial environment fosters a more interactive conversation with potential destinations, encouraging travellers to delve into the core of the experience and find what truly resonates with them.

Being informed of the details, like the nuanced operations of a hotel's restaurants, or the specific rules of a family pool, can make a significant difference in satisfaction. A seemingly absurd rule such as kids can't jump a children's pool can lead to a disappointing stay if not discovered beforehand but it is not something hotels want to shout about.

The contemporary travel environment unfortunately calls for a more discerning and proactive approach from travellers. It's about meaningful engagement with potential hosts, asking the right questions, and seeking genuine insights from those who share similar expectations.

By taking the time to grasp the true character of a destination, travellers can navigate the increasingly complex world of travel with confidence.

So how can AI help with this 🧠

Imagine planning a family holiday where the fun of jumping in the pool is non-negotiable. Through AI, a search engine could filter options based on this specific requirement: 'Will the lifeguard let the kids jump in the pool?'

AI-driven algorithms can analyse and interpret vast amounts of data to identify locations and brands that cater to your unique needs. The meticulous filtering goes beyond the generic aspects like price range or location. It delves into the very fabric of what makes your holiday enjoyable, finding places that truly resonate with what you value. From understanding your culinary preferences to matching you with pet-friendly accommodations or wellness-focused retreats, AI ensures that your travel choices are in harmony with your lifestyle.

In addition to aligning you with suitable locations and brands, AI can also connect you with other travellers who share your preferences. Social media platforms and review websites are great in theory but do they give you real feedback? How do you know if they are real and even if they are, is 'Bob from Utah moaning about the quality of the buffet someone who wants the same things as you do?

Imagine receiving first-hand feedback from someone who also prioritised that lively pool experience for their children. AI could facilitate this connection, allowing you to gain insights from their experiences, ask questions, and even forge new friendships.

This community-driven approach helps in not only making informed decisions but also in enriching the travel experience by building connections with people who understand and appreciate the same nuances of travel as you do.

The advancements in AI don't stop at planning and connecting; they extend to real-time interactions during your stay as well. Envision a virtual hotel model that allows you to see or ask if the restaurant is busy at 6 pm. This isn't just a speculative or generic answer; the model would be using real-time data to provide accurate information.

This form of interaction could revolutionise the way we engage with our chosen destinations. Whether you're planning a romantic dinner and wish to find the quietest time or need to know the availability of the gym, real-time AI interactions provide a new level of convenience and customisation.

Connecting to the hotel's systems, AI could offer information on waiting times, occupancy levels, and even specific details such as the evening's menu or special events. It's as if you have a personal concierge in your pocket, ready to assist you with precise, real-time information.

Here comes the digital doppelganger 🚀

In the rapidly advancing technological landscape, the concept of AI digital doppelgangers or digital twins is emerging as a revolutionary way to enhance the travel experience. These intelligent virtual counterparts can engage with various stakeholders on behalf of the traveller, making the process of planning, booking, and experiencing a destination more efficient and personalised. Here's how:

Imagine a scenario where you're planning a trip, and instead of browsing through countless websites, reading reviews, and sending emails, your digital twin takes over the task. This AI-driven entity can communicate directly with hotels, asking specific questions, negotiating rates, and even making reservations tailored to your preferences.

Your digital doppelganger can probe into details that might usually be overlooked, such as room views, meal preferences, or accessibility features. It can negotiate packages, confirm availability, and even check in online, all while keeping your needs and desires at the forefront.

Connecting with locals in a new destination can provide authentic insights that are often missed in standard travel guides. A digital twin can bridge this gap by engaging with local communities, shopkeepers, or tour guides. By initiating conversations, and asking about hidden gems, local customs, or culinary delights, your digital doppelganger can compile a unique and personalised travel itinerary.

This interaction transcends language barriers, as AI can translate and interpret different languages, ensuring that the connection with locals is meaningful and informative. It's like having a local friend who's always there to guide you, except this friend is a digital extension of yourself, aligned with your interests.

Reviews and feedback from recent guests are invaluable for understanding the real experience of a place. However, reading through numerous reviews can be time-consuming and often confusing. A digital twin can sift through thousands of reviews, interact with recent guests, and gather firsthand feedback within minutes.

These engagements can be focused on areas that matter most to you. Whether you want to know about the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the spa, or the atmosphere in the dining area during breakfast, your digital twin can find someone who has experienced it and get their insights all via natural language.

Once at the destination, your digital doppelganger continues to assist. Need to know if the restaurant is crowded? Want to book a last-minute excursion? Your digital twin can engage with hotel staff, local vendors, or other guests to provide real-time information and assistance, all with minimal human interaction on your part.

This seamless fusion of technology with human-like interaction offers a new level of convenience, personalisation, and efficiency. It empowers travellers to explore and engage with destinations in a manner that is in tune with their unique needs and desires, all while minimising the often time-consuming and cumbersome aspects of trip management.

In essence, digital doppelgangers are not just a futuristic concept but a present-day tool that enhances travel by fostering connections, gathering insights, and personalising experiences, making travel not just a destination but a journey shaped by intelligent and thoughtful engagement.

AI in travel has a truly exacting time ahead.